COR, TALK about a busy month! If one more person says, ‘Burger’ or ‘Big Mac and fries to go’, I’ll shove a comms lead where no RS232 has been before. Apologies if I sound a bit nervous (aggressive more like — Ed), I get my maths result in two days (EDITOR’S NOTE: Nick Roberts FAILED his English Language!!). More on that next month. Anyway I’m off down the shops. (Mine’s a Lilt — Nick; I’d love a coffee cream bun — Lloyd; get us a Topic, Paul — Ed.) Whoops, should’ve kept quiet!
One of Prestel’s great advantages is the ability to purchase goods through your modem (and with a bit of help from your flexible friend). At the touch of a few keys you can purchase anything from Cybernoid (yet another plug for Mr Cecco) to a pregnant chicken (!, I won’t ask — Ed).
When Prestel arrived, teleshopping soon followed — fast becoming one of Prestel’s greatest assets. Many large catalogue companies saw great potential and soon moved in to corner the market. Today’s system is very large and involves many mail-order retailers, including Micronet. The larger systems allow access through gateways. (Wotsat? — Ed.) Where have you been for the last year? — Paul) A gateway is a link from your modem to, for example, the Kays computer, without leaving the main Prestel system. You are simply channelled through to the appropriate database, through which you can peruse at your ease (but watch that phone bill!). When you’ve decided what you want, just quote your credit card number and the order will be processed and despatched. And because it’s all computer controlled you can order at any time. (Ever remembered that birthday present at three in the morning?)
There’s a fantastic range of goods to pick and choose from — software is an obvious market. Micronet offer a wide range of the latest games (on most formats) at discount prices. Other companies within the Micronet area stock peripherals and computers. Apart from computerish stuff there’s also the majors. Littlewoods’s Shop TV service has been running for a few years and offers free membership with a complimentary catalogue. For those too lazy to read the catalogue, you can just ask the computer if it has anything close to what you want. For example, you could ask for a Pioneer stereo system up to £500. (You might not get one, though — Ed.) The computer would then display a few choices. The Kays system is similar, with a whopping 1000+-page catalogue. The system has real potential.
In America, a more advanced version of Prestel exists. (Well, it would, wouldn’t it! — Ed.) The resolution is a lot sharper than our Viewdata system (ours being similar to a ZX81’s, but with colour). The Yank’s equivalent produces Spectrum-quality high-resolution graphics. Estate agents are using this to show digitised pictures of the houses for sale in their area. Give them your requirements and the computer sorts out what you can afford!
If you live in the London area, Telebooking is all the rage. This allows you to make reservations and bookings for all sorts of things; hotels, theatres, cinemas... It’s a pity that most of the companies offering tickets via the telephone are in the south-east, although for events like the PC Show it can be useful for everyone — book your hotel room, order your Show tickets and arrange an evening function. Of course, you’ll need to get down to the PC Show, well you can book the tickets for that too! British Rail and National Express coaches both have Prestel timetables with full booking facilities. Avoid the queues, STAY AT HOME AND USE THE PHONE!
In France, the government has introduced Minitel — a very advanced teleshopping/booking service. Around 90% of French householders have a terminal. Maggie’s Modem? Fat chance!
FOR SOME curious and unknown reason, TeleTalk has been changed to DataTalk with no explanation! I must ask Micronet...
A few weeks ago, the largest ever Shades meet took place. It was in the home of Ambushbug, a famed member. Apparently (sorry I couldn’t make it), a good time was had by all.
A new section has appeared in Micronet’s world. It’s called Freefax and contains reviews, competitions, classifieds and special offers! (Bit of competition? — Ed.) Type *freefax# or *60014#, to take a look.
The most convenient way of getting software is through Prestel. There are loads of titles available, including charts toppers and indies, paying for them is as simple as paying your Prestel bill — in fact that’s what it is! The software is transmitted down the phone line, then you just save it to tape — it’s called CET. You get the software in minutes and don’t pay till your next Prestel bill — some software’s free!
Talking of indies (which I was, if you remember!) brings me nicely to the irregular review spot. Spectrum Shades Terminal is designed for use on Shades and TeleTalk and basically makes the system much more useable. SST is made up of two windows; a large central one for Prestel and a small two-line input window — there’s also a natty little clock in the corner. It allows function keys and accessories, such as clock adjustments. SST displays the character set in a choice of two fonts; a nice free flowing one or a computer-style typeface.
The software runs on a VTX 5000. It allows you to logon and progress to Shades within its own routines. Unfortunately, when you log-on to Micronet the display is in monochrome — very unreadable till you enter Shades.
SST is a great asset when on Shades. The macros provide a useful accessory (fights can be carried out a lot easier than before — all the commands on just one key!). If you require you can also integrate your own macros into the program from the pop-up menus. I would definitely recommend this package to the serious Shades/TeleTalk user, as it makes it a lot easier to cope with. A competent piece of software, and one of many such packages that makes the Spectrum one of the best Micronet terminals available.
Version 1.2 is available at the moment, but V1.3 (which I had) should be out soon (v. cheap, I’m assured). Philip Aston is the author and you can find out more by going to page *600614596# of Micronet. The first CRASH Comms Smash? Well, about 92%.