A communications desk accessory? Well, why not? If
you use your ST for electronic mail or remote database searches its
nice to be able to have instant access to comms facilities while
using some other GEM based program, such as a spreadsheet or word
processor. Even if you don't use electronic mail as such, but just
tinker around with bulletin boards Easitalk could be of use to you,
as it offers lots of facilities at a reasonable price. You can
quickly learn to use the program as it comes with a good quality 46
page instruction manual, most of which is written in tutorial style.
It runs in either medium resolution colour or high
resolution monochrome, and offers VT52 terminal emulation for
text-only bulletin boards and services, and also PRESTEL viewdata
emulation in colour or monochrome. It handles all PRESTEL features
except flashing colours and cursor. In monochrome it uses shading to
differentiate between PRESTEL colours.
File transfers can be handled using ASCII or the
Xmodem protocol. When using Xmodem you have a choice of 128 or 1024
byte blocks and checksum or CRC checking. The instruction manual
contains a list and explanation of Xmodem error messages, about the
only time I've ever seen this. Full marks, XLEnt!
A 64K capture buffer may be toggled on and off to
record incoming and outgoing text as required. Amount of free space
remaining is shown in a status display at the bottom of the online
screen. The buffer can be saved to disk and cleared when required.
Buffer contents can't be viewed directly, but only by saving the
buffer to disk then reloading it again, and using the 'local' duplex
setting to route the data to the screen. The buffer can't be printed
or transmitted either. XLEnt should rework this part of Easitalk to
improve the facilities.
Viewdata frames may be saved to disk and reloaded
later for reference. A frame may also be printed at any time, either
in text-only form or as a screen dump to the printer via the
Full control over the RS-232 transmission parameters
is possible, with baud rate settings from 75 to 19200 (including
split rates for PRESTEL), parity, stop bits, word size, duplex, and
flow control. It's possible to define and save lists of up to ten
services or bulletin boards you use, together with their phone
numbers, user-IDs, passwords, and the name of an associated command
file. This may then be used for autodialling, auto-logon, or even to
fully automate a complete communications session, including retry of
engaged numbers at specified time intervals. This means you could
let Easitalk collect your electronic mail for you at a specified
time, perhaps during off peak periods when phone and connect time
charges are lowest.
In summary, Easitalk offers very good value, having
facilities only previously available at a much higher price. If you
need a versatile low cost communications program this could be the