By Gabe Torok
Thanks to a little blue box, my Atari has grown immeasurably in stature. This blue box has opened a world I had not expected, for it has just erased the barrier between me, and any other computer.
Of course, you guessed it! I bought a modem. Not just ANY modem! This one is designed for use ONLY with the Atari Home Computers, plugs in directly to joystick port #2, and costs as little as the cable you would have had to buy had you bought any other nonAtari modem (About $149.00). I bought the Microbits MPP-1000C Modem. It's a complete telecommunications package, complete with the "Smart Terminal" cartridge. The software supports disk drives, cassette recorders, printers, and has full up-loading and downloading capabilities, autodial, autoanswer and a whole mess of functions I haven't had time to try yet. (I've had my phone line tied up every night to every local BBS whose number I could find. (More on BBS's later.)
The Smart Terminal software is completely menudriven and supports X-MODEM protocol which allows you to eliminate normal transmission errors while communicating. There are many other options as well that take full advantage of many of the built-in features of the Atari Computer.
It supports ASCII and ATASCII. (United Software recently announced a June release date for the Atari version of the ASCII Express, a superb communication package so far available only for the Apple and IBM PC.) ASCII stands for American Standard Code for Information Interchange.
But the most exciting part of this is that I can talk to ANY computer, anywhere they have a modem, ANY modem, and a telephone line. The baud rate for this communication can be varied to anything up to 300 baud, (with my MPP Modem,) which suits me just fine. It may be a little slower, but on most Bulletin Boards, like CompuServe, 300 baud is considerably cheaper than 1200 baud. (While we're on CompuServe, for those readers who are residing outside the United States, you will be able to use only your 5 free hours with your subscription unless you have a credit card such as MasterCard or Visa. CompuServe, at this time, does not have direct billing to anywhere outside the United States.)
The MPP Modem is a smart terminal! For those of you who do not know the difference between a smart terminal and a dumb terminal: with a smart terminal you can up-load or download programs. Some BBS's require that you donate programs if you download a program from their files. These 'donations' are to be your own personally written programs, or, public domain programs not yet available on that particular BBS. Most BBS's request that you do not transfer or copy programs that are pirated.
The difference between a smart terminal and a dumb terminal is that the dumb terminal can read only, whereas the smart terminal can down or up-load information. If you are a serious user of your computer and the BBS, this smart terminal is a must.
Some BBS'S, such as Satyricon Electronics, will provide a special service to their members (for a fee of $5.00 per year) such as a system's check on your own computer via their Industrial access mode. This will run a full analysis on the industrial computer and/or your micro. Should you have any problems, this portion of their program will surely point you in the direction required to correct that particular problem.
If you run into difficulties, the SYSOP (systems operator) will be able to answer any questions. Just leave a message before signing off. Next time you're on the system, there will be a message waiting for you with your answer.
I've talked to many SYSOP's. Most of them started the bulletin board because they had a computer, and got tired of space games and the like. There, all of a sudden, appeared an instant hobby and the opportunity to talk to other computer enthusiasts, without giving up the fun of computing. For this reason, there seems to be a new bulletin board popping up every day. Some survive for years, others disappear literally overnight.
Most BBS SYSOP's write their own programs to run the board. There are commercial programs available that can be revised to suit the operator, but most of these programs have been written for the non-Atari user, in CP/M, MS-DOS or PC-DOS. With your modem, you can access any of these boards, but when you download a program, be sure it can be run on your computer. If you cannot run CP/M, there is no need for you to save a program run on CP/M.
A BBS can be run on anything from a 48K Atari with one disk drive to a full mainframe (whatever) with several hundred megabytes of memory. The size of the system doesn't seem to matter. It's the people who intend to, and do use the service provided, that makes the big difference. A quick example could be Color Pacific. The SYSOP is Debbie Cooper, and she runs the board on a 64K Color computer with two disk drives. It works extremely well, and is a board that is easy to handle for the first-time user. The fact that she runs a board for the Color Computer from Radio Shack should not deter the Atari user, because there are several Atari users signed up on that board with many interests in common with you. Most boards will have a listing of the users and their computer types for you to access. But the most common ground I found so far on the BBS is the need for support working on the Infocom Adventures such as the Zork series, or Planetfall, or whatever. (See review of `A Shortcut Through Adventureland' in this issue.) There is always someone that you can help, or get help from, going through these adventures, and it makes NO difference whether your computer is an Atari, Apple, CoCo, or TI.
Now that I have told you how great it is to have or to subscribe to a bulletin board, let me pass on a word from Doug Bailey of H & S Microsystems to would be Sysops. `Firing up a Bulletin Board is like opening up a can of worms!' Before you go on line consider the fact that as soon as your first calls start coming in, you've lost your computer. It no longer belongs to you. Just try taking it out of service for a day and see the comments the unreasonable users leave for you. Some can and do get exceptionally crude, and there is very little you can do about these mental midgets.
If you think you can handle this so far, then think of the cost. Repairs to disk drives are not cheap, and the more popular your board is, the more downtime you'll suffer for repairs. If you're not running a hard disk drive, Oh!!!!, the cost of diskettes will eat you out of house and home! Better make it a membership system to cover the overhead, you say? Yes, but better do it from DAY 1. Otherwise you'll get the same message to the Sysop that appeared for Doug on his board when H & S became a ($5.00 per year) membership board; `How DARE you charge money for a PUBLIC service!' Of course, I left out the four letter words, and considerably shortened his fourteen paragraphs of complaints. But then, that's what happens when you open a can of worms. Some crawl out!
My final note on the subject is for those readers who `believe' in the power of communication. We've all heard the statement `No man is an island' but probably ignored it. There are some extremely intelligent people who have a great deal to say, but cannot say it face to face to another person. The computer, with a modem, can be the proverbial lifebelt to those of us who would find difficulty in tete-a-tete communication. Thus the emergence of Dial-Your-Match in several States, and the computer-marriages we read about in the newspapers. The communications capabilities of our different computers gives us an access to a world of people that most of us may never have known existed. They are intelligent people, looking at the future in a manner perhaps different from our set patterns, but nevertheless, very much a part of our future, and the modem attached to their computer gives them the 'voice' and the access to people they may not otherwise have. The Modem is a window to the world and all who live in it. Use it wisely, but have fun while you're doing it. Who knows, you just may meet your match! The following is a list of Bulletin Boards I've recently compiled with the help of several publications and an extremely long list from Frank Swain III of United Software Industries (ASCII Express). Some of these boards may no longer exist, and there are at least this many new ones popping up while I write this. Most BBS's have a listing of other BBS's in that locality, so find the board nearest you from this list, give them a call, and list out the other local boards.
A number of systems require you to hit your return key when the connection has been made. Failure to do so will make the computer at the other end of the line hang up. Many systems will not let you in without a password, but will provide information on how to obtain one. In most cases, typing in your name and the word `PUBLIC' for the password will give you some access. The Source does not give a free demo of the system, however, CompuServe does. Procedures for the free demo are included with most modems when you purchase them.
Finally, all bulletin boards have some sort of a time limit to allow all users a chance to use the system. If you intend to play a game, it may be wise to download it to your computer, then there will be little chance of losing the game while playing, as the autotimer disconnects your line. Now, where is that telephone....
201-226-0341 Cyberon (Games) West Caldwell, NJ
201-272-1874 RCP/M RBBS Cranford NJ
201-272-3686 Dial-Tour-Match 114
201-276-8342 ARMUDIC Washington, DC
201-339-7407 AMIS, Bay...., NJ
201-391-5519 AMIS Jolly Roger BBS, Park Ridge, NJ
201-462-0435 Dial-Your Match •21
201-477-7263 TCBBS Brick, NJ
201-486-2956 CFONJ/TBBS Linden, NJ
201-494-3649 TBBS Metuchen, NJ
201-528-6623 Forum-80 Monmouth Brielle, NJ
201-549-7591 Atari, Edison, NJ
201-572-0617 CoCo Board, New Brunswick, NJ
201-584-9227 RCP/M MCBBS Ken Stritzel, Flanders, NJ
201-627-5151 Conference-Three Flagship, Denville, NJ
201-635-0705 New Jersey Telecom
201-678-6670 BBS IBM PC New York, NY
201-747-6768 PMS- Shrewsbury, NJ
201-747-7301 RCP/M RBBS Paul Bogdanovich, NJ
201-775-8705 RCP/M RBBS Ocean, NJ
201-790-5910 Aphrodite-E, NJ
201-790-6795 Photo-80, Haledon, NJ
201-835-7228 ABBS CNNJ, Pompton Plains, NJ
201-843-4563 ABBS Saddlebrook, NJ
201-864-5345 ABBS Apple-Mate, New York, NY
201-887-8874 RATS Systems
201-891-7441 A-C-C-E-S-S Wyckoff, NJ
201-932-3679 RCP/M RBBS Burger., New Brunswick, NJ
201-932-3887 PMS-Rutgers University Microlab, Piscataway, NJ
201-968-1074 ABBS Apple Group N.J., Piscataway, NJ
201-992-9893 BMBBS The Hospital, Livingston, NJ
201-994-0988 BMBBS The Garage, Livingston, NJ
201-994-9620 NET-WORKS Livingston, NJ
202-272-1874 PCP/M RBBS Cranford, NJ
202-276-8342 ARMU WASHINGTON
202-337-4694 PSBBS Washington, DC
203-237-2668 Cool C-C. Meriden, CT
203-289-6321 BBS IBM PC East Hartford, CT
203-629-4375 Education-80 Greenwich, CT
203-744-4644 BULLET-80 Danbury, CT
203-746-5763 Telecom 7, New Fairfield, CT
203-776-9723 AMIS BBS New Haven CT
203-869-7569 BMBBS The Firehouse, Greenwich, CT
203-888-7952 BULLET-80 Seymour, CT
205-272-5069 FORUM-80 Montgomery, AL
205-895-6749 RCP/M RBBS Huntsville, AL
206-244-5438 ABBS Apple Crate II Seattle, WA
206-256-6624 Dial-Your-Match #16, WA
206-334-7394 MSC-80 Everett, WA
206-367-7949 BBS IBM PC Seattle, WA
206-486-2368 PMS-Software Unlimited Kenmore, WA
206-491-4143 Mags BBS, Lacey, WA
206-522-1340 BBS IBM PC Seattle, WA
206-525-3412 AMIS Space WA
206-525-5947 The Constant Society Seattle, WA
206-527-0897 Mail-Board 82 Seattle, WA
206-546-6239 ABBS Seattle, WA
206-723-3282 Forum-80 Seattle, WA
206-759-0615 CONFERENCE-TREE Tacoma, WA
206-762-5141 MINI-BIN SEATTLE, WA
206-763-8879 Seacomm-80 Seattle, WA
206-866-9043 A-C-C-E-S-S Olympia, WA
206-883-0403 JOTS Redmond, WA
206-883-4403 BBS IBM PC Seattle, WA
206-935-9119 ABBS Apple Crate I Seattle, WA
209-298-1328 Dial-Your-Match 126 Clovis, CA
209-739-1776 CBBS Sequoia Computer, Vi... lia, CA
212-241-8965 AMIS New York, NY
212-362-1040 TCBBS B.A.M.S. New York NY
212-410-0949 NET-WORKS Brooklyn, NY
212-441-3755 CONNECTION-80 Woodhaven, NY
212-442-3874 SISTER Staten Island, NY
212-534-2858 BMBBS Avenger's Mansion, New York, NY
212-541-5975 MMMMMM#2 NEW
212-568-0682 AMIS New York, NY
212-626-0375 Nybblea-80 NY
212-740-5680 BULLET-80 New York, NY
212-767-6633 AMIS Info, New York, NY
212-772-7167 The Database BBS
212-799-4649 TCBBS Astrocom, New York, NY
212-877-7703 ABBS New York, NY
212-879-5182 AMIS Manhattan Message Manager, New York, NY
212-879-7698 TCBBS Leigh's Computer World, NY
212-896-0519 ABBS Queens, NY
212-897-3392 COMM-80 Queens, NY
212-933-9459 Bronx BBS, NY
212-991-1664 CONNECTION-80 Manhattan, NY
212-997-2488 PMS McGraw Hill Books, New York, NY
213-242-1882 Dial-Your-Match #11
213-287-1363 Green. Machine, Temple City, CA
213-296-5927 RCP/M RBBS Software Store, Los Angeles, CA
213-318-6626 Lusty Lady BBS Hermosa Beach, CA
213-334-7614 PMS Los Angeles, CA
213-345-1047 Dial-Your-Matcb •9
213-346-1849 PMS O.A.C. Woodland Hills, CA
213-360-5053 RCP/M RBBS Valley, CA