Classic Computer Magazine Archive ANTIC VOL. 4, NO. 11 / MARCH 1986



Telecomputing power without the price


Priced at only $49.95, the new Atari XM301 modem is a complete, powerful tool for telephone communication with other computers. The included XE-Term software uses the near-universal XMODEM file transfer standard-making it easy to download or upload public domain programs over the phone.
   The first thing you notice about the 300 baud XM301 is how tiny it is- not much bigger than a deck of playing cards. And it does not require a separate power supply. Yet the XM301 delivers auto-dial (tone or pulse) and auto-answer (so it could be programmed to operate a bulletin board).
   The XM301 is direct-connect, so you don't need any special interface equipment to hook it up to your Atari system. Note that the XM301 must be the last device in the serial bus chain (plugged into your disk drive), because it has only one Input/Output (I/O) connector. And if you have a 1200XL computer, the XM301 will not work with this model. The manual instructs you to contact Atari Customer Service to get your l200XL modified (apparently minor) for XM30l compatibility.
   The XM30l has one modular phone jack. Most direct connect modems have two, in order to allow an extension phone hookup for listening to your dialing progress. However, this is no problem since the XM30l lets you hear everything through your video speaker when you call another computer. Once the connection is actually made, the sound shuts off and the XM301's single LED indicator lights up.
   The XM301 comes with a 49-page manual that is a concise, accurate guide to connecting the modem and using the XE-Term software. And the package also includes some $270 in discount offers for CompuServe, the Source, Knowledge Index (Dialog) and Official Airline Guide.

When the XE-Term disk is booted on the 128K-memory Atari 130XE computer, it creates RAMdisk D8: automatically. This RAMdisk can be used for faster downloads and uploads. The XE-Term disk also loads correctly on other Atari computers with a minimum of 32K memory
   The HANDLERDOC file on the XE-Term disk may be copied to the printer or screen if you are interested in studying the complete technical specifications of the XM301. The data in this file is complete, covering all aspects of the T: modem device handler and the modem control features. With the XM30l's auto-answer capability, this modem could be used to operate your own Bulletin Board System (BBS), with the right software.
   The T: handler seems to be identical to that of the widely used Atari 1030 modem. I tested the XM3Ol with a 1030 modified version of AMODEM and it worked well. Other BBS operators have reported no trouble using Antic's powerful 1030 program Pro * Term (August, 1985).

XE-Term is operated via onscreen menu boxes. Pressing [D] gives you the auto-[D]ialing menu-where you can [E]dit or [D]ial any of the five stored phone-numbers. [K]eyboard dialing can be used for numbers that are called less often. You may [C]hange from the default pulse mode to the faster tone dialing mode, if your phone service supports it.
   XE-Term auto-dialing also includes a single [L]og-on macro that will automatically enter the entire sequence of numbers, commands and passwords needed to connect you with the online service you call most often.
   The [S]et auto-answer mode is ideal for making Atari-to-Atari connections in order to trade programs over the phone. You could set the answer mode and have a friend call at a specified time to automatically make the connection. You must both be in the "half-duplex" mode for this type of hookup.

Once you are online, pressing the [SELECT] key will get you back to the Functions Menu. A subsequent [RETURN] will put you back online if the connection is still open. Two commands are not shown in this menu. While at the Functions Menu and still online, pressing [CONTROL] [H] will hang up the phone. Pressing [0] will send you to the Options Menu where some of the more advanced technical commands are available.
   Pressing [T] in the Options Menu will toggle between ATASCII (Atari ASCII) and standard ASCII modes. Each time it is toggled, you are prompted to save the changes to disk. You will use ATASCII for Atari bulletin boards, and ASCII for non-Atari boards and commercial information services. You may find it convenient to set up two XE-Term disks-one for ASCII and another for the ATASCII.
   From the Options Menu you may also adjust [I]nput and [O]output parity (almost always "none"). The [L]eft screen margin may be set to zero or 2. The [D]uplex command toggles between full and half duplex modes. Use half duplex for Atari-to-Atari (or any other computer) communications where both computers are running a terminal program. Changes may be saved to disk if desired.
   Back at the Functions Menu, you may [S]end or [R]eceive a file using XMODEM protocol. This function also works with ComupServe's "A" file transfer protocol to download files with BIN extenders. You are prompted for [T]ext or [B]inary file transfer. Use binary for any file you wish to send/receive "as is." Text transfers may "translate" Atari's carriage return codes into the standard ASCII code.
   You may [C]apture information, such as HELP menus, to printer or disk. Pressing [START] begins the capture and pressing [START] a second time closes capture and the file. You cannot selectively capture information with the [OPTION] key toggle, as is done in all other Atari terminal programs. [U]pload may be used to send text files, such as preformatted messages, to some systems.
   Pressing a numbered key 1-8 displays a directory for that drive. Pressing [F] brings up the File Utilities Menu. From here you can [L]ock and [U]nlock files. Files may also be [R]enamed or [D]eleted. You may [Q]uit from the Functions Menu to DOS. This is an especially nice feature for the 130XE. Files downloaded to RAMdisk may then be transferred to floppy disk.

XE-Term software is superb! I like it better than any commercial telecommunications program I have used to date. The XM30l modem performs well and has all the features you need. The manual is complete and accurate. Together, the XM301 with XE-Term packs more telecomputing power for the price than any other Atari modem hardware/software on the market.

Atari Corp.
1196 Borregas Avenue
Sunnyvale, CA 94086
(408) 745-2000
$49.95, 32K disk

Matthew Ratcliff is a longtime Antic programmer with a special interest in online communications. His Atari 'Toons appeared in the August, 1985 issue.