PAUL EVANS, the guru of comms, proffers apologies all round
HI, THERE. I’m sorry, but the postal strike had the last laugh and last month’s article didn’t make it despite various attempts! So here comes last month’s article, together with this month’s one as well — two for the price of one and three-quarters?!
First off here’s my account of the PC Show, written at 1:15am on the following Sunday morning. And I was certainly right about the scene at Liverpool Lime Street Station. Loads of PCers all jumping on the 07:10 to London Euston. I got chatting to a lot of them over a BR Bacon/Lettuce/Tomato sandwich (never again!) and they all were happy with both my articles and the mag as general. (I’m surprised they knew who you were — Ed.) A big HI to them! Once there I dashed for the Telemap stand to see what they had to offer.
The first person I met was the one and only David Rosenbaum (Ta-Daa!), he being the public relations kind of guy! I was presented with a smart press pack and told of the latest expansions of what must be the most successful English communications group. Here’s what I discovered...
First, two items that will be of limited interest to most of you. Telemap are launching a new business service called Interbusiness. It’s described as ‘a unique online advice service for the business user’. Telemap has linked up with the Legal Protection Group to provide a team of specialists who will answer questions on taxation, law and employment. All you have to do is send a question and the reply will be sent within 24 hours! The service will also provide articles on current business topics and techniques to aid the up-and-coming businessman (like myseif). These will cover most aspects from finance to sales.
‘Existing online service are aimed at specialist markets’, said Gerard Richardson, Business Development Director of Telemap Group. ‘Interbusiness is different. It is a small service, of interest to everyone in business from the small businessman without easy access to a team of specialist advisers, to a manager in a company who needs to know the latest market developments.’ The service is due to be launched in the late Autumn, more details of costs, etc when I know...
The next item is 16-bit (arrgghh!!) but does contain some 8-bit (hurrah!) news as well. Micronet is setting up a gateway (an all-formats store selling lots of veg and groceries? — Ed) for telesoftware so they can offer it FREE (yippee). The biggest news, however, is that Micronet are offering for the first time, 16-bit telesoftware!! Again, for free! 8-bit software is also included in the new service, but Micronet are really excited about the 16-bit offer! (So are you, if the number of exclamation marks is anything to go by, Paul — Ed.) ‘With the wide range of free downloadable software now available on our weekly online magazines dedicated to these machines, Micronet offered the most comprehensive service for the 16-bit user,’ raved Mike Brown, Technical Director of Telemap Group.
Now on to something that never seems to stop growing — Shades! That ever-popular multi-user game is spreading like crazy! Now it’s available on Telecom Gold. For the first time, Gold’s 105,000 subscribers have a chance to join in Europe’s most popular online adventure. What’s more, it costs no more to use at peak hours (8am–7pm) than the standard Gold charge of 6½p a minute. When off-peak, there is a surcharge of 4½p per minute on top of the 2p per minute Gold charge. The launch onto Telecom Gold means that the game can now be played at 300, 1200/75, 1200 and 2400 baud rates.
Also, don’t forget that Shades is available to non-subscribers as well, but watch the phone bill (25p off-peak, 38p peak).
John Tomany, Managing Director of Telemap Group, says ‘Shades is a proven success story with users already clocking up over 4000 hours per week through Micronet, Prestel and the 0898 network. By going onto Telecom Gold we are doubling the potential user base, which not only makes sound commercial sense, but can only add to the excitement of the game’.
Well, will it be long before EVERYONE is playing Shades? Anyway, watch out for the latest advertising campaign!
Finally, Telemap Group is launching a second sister company in France. Already, users in Italy have been able to share the wonders of Micronet in a similar version called Lasernet. The new company, Telemap SARL is based in Paris and is launching a French version of Micronet onto Minitel, the French equivalent of Prestel.
Minitel is one of the biggest computer online databases, having four million terminals throughout France. Its growing popularity is due to strong government support, which we are sadly lacking in this country. Micronet claim to be building themselves up to dominate the market when the deregulation of Europe takes place in 1992.
‘France presents a major opportunity for Telemap Group,’ said John Tomany (talkative fellow, isn’t he!). ‘Despite the huge number of users, and the range of services already found on Minitel, we have developed a number of advanced products which will be new to the French. Telemap Group intends to become a major player in the French videotex market.’ Powerful stuff, eh? Guess what the first Telemap product on Minitel will be? Yep. Shades!
That’s all (phew) from Telemap Group. Now it’s indie time. Whilst browsing among the various mini-stands for user-groups I finally came across details of the database that Peter Gabriel (who I did finally get to see at the Amnesty concert) and Howard Jones have helped to set up.
It’s called GreenNet, and describes itself as ‘The global network for environment, Peace and Human Rights’. It allows you to communicate, share information, pool resources and plan events with individuals and groups anywhere in the world. It also has an international bulletin board and mailbox system so you can easily find information on anything from acid rain to the SDI system! The system claims to be cheap to use, allowing you to send telexes anywhere in the world for only pence per page. It also provides a wide range of services designed specifically to meet the needs of environment and peace groups.
GreenNet is a non-profit organization and part of the Association for Progressive Communications, giving access to PeaceNet, EcoNet, GeoNet, InterDoc and Poptel. It relies on donations to keep running, as well as subscriptions, of course. As for costs, it’s free to join, but you have to make a £30 deposit against your first few bills. Subscriptions are £5 a month and connection costs 9p a minute. UK electronic mail is free, and a 200 word message to the USA costs only 50p! So, what does the great man think?
‘Information is power. Much of the information revolution grew in the womb of the military and the multinationals. It’s time to take it into the hands and homes of the people and to make it very accessible to those working to improve the world. GreenNet deserves to succeed,’ Peter Gabriel was heard to utter. (And all in one day. That must be a miracle.)
I’ll find out more for a full review on the subject.
Besides the things I have mentioned, there was very little going on in the comms world at the show, unlike last year. ClubSpot 810 were showing off their latest databases for Prestel, as well as advertising the biggest adventure meet yet (a job for Samara there!). However, most of the comma areas were aiming at the business market, hope there’s a bit more leisure next year!
I’ve received a letter from one Philip Green who supports my hatred of junk mailboxes (see Issue 56). He lists his many complaints of the Dutch viewdata systems on which he receives a lot more junk mail than us! However, some of the mail is of dubious content and this has resulted in Philip banning his son from logging and collecting messages. He said that the service planned to introduce a system preventing junk mail being received... but a year on, nothing has happened. Thanks for the mail, Philip. I certainly agree with your complaints and will ask Prestel about it for next month’s issue. As for modems, I intend to have a look at the field soon but as you pointed out, the scope is very limited, especially for the 48K machines. In the meantime, I second Philip’s motion — junk mailbox the Prestel Customer Services with complaints. I really am sick of these mailboxes!
But enough moaning, I’ve been waffling on for ages about computing areas on Micronet and Prestel, but rarely mention the normal habits of your average teenager. Music, films, nightlife etc. So, how can Prestel help?
Let’s start the music. How does your average heavy metal nutter enjoy himself on Micronet. Well, there’s an ideal section called Aard Rock (*aard#). It’s a general music area, content structure being similar to 20th Century Hamster (a games/competition base). The main menu presents all the features you would expect to find: a top ten of singles and albums, reviews, news, videos, features and competitions. (I entered a competition for a pair of J M Jarre tickets, and didn’t win.)
The section’s well laid out and colourful. Problem is it suffers badly from updating (for instance, it’s now mid-October and the charts were last updated during September!) However, it does contain a wide range of interesting features (such as group biographies and gig guides) and there’s even a letters section. The name Aard Rock is slightly misleading as you expect a heavy metal section. Still, try it!
Ok, what’s next? If you like films then you’ve come to the right place. There are many database on the system for film buffs of all breeds! Try *films# or *cinema# and you’re away! Details can be sought on the latest releases and where they’re showing. Some cinemas even allow you to book tickets online!
Nightlife? Loads! Many details can be digested all about nightlife — only in and around London, sadly. And then there’s the only online nightclub! All you have to do is get comfy with a few cans of Cola and type away! There’s a good chatline, agony aunt page, not-so serious agony aunt page, news, letters and general abuse of all that Prestel stands for morally! Meets are often held around Britain (London mostly) which involve vast amounts of ale quaffing. (And no, I’m not telling Nick Roberts where they are.) To join, you have to register after midnight. Just type *tmmc# (The Midnight Micronetter’s Club) and watch the fun unfurl before your eyes!
Included among this month’s letter is an interesting one from Mr K McDermott who owns a ZX Spectrum 16K (they still exist?) and wants to know if a VTX modem will run on it with no problems. In answering this question, there’s good news and bad news. The good news is that you can use the VTX completely safely with a 16K and enjoy Micronet to the full. The bad news is that you will have to put up with the rather naff terminal software held in the ROM. My advice is to get a 48K and buy a copy of VTX Editor (available on Telesoftware) which is a far superior package including editing and mailboxing facilities offline! Contact Micronet for more details! They offer free modem deals with most yearly subscriptions.
Well, that’s all for now! I’ll see you next month, when you might get to see a picture of my bedroom-cum-office!! If you want to prevent this terrifying expose, or just let off steam about the comms world in general, then why not write to or MBX me? My MBX number is 219995412 and to send a letter, just use the CRASH address! That’s Paul Evans, Comms, CRASH. See you next month and Happy Christmas!