PET/CBM Standard Terminal Communications Package
Harvey B. Herman, Associate Editor
"Why did you buy a personal computer?" I have been asked this question several dozen times. COMPUTE! readers, as a group, should be able to reply with a dozen answers. One of my answers, "I wanted to use it as a terminal to communicate with other computers," would probably be a popular response.
How so, you ask? Well, the basic ingredients of a terminal are present in any small computer, e.g., a keyboard and a display screen. Thus, by paying a little more for terminal software and hardware, the user has the best of both worlds. That is, the computer can be used stand-alone for games or word processing, but also for accessing bulletin boards and large data bases over the telephone line.
Where does one find a good terminal program? There are several choices for PET/CBM computers, ranging from gratis (only a copying fee) up to $300 or more. However, the free program, attractive as it may sound, does require construction of hardware, which may be beyond many people's abilities.
The Standard Terminal Communications Package, reviewed here, is priced intermediately between those two extremes. It comes with all necessary hardware and software, ready to run on any Commodore system (except the 2001 PET with Original ROMs). The hardware, based on a 6850 ACIA chip, plugs easily into an empty ROM socket; clip on a few wires, connect your modem, and you're ready to run the terminal software supplied on disk. (Specify what computer and disk drive in your initial order to receive the proper version.)
The initial program loaded is written in BASIC, and is used to load, partially configure, and run the machine language terminal program. For example, you are prompted for the printer device number and the communication format (device four and eight bits-no parity, in my case).
Fifteen Different Options
The terminal program also offers a full configuration menu. You can specify full- or half-duplex, set a timer, toggle a printer on or off, etc. I counted 15 options. A status line at the top of the screen informs the user of the current state of the program, just as a much higher-priced, dedicated terminal would.
This package has some very attractive features. The best one is the ease with which it uploads and downloads BASIC programs. I have previously published in COMPUTE! two "how-to" articles on this subject. This program simplifies that process to the point where anyone, even a complete novice, can do it. So much for my arcane knowledge!
There are a number of minor points which I didn't like:
- No end-of-line bell.
- No option for line feed with an ASCII printer.
- Does not always tokenize "IF" during downloading.
- The manual did not make it clear that the modem must be off when configuring.
- The delete key sends a backspace (change $23DE from $08 to $7F, if desired).
Let there be no mistake — this is a very worthwhile package. It is reasonably priced and is offered by a very reputable company which promises updates and program maintenance. Do not underestimate the importance of this service, particularly if you don't have the time or expertise to do it yourself. My wife and I have been using STCP regularly since it was received for review. Unlike most people, we have a choice of terminal software, and the fact that we continue using this program is our highest recommendation.
Standard Terminal Communications Package
Eastern House Software
3239 Linda Drive
Winston-Salem, NC 27106