Dow Jones news & quotes reporter. (evaluation) Dennis Costarakis.
Investors can obtain news, prices, and financial information on their investments easily with the Dow Jones News & Quotes Reporter from Apple Computer. This program turns any Apple II into a smart terminal with access to a broad range of financial and general news information from the Dow Jones News/Retrieval database service.
The Reporter package, which comes in a box suitable for storage on a bookshelf, contains one disk with the program, the operating manual for the program in the standard Apple spiral bound format, and a copy of the Dow Jones News/Retrieval Fact Finder. The Fact Finder is the 198-page Dow jones publication that provides the instructions and symbols necessary to access and use the various portions of the Dow Jones database. The manuals and program are straightforward and easy to use. On booting up, the program checks to see whether an 80-column card is installed; if so, the program automatically runs in 80-column format. If you have an Apple IIe, you won't have any problems. But if you have an older 80-column card as I do, you may have to upgrade your 80-column board firmware. If your 80-column board firmware. If your 80-column card does not support the Pascal 1.1 Keypress function, the program will not work in the 80-column mode. In fact, you must remove the 80-column board from the computer, because the program searches for an installed 80-column card and if a card is found it automatically runs in the 80-column mode. The only way to run in 40-column mode is to remove the 80-column card--a definite nuisance.
I think a professionally programmed package like this could have been programmed to run in 40 or 80 columns, as the user desires, without having to remove the 80-column board. When using the program in the 80-column mode, the lefthand side of the screen (columns 1-40) is used most of the time. The screens of information are not centered on the monitor. In using the program, I suspect this is due more to the way the Dow Jones News/Retrieval database transmits data than to the programming, but perhaps not. Checking Your 80-Column Card
If you don't know whether your 80-column card supports the Pascal 1.1 Keypress function, you will find out as soon as you boot up this program. With the 80-column card turned on, you see and hear (it ticks like a ticker tape) the title print out a letter at a time. When you press RETURN (as directed by the program) to continue, and the program proceeds to the next "page," you have the Pascal 1.1 Keypress function. If nothing happens when you press RETURN, you must remove your 80-column cad and use the program in the 40-column mode until you can upgrade your firmware.
If your 80-column card is installed and turned off when you boot up, you will see a blank screen with a cursor in the upper left corner and the "ticking" sound of the program introduction. When it stops, you will still have a blank screen and no use of the program or the computer. Actually, the program i running in the 80-column mode. At first, when this happened, I thought the program was defective because I then booted up another program that worked fine.
I recommended to the project manager at Apple Computer that they include a notice to purchasers that the program will only work as described above. These points are not specifically addressed in the manual, and are only alluded to in the list of equipment table in the back of the manual.
Once the program is bootd and the copyright notice appears, note that the package you have is version 2.0, the latest version available. When the RETURN key is pressed to continue (as directed by the program), one of two things happens: either a notice that the program cannot find a communication card appears, or, if you have a modem properly installed, the main menu appears (Figure 1).
You progress through the program with a consistent format. In general, the RETURN key is pressed after each input to proceed to the next step. The ESCAPE key is used to return to the previous screen or display. If you press the ESCAPE key enough times you eventually return to the main menu. Pressing RESET causes the system to re-boot. I was unable inadvertently or deliberately to break out of the program.
It appears to be error trapped extremely well, with one exception. When you attempt to print data from the screen to your printer in the 40-column mode, and your printer is turned on, but is off-line, the program responds with a reminder to turn on your printer. If you are in the 80-column mode and your printer is off-line when you attempt to print, the monitor screen goes berserk, similar to a Fourth of July fireworks display. Placing the printer back on-line and pressing RETURN returns the program to normal operation and prints the last screen of information shown on the monitor. This information is not in the manual. Automatic Dialing
The Dow Jones News & Quotes Reporter has a customizing feature that allows you to store on disk all the necessary information to dial automatically and log on to the Dow Jones News/Retrieval database. The following information is stored:
* The local telephone number for the network desired.
* An alternate network telephone number if the first is busy.
* Your password (which cannot be read from the monitor--to conceal it from prying eyes. You can safely demonstrate the program without someone borrowing your user I.D.).
* The name of the local area network through which you are connecting (Tymnet, Telenet, or Bell Canada Datapac service).
* Whether log on will be automatic or manual.
* Whether or not you are using an 80-column card.
* Whether you want to be automatically disconnected from Dow Jones when you aren't actively using the service. This feature will automatically disconnect you after two minutes of inactivity to prevent excessive charges.
Once you have verified the data, they are stored on the program disk for future use. The main menu appears after the customizing data have been saved.
Main Meny items 5 and 6 (Figure 1) allow you to disconnect from the database rapidly and to exit the program when you are done. The program also reminds you to disconnect the phone from the modem and tells you the program has concluded. Items 1, 2, and 3 of the Main Menu allow you to dial directly into that section of the database you desire to use first. Moving Within Databse Sections
Once on line, you can get to either of the other two database sections by returning to the Main Menu via the ESCAPE key and using the menu selection numbers, all while you are on line. It is quite an effective way to move between database sections easily and rapidly. Remember that you are paying for database access time by the minute. The more quickly you retrieve the data you want, the cheaper it is.
The program user manual provides several diagrams that illustrate how the various parts of the program and database are interconnected, how to proceed from segment to segment, and how the ESCAPE key functions to return you to the previous step. The diagrams are simple to read and understand and are a great help in using the News and Quotes segments of the database. They also remind you that help menus are available.
Selecting item 1 (or 2 or 3) of the Main Menu causes the program to dial the local area network automatically (if you customized the program for auto-dial). The monitor screen identifies each step of the dialing and log on procedure on the screen. Successful log on of the news retrieval mode results in a formatted screen and a request for the Dow Jones symbol of the company for which you want to review the news. The symbols are found in the Fact Finder provided with the program documentation.
If you type AAPL, the symbol for Apple Computer, Inc., the screen then inquires whether you want the latest story or a list of headlines for all the stories in the data bank. The list of headlines may be several pages long. Figure 2 shows what one page of headlines looks like. The two-letter symbols preceding each story are the story identifiers. At this point you can page forward or backward using the left and right arrow keys, obtain a help screen by typing "?," or obtain a story by typing the appropriate two-letter headline code. Figure 3 is an excerpt from one story.
It is that simple to retrieve and have access to thousands of stories in seconds. The news database is updated within 90 seconds of the time that the news appears on the broad tape in your broker's office and is retained in the database for 90 days. Quote Service
To reach another segment of the database, press ESCAPE several times until you get back to the main menu. (Figure 1). Proceeding to the Quote Service you get another formatted screen. Three inputs are required to obtain a price quote: the symbol of the security (from the Fact Finder); the security type (stock, preferred stock, warrant, when issued, corporate bonds, mutual funds, options, and Treasury bonds and notes); and the exchange or market where security is traded. The left and right arrows here serve two functions: to correct typing errors and to move the cursor around the screen. Figure 4 shows what a complete quote retrieval looks like. During market hours, quotes are delayed 15 minutes, so you can obtain fairly current quotes during market hours if you like. Remember, prime time (day) access to the database is much more expensive than off hours (night) access. If you must have quotes during market hours there are services that could be cheaper ($150 to $200 per month), depending on how much you use the system. The News and Quote Retrieval segments are both straight-forward and easy to use. Additional Information Services
The Additional Information Services segment of the database is a little more involved because of the variety and depth of information available. When this segment of the database is selected from the main menu (Figure 1) of the program, the program automatically enters the simple terminal mode. In this mode, the user can access new database segments as they are brought on line by Dow Jones & Co. The inclusion of a simple terminal mode in the program is a good idea and shows some foresight. Entering the Additional Services segment brings up the Dow Jones Master Menu (Figure 5). The first time you use this segment it is a good idea to print out the various help menus as you go along so you will have them for reference whenever you use the system. This procedure will save you time (on line) and money when you access the database.
Proceeding through several of the many possible sections of the database provides a good sampling of the service and the information that is available. Typing C from the Master Menu (Figure 5) gets you into the Financial and Investment Services menu (Figure 6). Moving into the Money Market services menu (Figure 7) you can get commentaries, analyses, forecasts, and charts of forecasts. The charts are shown in Figures 8 and 9. Note that some of the information is provided in 80-column format and is printed as such. Forty-column screens use wrap-around, i.e., the 41st through 80th character on each line are presented on the next line on the monitor.
If you chose the Disclosure II option you would obtain Figure 10. For Apple Computer, the available information appears in Figure 11; this is the same information found in a company's 10-K report. Selecting #1 Corporate Profile you get Figure 12. A five-year data summary, #6, is shown in Figure 13. If you are interested in obtaining earnings forecasts, you can obtain consensus forecasts using the corporate earnings estimator (menu Figure 6) to obtain estimates for any company in the database, in this case Apple, (Figures 14, 15, and 16).
Figure 17 shows the Media General-Financial database. Skipping past some preliminary instructions, you obtain the information shown in Figures 18 through 23, which are self-explanatory. Summary
It is clear from excerpts presented in this article that an enormous amount of financial information is available--not only financial news, but shop at home service, stock market pointers, customer information, and more (Figure 24). Apple's Dow Jones News & Quotes Reporter makes retrieval of this information a snap. The program is extremely easy to use and very well error trapped.
The major fault that I find in the program is that there is no provision to store the retrieved can be viewed only on the monitor or printed on paper. It is a shame that the program lacks a disk storage feature. The kinds of data available in some segments of the database are the kinds of data needed for fundamental analysis of securities. The ability to store this data electronically for manipulation at a later time would be a very valuable feature. The lack of disk data storage detracts from what I consider to be an otherwise outstanding and useful program.
Products: Dow Jones and Quotes Reporter (computer program)