Orphaned Computers & Game Systems

Vol. I, Issue 3    December 1994

Online with an Atari: A Look at Two Great Shareware Telecommunications Programs

by Adam Trionfo

Everyone who uses a computer of any type has access to information that is nearly limitless. This information is updated every day, and contains gigabytes of useful programs and articles. The only way to get at this information is to use a modem and telecommunications software.

For the Atari, there is only a few direct-connect modems. These are all 300-baud (very, very slow), except for one: the SX212, which is 1,200-baud. If you do not have an Atari 850, which lets you connect most any IBM serial or parallel device, then your only logical choice is the Atari SX212. This modem costs about $30 and is available from B&C Computervisions.

If you do have an 850, then you can use a modem that is up to 9,600 baud. Actually, you can use a faster modem; you just need to make sure that the baud rate is not set above 9,600, or else you will lose characters and have many other problems. You can also connect a modem to the MIA device, but I know very little about this.

Your next step would be to get a program that lets you use the modem. I recommend Bobterm. This is by far the best telecommunications program for the Atari. It has many options that most other programs do not, as well as a unique feature: It multi-tasks! Well, in a sense. Bobterm is able to continue to receive information while you do some other tasks. You can even exit to DOS, finish a task there, and then return to Bobterm, all without losing the online connection. The only limit of Bobterm is that it displays in 40 columns. This is obviously because the Atari only has a 40-column display, right? Yes -- until very recently, that is.

FlickerTerm 80 is another program for your modem, but it isn't as sophisticated as Bobterm. What it does offer, though, is a readable 80-column display! You may have used some other program that tried to offer 80 columns. They are very difficult to read, and must be used on monochrome monitors. This is because they use a Graphics 8 screen to achieve the text.

FlickerTerm uses two text screens, and flickers between them to achieve a very readable 80 columns -- even on a color monitor. (I haven't tried it on a TV, but I imagine that it would be kind of difficult to read.) The downside of this is that there is a noticeable flicker that can be very annoying in a brightly lit room. I have found that if you change the background to black and the text to white or gray, it is much easier to cope with.

FlickerTerm also supports IBM ANSI graphics, color and blinking! This is a must-have program if you use any BBS that is run on an 80-column machine!

FlickerTerm 80 sounds too good to be true, right? There are two major tasks that cannot be done with this program: Uploading and downloading files. This is a major problem, since only rarely do I go online just to chat. However, the author talks about making an upgrade if the response to the existing version is positive.

Bobterm is available from just about any BBS or PD service. FlickerTerm 80, on the other hand, is newer and not as widely available. Try the addresses on page 13 if you have any problems finding these two excellent Shareware programs.