This month CRASH’s very own Comms Gnome, PAUL EVANS, takes a look at a rival to Micronet...
FINALLY I can breathe again, back to a whole page, hurrah! Now how about a tour of an alternative world to Prestel. It has the rather unusual title of The Gnome At Home. This system is, without doubt, the most famous independent database on-line.
The Gnome At Home started around 1983, with software custom-written by the Sysop (codename!), and has been growing ever since. It now supports contributors, who can rent frames and start up Special Interest Groups (SIGs). Recently subscriptions began to be charged, with special benefits for subscribers, and the system so popular it’s hard to get a connection. A large part of its appeal is the widespread humour, with every n preceded by a g, in typical gnome fashion.
I used one of the two ‘free’ lines for unregistered users (I’m joining soon!). Once you have registered your name, you get your head bitten by the Auto-Gnome (Aug). This beast makes sure nobody hogs the lines, preventing other users from accessing the board. When you first enter the system, Aug tells you how busy the lines are and gives you a time to leave by. Time allowed varies from a couple of hours to just half a hour. Aug also tells you about recently-updated areas and special offers from Sysop.
Back in the main menu you can enter the grotto. This is a funnier version of the Micronet Gallery: an area where users can hire pages and fill them with anything they please! Among the options are news files from user groups, sports enthusiasts and choc-net, which suffers from being very silly!
Next comes the gnews — a general information centre showing routes to masses of updates and useful topics. For the talkative person, the Babble Boards are a must. Babble Boards allow users to leave messages for others to read.
The Gnome At Home is a standard Viewdata system, meaning anyone who uses Prestel should have no problem connecting at a baud rate of 1200/75. It’s free to use, but only two phone lines are available to the non-paying users, so logging-on this way could be a bit of a pain! Also, free users are denied certain facilities. However, it’s useful if you don’t intend using Gnome that often.
Now for the subscriptions. If you subscribe to The Gnome At Home then you get the following:-
A further attraction is the recent availability of free tele-software for the Speccy. New features soon to be launched include a bulk uploading facility for editors of SIGs or grottoes; this will allow the editor (or SysOp) to transmit pre-created frames at high speed to the main computer, saving on phone bills! Also, dynamic frames (basic animation) will soon be available.
Now for the hole-in-the-pocket time...
|Subscriptions||3 Months — £4.50|
1 Year — £18.00
|1 Frame Rent||3 Months — £0.50|
1 Year — £2.00
|Babble Board||To Buy — £5.00|
The Gnome At Home is open 24 hours a day, seven days a week! And if you want to subscribe write off to Autonomic Systems.
One of the newest and most important sections is the SIGs. Earlier this year, the SIG database was set up for would-be contributors to share their knowledge with others, at little expense. Immediately after this area was opened, many regulars from Micronet moved into Gnome so that non-Micronet subscribers could benefit from their vast knowledge. Two particular ’Net SIGs have made a prominent appearance, Spectacular and 16/32, Speccy and ST databases respectively. Both are excellent reading, Spectacular (no connection to the fanzine) is one of the top areas on Micronet for Spectrum owners and Gnome has a carbon copy of it continually updated, with a letter section for you to use as well.
Recently a PBM was started on the system, using mailboxes instead of Her Majesty’s mail. A game similar to Shades may not be far off! This is just a very brief run-down on what’s available, the whole thing is massive and the main menu is a poor reflection. Moreover, the fact that it’s a database written by enthusiasts makes it a true ‘work of heart’.