Recovering from illness, panicked by upcoming exams, PAUL EVANS still continues to communicate...
Due to a bout of ill health I have recently had little contact with the outside world (outside of bed, that is). However, I can now say I have just about recovered from the New Year’s celebrations! Micronet have been decent enough to reconnect me, and the computer isn’t giving me any more hassle. But as I’m currently in a blind panic about ‘A’ levels (Aararggghhh!), a checkup on the current state of Micronet will be saved to next issue. A big thank you to all the ’Netters who have been sending in compliments about this column and the magazine. It’s much appreciated and I’m sorry I don’t have time to answer you all.
If you read my article on The Gnome At Home bulletin board, then this next piece may be of interest to you. Not long after Gnome began, a certain Clevelander set up his own BB on his ZX Spectrum Microdrive system. Run on the infamous ‘Micron’ software, The Other Board ran for many years, becoming one of the most famous Micron BBs on-line and the only one to operate 24 hrs! As it has proved impossible to make money from this type of BB, TOB (as it became known) cost its sysop quite a bit of money! He kept going, but Micron didn’t — it requires special software to be used, and only Spectrum and Commodore owners can access it. So when the new Viewdata format became available at a reasonable price, TOB Micron disappeared for six months to be eventually replaced by The Board.
At last The Board is here, but was it worth the wait? First the technical side: it’s run on a couple of Beebs using ACMB Viewdata software on Voyager modems. The pages are stored on a dual 80 track floppy drive system and it has one phone line.
After logging on you are given a password page. Membership Is free, but the password is needed to identify you and your mailbox (yes, mailbox!). Following this formality and a few seconds wait, I was presented with the main menu. The first thing I noticed was an accurate clock in one comer of the screen. This is quite unusual for any viewdata system, and a good idea. I was also told that there was £10 in the bank — whatever that meant! Then I realised that the menu was split into three pages. Here’s a rundown on what’s available:
System News is just that. It’s basically a ‘What’s New’ page, commenting on the latest changes and those that are soon to be made. It also has details on how the board is run, and who runs it.
Chatlines was an area which interested me. After all, how can you have a chatline if only one person can use the system at a time?! Well, after a quick look around I came to the conclusion that calling this area ‘Chatlines’ was a little unfair. It’s just a series of noticeboards, not really designed for user interaction! The available areas are: an open area for general chat, a ‘notice’ area for announcements, a joke board and the public mail section. Public mail is for users whose private mailboxes might be of interest to anyone. If so they can be placed in the ‘public’ area.
It was at this time that I noticed a little messaging system on the bottom line of the screen. Similar to the AutoGnome on Gnome, it displays little messages about certain events and areas worth visiting. However, unlike the AutoGnome, it doesn’t seem to be ‘intelligent’.
Mailboxing is a good feature to find on any BB (especially a free one!). The system available is fairly basic but does the job. One type of MBX message (Prestel style) is available with no word-wrap or justification etc. However, it does have one other facility to search for a user by entering their name. The computer finds it and then gives you the details. This system on Prestel would make life a lot easier!
The only Special Interest Group worth mentioning here is the Spectrum area. SPECS is a database that has been around on Micronet for a few years and seems to have arrived here (the sysop being a co-editor of SPECS is besides the point!). I say ‘seems’ because only the Game Pokes area is available. Computer error or lack of space? Shall we ever know?
Fun ’n’ Games contains the usual banter of jokes and puzzles. It also has a good collection of quotes, eg ‘And now for an international soccer special: Man Utd vs Southampton’ — David Coleman. From the jokes, you soon learn that the sysop hates people from Middlesbrough, despite the fact he lives there!
The Sysops’ Association is an idea from the sysop, who I will now name as Ron Evans. It’s a group for sysops only and allows all kinds of goodies and advantages. On offer are such things as free advice, software information and possible equipment discounts. It’s non-profit and totally independent.
Finally the reviews. Only a minority of these are Spectrum, and I didn’t think too much of the actual review quality (too short for one thing!).
That’s about the whole area covered. As you can probably tell, it’s a bit short and also a bit empty. However, you have to remember it is a new board (despite the sysop’s experience) and is bound to have teething troubles. If it can keep going, this board will have a gleaming future.