Arlan R. Levitan
Just When You Thought It Was Safe …
The tribe at the Federal Communications Commission is at it again. In April of this year, the Commission bowed to public pressure against surcharges for local computer access numbers provided by commercial information services, and dropped the matter from its Computer III inquiry. Two months later, in a classic demonstration of the concept of volatile memory, the Commission voted 4-0 to eliminate the present exemption against such surcharges on January 1, 1988. The FCC estimates that the surcharges could add as much as $4.50 an hour to the cost of providing local access to commercial info services and $9 an hour to Telenet's PC Pursuit. Anyone interested in jogging the Commission's recall is encouraged to write:
Dennis Patrick, Chairman
Mimi Weyforth Dawson
1919 M Street NW
Washington, DC 20554
I managed to break away at the last minute to attend Spring COMDEX in Atlanta and camped at the IBIS Hotel, a French-owned inn which was so European that there was not a single drawer in the room. The staff wasn't even put off by my removing the room telephone's wall plate and installing an evil-looking tangle of wires to hook up my trusty laptop's internal modem. Nice folks.
At the show, Touchbase Systems, manufacturers of the popular pocket-sized Worldport 1200-bps modem, displayed prototypes of a 2400-bps Worldport with a projected list price of $349. The Worldport 2400 is no larger than its slower cousin and, according to Touchbase, will be available in September.
Hayes celebrated its tenth birthday by dropping the list prices of its 1200-and 2400-bps modems $200 and $300 respectively, and by announcing its new 9600-bps ($1199) and 2400-bps ($899) V-Series modems. The new units include automatic correction circuitry for error-free transmission, but shun the more common Microcom Networking Protocol (MNP), opting instead for support of protocols that are compatible with the business world's X.25 communications scheme.
Automatic data compression/decompression circuitry is incorporated in the V-Series modems as well. Hayes estimates that transmission times for text-type files will be cut in half when the file transfer occurs between two V-Series compatible modems. Automatic Negotiation circuitry in the new products detect whether the modem on the other end is a V-Series and turns the compression and error correction options on if one of its brethren is sensed.
Owners of Hayes modems who wish to add the error correction, data compression, and automatic negotiation features to their existing units may purchase a stand-alone V-Series Modem Enhancer for $199 until September 30, and for $349 thereafter.
The jury is still out on whether Hayes's V-Series will fare better than the same-named "Lizards from Space" television fiasco of several years ago. Most experienced telecomputerists have been enjoying the benefits of data compression by using public domain Archive and Squeeze programs for years. While not automatic, compression ratios exceeding the projected 2:1 of the V-Series are the norm for such programs when dealing with text and spreadsheet files. Furthermore, the ARC programs allow multiple files to be combined into one for ease of transmission. Adding to the general confusion is the fact that the new Hayes 9600 and the US Robotics Courier HST, which has been finding favor with bulletin board SYSOPs, are not compatible with each other at 9600 bps.
Tymnet's Clock Keeps Ticking-Users Take A Licking
Packet-switcher Tymnet mystified everyone and raised the dander of the hobbyist community at large in June by announcing that it was expanding its prime time period by an hour on each end. Tymnet users will now pay premium rates from 6 a.m. to 7 p.m. (instead of 7 a.m. to 6 p.m.). The rate increase fueled speculation that the number three packet-switching firm lacks the means to expand its present network without added capital.
For The Telecomputerist Who Has Everything
Collectors of telecomputing curiosities should take note of the IXO Computer, a paperback-sized terminal with built-in 300 baud modem. The IXO was spawned in the early eighties by a group of renegade engineers who left Mattel after designing that toy manufacturer's Intellivision video game unit. The tiny terminal's high price (about $600) and radical design made it an instant Edsel. The skimpy one-line LCD display and calculator-like keyboard of the IXO are eminently unusable on a regular basis, but it's still one of the slickest pieces of engineering I've ever seen. The few IXOs that were manufactured are being dumped by some computer and specialty liquidators for under a hundred dollars, which makes it an attractive acquisition for its historical and conversation piece value alone.