TeleCommunicate!

Jonathon Sanders, SYSOP Atari SBBS

 

Issue 6

Nov/Dec 83

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In the new film 'WARGAMES", a young computer enthusiast links his home computer into one of the Pentagon computers and nearly precipitates a nuclear war. Now, you can do the same thing with your Atari! I am not going to tell you how to access the Pentagon, but explain how you can connect to the growing number of teleprocessing systems in this country which provide special support for Atari.

In the last few weeks, two separate "Bulletin Board Services" have been started up using Atari computers. By calling these BBS, Atari users can send and receive messages, get copies of programs in Basic and Machine Code, buy and sell, and get several other services. These BBS are entirely free, you only have to pay for the phone call which at cheap rate costs 10p for 10 minutes for a local call, 25p for 10 minutes up to 35 miles, or 64p long distance (only 49p if you are on a 'Low Cost Route').

The hardware needed to start telecommunicating consists of a 'modem', an Atari 850 Interface module, and an RS232 interconnecting cable. If you have already purchased the 850 Interface to provide a parallel port for your printer, then the extra hardware will cost between 40 and 90. If you need to buy the Interface then it will cost a further 120.

The Atari provides an RS232 standard outlet, enabling a Modem to be connected to your Atari. The modem is a device which converts electrical pulses representing bytes or characters in the computer into sound pulses which can be transmitted over the telephone line. The speed that these pulses are transmitted is measured in BAUD. The most common speed used between microcomputers is 300 Baud, which is about 30 characters a second.

There are two types of modem. 'Acoustic-coupled' modems have rubber cups which clip over the telephone earpiece and microphone, provided they are not the modern trimphone shape, whilst 'Direct-coupled' modems are connected directly to the telephone line via a jackplug installed by British Telecom. Direct-coupled modems should be a type approved by British Telecom. Modems are available from several suppliers and a short list is given at the end of this article.

You will also need appropriate software to enable you to send and receive messages and to "download programs" (i.e. get copies of programs over the phone and save to tape, disk or printer). There are many excellent commercial programs available, including TELETALK, TELETARI, T.H.E. as well as CHAMELEON from APX and TELELINK. These range from 15 to 45. For the beginner, however, there is an excellent public domain program called JTERM, written by Frank C. Jones, published in COMPUTE! January 1983. If you cannot find that copy, a listing of an improved version of JTERM can be obtained by sending a large s.a.e. to GB MICROLAND, 7, QUEENS PARADE, WATERLOOVILLE, HANTS. If you should visit GB MICROLAND, you can get a copy already on diskette. Alternatively, you can "download" a free working copy of JTERM direct onto your own system from my Southern Bulletin Board Service (SBBS) by using the short program listing with this article.

AtariLister - requires Java

To access a Bulletin Board, connect up your 850 Interface and Modem using the special RS232 cable. Turn on the 850 before you turn on the computer. If you have a disk system, then the DOS diskette must have a copy of the AUTORUN.SYS file supplied with Atari DOS 2.OS as this boots in the RS232 handler from the 850 as explained in the 850 manual. The modem should be set to 'call' and 'full duplex' modes. Load the terminal program, phone the BBS number and when you hear the high-pitched answer tone, RUN your program. This will activate your direct connect modem. If you have an acoustic modem, quickly place the telephone handset into the rubber cups on the modem. When the handset is in the correct position, a light is lit indicating that the modem is receiving the high-pitched tone. Now press RETURN a couple of times and you should be communicating . . . follow the instructions given by the BBS.

That's all you need to know to start telecommunicating. If you have any difficulties, call the BBS outside the regular hours and discuss your problem with the System Operator, he should be able to help. Good luck!


MODEM SUPPLIERS

ACOUSTIC COUPLED:
AMBIT, 200, North Service Road, Brentwood, Essex CM14 4SG (DIY kit).
MINOR MIRACLES, P.O. Box 48, Ipswich 1P4 2AB.
TANDY SHOPS

DIRECT COUPLED:
MAPLINS, P.O. Box 3, Rayleigh, Essex SS5 8LR (DIY kit).
DISPLAY ELECTRONICS, 32 Biggin Way, Upper Norwood, London SE19 3XF.
MINOR MIRACLES, P.O. Box 48, Ipswich 1P4 2AB.


ATARI BULLETIN BOARDS

SSBS - Chichester - 0243 511077 running every night from 21.00 to 02.00.
SYSOP: Jonathon Sanders.

ECABS - Chippenham - 0249 657744 running every night.
SYSOP: Matthew Jones.

Another Atari BBS is expected shortly.
Other BBS which have special Atari message sections:

TBBS - London - 01 348 9400. 

SYSOP: John Nolan.

 

MAILBOX 80 - Liverpool - 051 428 8924. 

SYSOP: Peter Toothill.

 

MAPLIN - Southend - 0702 552941.

 

There are, in addition, many other general BBS in the UK, details of which can be found on any of the above BBS.

 

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