Arlan R. Levitan
Telecomputing To The
"I'm sorry, Mr. Levitan, your 7:45 flight to Las Vegas has been
Although I had arrived at the airport eager to take
off for January's Consumer Electronics Show (CES as it is known in the
trade), I was somewhat slow to reply. After standing in line at the
ticket counter, I was too tired to respond with the appropriate level
of indignation. All I could manage was a feeble "You've got to be
"I wish I was, sir, but I'm afraid we couldn't
muster a full crew for the flight. I'm sorry, but these things do
happen once in a while."
I wearily resigned myself to a couple of hours
hanging around Detroit Metro Airport and asked, "What time does the
next direct flight leave?"
The countenance of what had seemed like a
mild-mannered airline employee began to take on sinister undertones.
"I'm afraid that everything we have is booked," he
said. "We can't confirm you all the way into Las Vegas at this time."
A note of hysteria crept into my voice. "Listen,
I'll fly the plane. Honest, I do it all the time on weekends. My best
friend owns a 747 and I'm qualified on everything up to the Space
Ignoring my generous offer to help the airline and
the other 240 stranded travelers out of an unfortunate predicament, the
agent's eyes started burning with nefarious fire as he chortled, "We'll
fly you into Chicago on a flight leaving here in about three hours.
From there we'll have to wait-list you on the only two flights we have
from O'Hare to Las Vegas . . ."
I staggered backwards as if hit by a sharp blow to
the solar plexus. In a momentary hallucination, I saw myself as the
Lost Air Traveler, doomed to roam the corridors of O'Hare with a
flight bag hanging 'round my neck.
Wait a minute! My flight bag had the answer. I raced
over to a nearby pay phone and whipped out my trusty lap computer and
the acoustic cups necessary to hook the unit's builtin modem to the
nonmodular handset. I must have looked like a novelty juggling act as I
attempted to keep all of my equipment from crashing to the floor. I
dialed into the local number for one of the information services that I
subscribe to and hooked into the electronic edition of OAG, the
Official Airlines Guide (for more info on OAG see "Telecomputing
Today," COMPUTE!, February 1985). In about two minutes I had the flight
numbers and airlines for five other flights out of Detroit to Las
Vegas. Disconnecting my computer from the phone, I started calling the
airlines. On my second call I hit pay dirt-an opening on a flight to
Phoenix, Arizona, connecting with a commuter flight to Las Vegas.
Armed with my new flight information, I boldly
swaggered back to my nemesis's ticket position. "You may not be able to
get me where I'm going, but another airline can. Just issue me an
interrupted flight voucher for my canceled flight and I'll be on my
way." Sheepishly, the agent completed the necessary paperwork. As I
walked away to catch my new flight I glanced back over my shoulder in
time to see a mass of angry ex-fellow passengers descending upon my
So I finally did make it to the Winter CES and I return bearing glad
tidings. This year will see the end of the Hayes price umbrella which
has helped keep prices of intelligent 300 and 1200 bits-per-second
(bps) modems rather high for the last 12 months or so.
Now, don't get me wrong-Hayes modems represented
good value for the money at the time of their introduction. But recent
developments in chip technology have made it possible to drastically
reduce the number of components and amount of support circuitry
required for modems. The problem is that modem manufacturers have
tended to price their goods based more upon the going rate for
market-leading Hayes modems than upon the actual manufacturing cost.
With the introduction in 1985 of mass-produced low chip-count modems
from companies like Panasonic, Atari, and Commodore, telecomputing at
300 and 1200 bps speeds will be more affordable than ever before.
Consider Panasonic's new line of modems. Models
KX-D401 and KX-D402 are 300 bps and 300/1200 bps units, respectively.
Both have originate, answer, and autoanswer modes with LED indicators
for data, carrier detect, autoanswer, and power. Prices? The KX-D401
retails for $99.95, the KX-D402 for $299.95.
How about a Panasonic phone with built-in modem? The
KX-D4130 has all the features of the KX-D401 modem and sports a
24-button automatic dialer that can store up to 30 digits per number.
An auto-redial function will redial busy numbers 15 times every ten
The icing on the cake is an integral handsfree
speakerphone with excellent audio clarity. At $199.95, the KX-D4130 is
sure to be a favorite of gadget-happy telecomputing aficionados. All of
the new Panasonics can be used with any computer equipped with an
Atari & Commodore
The price of telecomputing on Atari systems takes a dive with the
introduction of the Atari XM-301 300 bps direct-connect modem. At
$49.95 it's one of the least expensive autoanswer, autodial modems
around. Since the compact unit draws its power from the Atari serial
bus connector, no separate power supply is required. Also announced at
CES was a new telecomputing software cartridge dubbed The Learning
Phone, which will allow Atari systems equipped with modems to access
Control Data Corporation's vaunted PLATO educational system, complete
with high-resolution graphics. Estimated price of the new cartridge is
in the $30-$40 range.
Micro Peripheral Products of Albany, Oregon,
announced a price cut of $50 on its Model 1000C modem for Atari
computers (now $149.95) and introduced the MPP 1064, a new
direct-connect modem for the Commodore 64. The price is $99.95, which
includes a sophisticated smart terminal program.
Commodore's new palm-sized 1660 Modem 300 is a
direct-connect 300 bps unit with autoanswer, autodial, and a built-in
speaker for monitoring the progress of calls. The 1660 plugs directly
into the user ports of the Commodore 64, Plus/4, or new Commodore 128
computer. At only $29.95, it will hardly make a dent in even the most
frugal Commodore owner's pocket.
If that pricing doesn't seem predatory, consider the
Commodore 1670 Modem/1200, a 1200 bps twin to the 1660. Slated for
introduction three months or so after the introduction of its little
brother, the 1670 is likely to set the modem market on its ear. I was
able to inspect the innards of the 1670 at an after-hours conclave
during CES and counted only three chips and a couple dozen small
resistors on the modem's 2 X 4-inch circuit board. The low component
count should contribute to relatively high reliability. The board and
chips still bore the markings of the manufacturer which designed the
unit-U.S. Robotics, an experienced and well-respected vendor of
telecomputing products. Commodore will manufacture both the 1660 and
1670 internally to keep costs down.
The price? If only one mildly euphoric Commodore
employee had mentioned a number below $100, I might have dismissed it
out of hand. To my surprise, the figure was seconded by another source
the following day. Looks like Commodore owners may have the
telecomputing bargain of the year on their hands by summer's end!
And More Good News
Commodore's new 32K LCD lap computer was the hit of the show for most
journalists already accustomed to lugging around TRS-80 Model 100s or
Olivetti M10s. The modem-equipped Commodore's 80-column by 16-line
screen is the fastest and most legible LCD screen I've seen to date.
Priced at $600 or less, the Commodore lap portable may cause Tandy to
rethink the thousand-dollar price of its new 24K Model 200 lap
whose 40 X 16 LCD screen pales in comparison.
Racing to beat the band, General Videotex
Corporation announced at CES that its Delphi information service now
supports high-speed 2400 bps access in 34 major cities. The additional
cost to Delphi subscribers for the higher access rate is a $5/hour
surcharge over the normal Delphi rates of $16/hour during business
hours and $6/hour nonprime time for both 300 and 1200 bps access. Watch
for the previously low-key service to start making noises like a
contender - new personnel that GVC has picked up in raids on
staff will begin making major changes in the services offered.
Enough news for now. Next month we'll cover the ins
and outs of transferring information to and from a remote computer with
your own system. Stay tuned for chapter 1 of the "Compleat Uploader
Till then, BCNU.
Arlan R. Levitan
The Source: TCT987