IBM Personal Computing
Donald B. Trivette
Hot Line To The Denver Broncos
Last year I wrote a column knocking desktop utilities in general and telephone-directory/autodialing software in particular. I reflected on people too lazy to dial a telephone number and said I preferred a good ol' Rolodex and a touch-tone phone to a computer and a modem. Now a product has come along that causes me to eat those words. Hot Line version 2.0 from General Information is a show stopper of a directory/dialer.
Hot Line works as a memory-resident program taking about 85K of memory or as a stand-alone program executed directly from DOS. In memory-resident mode, the program is popped onto the screen by the Alt-F10 keys, although provision is made to change that combination. Either way, a menu bar is superimposed on the screen showing seven choices: Dialer, Phonebook, Log, Keys, Methods, Settings, and Help.
Selection from the menu is made by the point-and-shoot method or by typing the first letter of the choice. When Hot Line is running in resident mode, you don't even have to fool with the menu bar for often-used commands but can execute them directly with function keys: F1 brings up a national directory, F2 is a personal directory, F3 activates the city look-up function, and F8 brings up a selection of the ten numbers you most frequently dial.
The Dialer command is used to enter and dial numbers directly from the PC's numeric keypad. It can also extract and dial a number from information on the screen. Suppose you have a list of names and telephone numbers someone has sent to you on disk—perhaps it's your turn to call the computer club. Instead of entering all the numbers in your directory, you simply use a word processor or text editor to display the data on the screen, put the cursor by the first number, and invoke Hot Line's Dialer command. It'll do everything but the talking.
The Phonebook command is the heart of Hot Line. You can select either your personal telephone book or a national telephone directory supplied by General Information. The national directory has 10,000 numbers—many of them toll free—for every type of entry you can imagine. Both directories are stored on disk, not in memory, and access with a floppy-based computer is correspondingly slow. A hard disk is recommended, but General Information supplies a smaller version of the national directory for floppy users.
Want to call NBC and get information about a television program? Type National and you'll get a screen full of listings starting with the word National, one of which is the National Broadcasting Company. If you want to call Yale University, type Yale and you'll see listings for both the campus switchboard and the law journal—as well as for Yamaichi International and the Yellow Cab Company of Tulsa, Oklahoma. Nabisco brings up the food conglomerate; Denver pops up numbers for the city, the Broncos, the Nuggets, and the Zephyrs; and Compute shows Compute! Publications, Inc.
Although the directory is remarkably complete, Hot Line allows you to add new listings as well as supplement the national directory with a personal directory. Your personal listings can be built with Hot Line, imported as an ASCII text file, or imported as a dBase III file.
The Phonebook command has two more goodies on its menu: Cities and Area Codes. Cities lets you enter a place name and it looks up the area code. Area Codes does the reverse: You enter an area code, and it gives you the state and a major city.
International Hot Line
Hot Line can dial international numbers and Centrex numbers as easily as local numbers. Indeed, it can dial anything up to 30 digits and automatically affix a 22-digit dialing code for any of the long-distance carriers. I found the way the software distinguishes between a local number and a toll number in the same area code especially interesting. As part of the installation process, you must edit a list of all possible exchange prefixes, telling Hot Line which are within your local calling area. The program then knows to precede the remaining numbers with 1 to activate long distance.
The Log command allows you to record and time telephone calls, perhaps for client billing. Keys, Methods, and Settings are Hot Line utility commands to configure, customize, and alter the program's many parameters. The Help command provides online assistance.
Hot Line is so easy and convenient to use that I confess I am now in the legion of the lazy, although I justify its $75 cost as a prudent expenditure: Long-distance directory service costs 60 cents a shot, so after I've used just 120 numbers from the national directory, I figure I'll be saving money.
Hot Line version 2.0 requires DOS 2.0 or later, a Hayes or Hayes-compatible modem, one disk drive, and 256K of memory. It's available from General Information, 401 Park Pl, Kirkland, WA, 98033.