Classic Computer Magazine Archive ANTIC VOL. 2, NO. 2 / MAY 1983

Info For Sale

by Bill Tapscott

When television invaded the American home a window opened onto a huge world of information and experience never dreamed of by our forefathers. Now telecomputing is expanding that view, witb one important embellishment, that of choice.

The ATARI owner, equipped with a modem and appropriate software, cannot begin to imagine the thousands of different adventures available on his home television screen, and the number grows every day. The accompanying chart shows just a few of the possibilities, at least some of which should stir your imagination.

First, a tip if you have not yet bought your modem and software. As a promotion for the three major information utilities—CompuServe, The SOURCE, and Dow Jones / News Retrieval Network—a set of coupons are included when you buy TeleLink or the Communicator Kit from Atari. TeleLink is the software cartridge that enables you to access these and other networks. TeleLink I sells for about $30.00, but is limited. The new Communicator Kit costs $275 and includes the Atari 835 DirectConnect Modem, TeleLink 11 (an upgraded version of TeleLink 1) and the three coupons offering the one free hour on each of the three utilities.

Each company honors the coupons in a slightly different way. CompuServe allows you to "log on" for one full hour. If you decide to subscribe during that time, you can sign up online and avoid the membership fee. With The SOURCE coupon you get a number to call and a temporary ID and password. If you decide to buy after your free hour, you still must go back to the dealer and pay the $100.00 fee.

With DowJones, your coupon nurnber is exchanged for a password. You can then subscribe by mailing a contract and avoid the $95 fee. A $7.00 instruction manual is recommended.

If you do not have a coupon, you must purchase through a dealer that sells subscriptions to the service of your choice. The cost of these startup kits is indicated in the chart.

There are few differences in service between CompuServe and The SOURCE. The World Book Encyclopedia and an ATARI Bulletin Board are two features of CompuServe which do not seem to be duplicated by The SOURCE. However, the startup charges and hourly rate could affect your choice. If you can access CompuServe through a local CompuServe number, as opposed to a Tymnet number, the cost difference could be conclusive.

The Dow Jones / News Retrieval Network provides fast, pertinent, valuable information to investors, and others with mainly financial interests. The hourly rates seem high, but might not be considered so if the information makes the difference between losing or making sign)ficant money. The late breaking news service, called Dow Jones Newswire, claims only a 90-second delay on news items that affect the financial world. Students and writers will appreciate the Academic American Encyclopedia now available on what Dow Jones culls? "The Broadtape."

DIALOG, located in Palo Alto, and BRS, located in Latham, New York, are two, huge data bases used mainly by the scientific and business communities, but they are also available to the home-computer market. DIALOG's evening service is called Knowledge Index, while BRS's is called BRS / After Dark. Thousands of journals, speeches, articles, reports, etc. are listed, described and excerpted for the subscriber. Rapid searches using key words and phrases can quickly identify any pertinent information on almost any given subject.

Knowledge Index has a startup fee of $35, which includes two free hours, and then charges $24 an hour. While on-line, you can order any document they have. The document will be mailed to you for a $4.50 fee, plus twenty cents per page for copying. Besides the 40 computer magazines listed, there is a software listing of 10,000 programs for mini and microcomputers. Soon these can be ordered and received through the mail in disk form. DIALOG is accessed through TYMNET and TELENET numbers, the cost of which is included in the hourly rate. For more information call (415) 858-3810.

BRS/After Dark says they offer even more information in more categories than does DIALOG. Their startup fee is $50, but the hourly rate is lower, $6 to $15. They expect to provide document delivery service by mid June. They now have the Academic American Encyclopedia, the same as Dow Jones, and will be adding electronic mail soon. They are accessed through UNINET and TELENET numbers. Call (518) 783-1161 for more information.

A totally different service is offered by GameMaster. For a $10 startup fee, which includes three free hours and eight pages of documentation, you can get on-line. A $40 startup fee indudes eight free hours and 50 pages documentation, which describes all the games and features. The hourly charge is $3 round the clock, and you pay your own long-distance charges to Evanston, IL. No other local numbers are available, but GameMaster hopes to duplicate the service in other locations.

When you get on-line with GameMaster you enter a 35-room, electronic Mansion. Each room offers a different activity or information. Ten rooms contain games. In the Kitchen you find recipes, some offered by subscribers. You go to the Parlor to "talk" to anyone else on-line who wants to talk with you. Horoscopes are found in the Solarium. The Classroom contains language, math and other educational aids. A lot of imagination has gone into the design of GameMaster. For more information call the very friendly people at (312) 328-9009. This service is also explained and promoted through a Bulletin Board at (312) 475-4884.

Communication Comparison Chart

                    CompuServe            The SOURCE             Dow Jones
                    Columbus, OH          McLean, VA             News/Retrieval
                    --------------------  ---------------------  ----------------------
Registration Fee    $19.95-$39.95(a)      $100.00(a)             $95.00(a)
Prime Time Rates(b) $22.50-$32.50(c)      $20.75                 $36.00-$72.00
After 6 P.M. Rates  $5.00-$7.00(c)        $5.75-$7.75(d)         $6.00-$28.00
News Service        Associated Press      UPI                    Dow Jones Newswire
Various Newspapers  Yes                   Yes
Stock Market        Reports               Reports                Current Quotes(e)
Electronic Mail     EMail                 Yes
Conversation        CB Simulator          Chat
Hobbies—Games       Yes                   Yes
Travel Service      Yes                   Yes
Encyclopedia/Research World Book          Information on Demand  Academic American
Program/Storage     Yes                   Yes
Bulletin Boards     Atari                 May use Atari headings
Shopping Service    Yes                   Comp-U-Store
Information Numbers (800) 848-8199        (800) 336-3366         (800) 257-5224
Local Access Numbers 200 CS, 200 Tymnet   200                    400 Tymnet

(a) See text on coupon promotion
(b) Prime time is business hours & days, local time
(c) Higher rate is for number called through Tymnet
(d) Lower Rate is after midnight
(e) 15 minute mandatory delay