PAUL EVANS, still in a state of shock from receiving his latest phone bill, reassures everyone that things are still great on the bulletin boards...

THERE’S ONE THING that the summer hols isn’t, and that’s a holiday! You’ll never guess what, I’ve had to get a job! (’Bout time you earned some money — Ed)

Yes folks, yours truly is making a regular series of guest appearances in the mighty McDonald’s fast food chain. It starts on July 17 in the Lord Street, Liverpool, and I’ll be there till September 8! As part of my fund raising efforts towards the Get Paul An Amnesty Concert Ticket charity, I will be involved in testing tasks like preparing food, cleaning the floor and serving customers (gawd help us — Ed)! I might even manage to sign autographs during working hours. So watch out!

But first, please accept my profusest (look it up, look it up!) apologies. I had planned to review some Prestel utility software but, as usual, Murphy’s Law struck and my ZX computer is now just an X computer. I’ll keep trying, though!


Chatlines are a regular topic in this column (for those not in the know, it’s a method of holding conversations using home computers, modems and telephone lines). It’s cheaper and much more enjoyable that a normal telephone conversation. Mel Croucher has just written about them in THE GAMES MACHINE magazine. As a test, Mel decided to try a conversation on two different chatlines. He used the same conversation on both and recorded the results. (Have some people nothing better to do? — Ed)

The first was Micronet’s TeleTalk. He claims that only around 40% of people online wanted a serious conversation, he made an appointment with someone for legal sex and after asking for a penpal, was ‘Thrown out of location’ (and I should hope so too! — Ed). I took all of this with a pinch of salt (and a couple of sausages). I seriously doubt if only 40% wanted a serious conversation. As a user of TeleTalk since it opened, I can safely say that MANY serious topics are discussed. I would say around 80% like to be serious at sometime! Obviously, corruptible Croucher must have fallen in with the wrong people. (Not very hard to do if you live in Portsmouth — Ed)

Appointments for sex? (Giggle.) This sort of appointment is often made a joke or wind-up! ‘Thrown out of location’ says Croucher? It now becomes obvious that he had been taken for a ride. Translated, ‘Thrown out of location’ means that an actual USER ejected him from the room, not the TeleTalk monitors, who have little control over the events in a room. A lot of penpals have been made through the system and it is under no circumstances ‘unusual'!

Mel was probably fairly inexperienced at using the system. It would have been better if he had asked someone else who was a regular user for an experienced opinion. You do not learn the system overnight, or the people on it.


In his article, Mel claimed that some chatlines were becoming more and more dubious, with tales of the Ku Klux Klan recruiting members through them, and other undesirable things going on. Mel also tried Desire, a similar system which costs a fortune to use and is open to everyone, but appears to cater mainly for perverts and weirdos (so where can I get some info about this then? — Nick). Definitely one to avoid (Oh, that’s a pity — Nick). Not all the points he made, though, are true. For example, he states that it is not possible for the bulletin boards to control undesirable conversations taking place (and information being transmitted on how to commit criminal acts) because the callers are anonymous, and that you can say anything you like over private telephone lines. I have to make the following comments:

  1. On TeleTalk, users can be anonymous to other users but Micronet can identify users should the need arise;
  2. Micronet does monitor the main talking areas up to midnight. Mel found this out by asking for ‘Illegal Sex’.

I take the view that the Bulletin Board Association should be given legal powers to control boards which might incite their users to commit offences. However, John Wallbridge (founder of the Bulletin Board Association) says: ‘They can be abused, but I would hate to see them singled out for censorship’. But not singling them out for censorship means that people such as Darren Ingram (who tells how to go about doing some pretty disgusting things) could continue to operate.

However, the majority of BBs are good fun, and Mel has cast a bout of a gloom on the whole scene. Why weren’t more of the BBs which offer the good things in life mentioned. He ought to show both sides of the coin. How about the system operated by Peter Gabriel and Howard Jones (on which I am still trying to find information, honest) which promotes interest in the the environment? There are some very encouraging things going on, believe me!


Sorry, but I have to let off steam about junk mailing. Any Micronet/Prestel member will be familiar with the marvellous junk mailing system! New companies are now sending junk mail to all mailboxes (they charge £300 for an MBX to be sent to 20000 users). Come on Prestel, how about a protection system allowing us to stop ads arriving if we don’t want them!

Micronet’s TeleTalk has some new commands! Try SUN, RAIN or even SEX! (Although I’m afraid it’s not illegal Mel.) A new system has been set up to allow users to alter their gender. If you feel like something a bit different (?) then type SEXCHANGE at your peril! (You have been warned)

During the daytime and evening, Micronet chatlines have become ghost towns! Due to the new charges, everyone is staying away until after midnight, when the 1p per minute is lifted! Can’t say I didn’t warn you Prestel! Yep, it’s costing me a lot in sleep to stay up and save a bit of money. Yawn!