The first primer of microcomputer telecommunications. (book reviews) Brian J. Murphy.
Jim Cambron's The First Primer of Microcomputer Telecommunications (TAB Books, 154 pp., $10.25) is a more detailed introduction to the field, designed to give the reader a "from the ground up" understanding of computers and how they communicate with each other. After the obligatory first chapter introducing the world of telecommunications activities, there follows a chapter on how computers work. To put it simply, we've seen better explanations. The chapter is cluttered with cartoons and illustrations (as is the whole book). They do very little to clarify the material and actually make it harder for the eye to follow the text. If you stick with it, however, you will find that most of the essentials are in the text and are explained with reasonable clarity.
The hows and whys of the RS-232C serial interface consume all of Chapter 3. For most of us, it is enough to know whether or not our computers have a serial interface and what cable we need to connect a modem to it successfully. Knowing how one works is not a pre-condition to using a modem, but understanding the function can't hurt. Luckily, Cambron's explanation is interesting and ably presented.
In the following chapter, Cambron briefly describes how a modem works, the various standard transmission/reception speeds and the hardware formats. Unfortunately, just as he is beginning to roll, there comes a chapter on ASCII characters and control codes, which would better serve as an appendix. My advice is to skip it for the moment and go on to Chapter Six, which describes how communications software works and the kinds of features you should look for.
The book concludes with chapters on the information utilities, bulletin board systems, and alternate long distance systems. A final chapter on legal aspects of telecommunications discusses data transmission surcharges made by Southwestern Bell and aspects of the law regarding libel and slander charges arising from telecommunications. In the Appendices you'll find charts reviewing the relative merits of communications software and a brief run-down of some of the features of the more popular modems.
In judging this book you must bear in mind that it is a primer. It does not pretend to be a comprehensive treatise on telecommunications. As such, it is enough of a glimpse of the field to give prospective telecommunicators the information they need to decide whether or not to make a start in the hobby.
Review Grade: C+