Some ’netters still write letters... PAUL EVANS answers your comms questions


Dear Paul
I’m a new CRASH subscriber, and my first subscription issue featured your new column about Micronetting. I still have my 48K Spectrum, but I also have a 128K machine.

Encouraged by a colleague, I purchased a VTX 5000 for 95 guilders (less than £30) including user-to-user software, only to find that my 128K Spectrum would not initialise as they are not compatible. I got my money back without any trouble and set about finding a modem that would work. I was able to find a shop that sold a modem that plugs into the built-in RS232 socket on the Spectrum and Prestel-type software to go with it.

It’s a Miracle systems autodial modem with 1200/75 and 1200/1200 options. It can also be plugged into a QL with which it does autodial. It should be possible to autodial by toggling DTR at 10Hz to simulate the pulses of a telephone dialling, but the software does not provide for this facility.

Do you have a routine for doing this, and could you give more information about the Spectre Comms ROM for the VTX? What does it do that the VTX ROM doesn’t?

As it happens I wrote to Ceefax’s NEXT department last week asking for tips on making my modem autodial, but I don’t know whether they’ll be able to publish a solution.

I subscribe to Viditel, the Dutch equivalent of Prestel, and regularly log-in to a number of other data banks which work with the Prestel protocol. As yet I have not been able to communicate user-to-user for lack of a suitable program.

I am reluctant to go out and buy one at my local shop (Spectrum software stockists are few and far between over here) as the programs are too expensive to experiment with. My Prestel software cost me £20! And I’m sure there must be better programs available with off-line editing of pages etc. Can you publish a list of programs, facilities, prices and suppliers?

One interesting data bank is run by a schoolboy in Rotterdam, who turned his VTX 5000 into an autoanswer modem and runs the bank on a microdnve cartridge! The online times are rather erratic but are pubhshed in another databank in Rotterdam.
Philip Green

It’s a shame you didn’t pursue a solution to the 128/VTX problem (see CRASH Issue 45) — £30 is quite cheap for a new VTX. You have not mentioned the Miracle modem model but it sounds like a WS2000. I haven’t a clue how to program the RS232 port of the 128 to autodial through the modem, but maybe Simon N Goodwin can help there.

See my article in Issue 46 for details on the Spectre Comms ROM. Its software is a great deal better than the VTX’s and it makes the VTX compatible with the 128 as well!

As for software, very cheap U2U software and enhanced terminal software is available on Micronet as telesoftware for the VTX only. If you can’t log-on to Micronet, contact the people there and ask if you can purchase the software through snail-mail.

Trying to get comms software commercially for the Spectrum is VERY difficult and I wouldn’t bother trying! But a feature on the amazing software extras for the VTX is coming soon and will put the Beeb owners to shame...


Dear Paul

Can I use telex numbers on a VTX 5000 modem or do I need add-ons, where can I get them from and how much will they cost me?

And can you please give me a few addresses so I can get more information about modems, telexes and networks. Also, is there a mail-order company I can get them from?

It would be nice to know a few things about programming techniques, but all the manuals and books I’ve seen are all far too technical for me. They just go on about all these weird things and ask you to do exercises that they don’t tell you how to do or how it works and I’m usually completely lost after ten or 15 pages.

Is there a clear programming guide you know of that even a complete moron (me?) could follow easily?
Tony Redmond

If you are a member of Prestel you have access to its much-improved telex service. You type in your message as you would a mailbox, enter the telex number etc. and the message is delivered in as little as three minutes! The cost is only 50p per telex.

There’s no other way of converting a VTX to a telex machine.

If you need more information on the world of modems, contact Micronet.