8-Bit Software Online Conversion

Some useful information about Bulletin Board Systems. By John Ilsley. This article will be of interest to those of you that own modems. Those of you that don't, then I hope that this article will give you an incentive to buy one. This article is written around my own experiences of modems. Nearly all modems that you can buy will connect to the BBC A, B or Master128 via the RS423 port. The Master128 can also have an internal modem fitted. But to date, I have heard of no one who has this built-in modem, I have in it's space my telephone. The RS423 port will interface with a modem's RS232 port with no problems. You will find that all modems require at least five connections. These are: TX/SD (Transmit or Send data). RX/RD (Receive data). RTS (Request to send). CTS (Clear to send) 0v line, or earth. These are the five pins. The actual pinout's can be found on page 240 of the Master128 welcome guide or page 499 of the BBC B manual. All computers can talk to each other, It doesn't matter whether it is a PC, BBC A or B, Master, Spectrum, Commodore Atari, Amiga, Archimedes. As long as you have the four main essentials: A computer, modem, software and access to a phone socket. The rest is easy. If you intend to call a bulletin board system or BBS for short, you will first have to select at your computer whether you wish to call in viewdata or terminal/scrolling. Viewdata will allow only downloading, whilst scrolling will allow uploading or downloading. Uploading allows you to send a program or a file from your computer's disc drive to the BBS. Downloading allows transfer of files from the BBS's disc drive to you. Viewdata has a word bit stop of 7E1 and scrolling has a word bit stop of normally 8N1. You can dial to most boards at at least 300/300 bits per second (bps) or 1200/75bps. The first number is the speed you receive the information at, the second number is the speed you send the information at. Most times when you call a BBS, you will select 1200/75 as this allows fast frames and quicker downloading. Should you wish to upload, you should call at 300/300. Very few modems can handle 75/1200, I have left this speed out. When you first connect to a BBS, you are more then likely to see a message at the top of the screen saying something like: 'Press Hash Press Return' You must press your RETURN or enter key. This key, although the code on the BBC computer is CHR$(13), if you are in Viewdata, is changed to CHR$(95) If you are in scrolling, it is left as CHR$(13). This is how the BBS computer or host computer tells whether you are calling from Viewdata or Scrolling. After that, you will be asked for your first and last name, your location and a secret password. You must always keep this password secret. I will tell you about the relevance of this later. Some BBS's ask you to fill in a questionaire when you first log on. After this you will be presented with a welcome page or main menu. This may tell you when the BBS was last updated and if you have any new mail and whether the Sysop is in or out. The Sysop is the person who is in charge of the system. It is up to him/her to make sure that your name, password and where you are from are kept secret. He/she is the only person who will see that information. You are then most likely see somewhere on the introduction page, a '#' or hash, this means press RETURN. You may see the letter 'M' or '0', Press either of these to get to the main menu. Once on the main menu, you have a choice of things to do. A lot of BBS run on a hard drive, or on silicon drives, these are extremely fast, these BBS's have lots of money and modems that can do speeds of up to 96000bps. At that speed, you get a screen full of information faster than you would if you catalogued a disc. It is extremely fast. The best modems I know about are most Hayes compatible modems These use 'AT' commands. For example: ATZ will reset the modem. ATPD0705753124 will pulse dial a number (mine). ATTD0705753124M1C1 will tone dial a number, (mine again), send a carrier and turn the modem's internal monitor on if it has one. I think a satisfactory Hayes modem is a WS4000. This is very easy to use, and operates with most software and can be operated from basic. You will need software to download and upload files. I recommend the following in order of preferance: MODEM MASTER COMMAND Designer modem by Dataphone needs the rom ZROMM and is a very good modem, sadly I don't think they are produced any more, they are well worth it if you can get one. If you are in a basic program and someone calls, you can simply answer them without losing your program. One modem to avoid is BT's own modem, the DataChat1223. Most new modems cost in excess of £150 for a simple 1200/75 300/300 modem. Fine if you have the money. However a second hand one will cost about £25-£40. A new, high speed error correction modem will cost in excess of £400, £160 is a good 2nd hand price. John Ilsley 27N. PRESS BREAK