Z-Term, The Professional. (evaluation) J. Robert McCown.
Z-Term, The Professional
Do you have an Apple II, a Z80 Soft-Card with CP/M, and one of the popular modem cards, or a serial interface with an outboard modem? Do you wish you had some decent software to use the combination to connect your computer to the outside world of databases and other computers in just about every way imaginable?
If so, your wish may not only become a reality, but with Z-Term, The Professional from Southwestern Data Systems, you may get quite a bit more than you thought was possible. The Professional, which we will call Z-Pro is certainly everything I wanted in a communications package.
A good bit of the CP/M software available these days is not something that you can buy over the counter in your nearest computer store. Some of it may be up and running on a friend's computer, near or far. There are CP/M bulletin boards all over the country with sophisticated public domain programs written by very competent programmers available for download.
With Z-Pro, you can read or download text just as it was originally formatted, including control characters from time-sharing systems such as The Source, Micronet, and others. With an external terminal or 80-column board, you can take advantage of the mainframe at your office and use the screen-oriented editor or database.
You can transfer a COM file between your machine and someone else's, or download one from a CP/M bulletin board. With this package, you can transfer text, source code, data files, or encrypted gibberish from one system to the other and make sure it arrives in one piece the first time. You can even have your system answer the phone and do all this for another CP/M system with similar capabilities!
Let's start with a general overview of Z-Pro. The package supports most peripheral communications devices at baud rates from 50 to 1200 and can also speak Baudot (the deaf TTY standard) when using the Novation Apple Cat modem.
Z-Pro supports all kinds of screen display, ranging from the standard 40-column Apple screen to any 80-column display board or external terminal. Any disk system currently interfaced to your Apple II under CP/M is also supported with no modifications necessary.
If you are using the local Apple keyboard and 40-column screen, provision is made for the generation of lower case and other characters normally not available on that keyboard. In this configuration, however, you must have some sort of lower case board in the computer to be able to view the lower case characters.
With Z-Pro you can send or receive ASCII (7-bit) data of any type to most any dial-up system. Files of any size may be sent and files of up to 34K may be received at any one time. The package also supports the Christensen protocol, an established standard among CP/M dial-up systems. This makes it compatible with MODEM, XMODEM (most variations), LMODEM (DEC-10) and CMODEM (Unix). Using this protocol, any kind of file (8-bit) of any size may be transferred with complete checksum and CRC error checking.
Z-Pro supports the PAN protocol (a subset of PCnet) for the sending and receiving of forwarded mail by other Z-Pro or PAN systems. The system can be left on-line unattended to answer the phone, receive PAN mail or send and receive Christensen transfers.
You can set up keyboard Macros, including imbedded control characters, to function as mini-programs. At a keypress, you can do such things as sign on to a host system or perform custom handshaking routines with another system.
We will discuss some of the finer points of the system later on in the article, but let's see what we get on our screen as a menu when we first fire this program up.
Using The Program
After executing the program ZPRO. COM, the first thing we get is the * prompt, which is the indicator throughout the program that asks us for a Z-Pro command. Pressing Q, which is the single control key we must remember to get back and forth between terminal and command modes, displays the menu shown in Figure 1.
To examine the secondary menu of functions, we type U from the main menu. The result appears in Figure 2.
A good many of the instructions described here have their own sub-menus and subsequent choices of things that you may want to do, but it is not my intention to duplicate the manual. The manual contains about 125 pages and each of the capabilities of the system is discussed in great detail.
A program called Z-MOD.COM comes with Z-Pro. You use this in a kind of DDT fashion to modify various tables and flags in Z-Pro to customize the program for your particular configuration. Among the things that can be changed are the defaults for most of the main commands, the flags to control various peripheral devices, and the communications protocols.
In addition, you can configure whatever terminal you are using to look like the terminal that the host computer expects. For the most part, if you have a reasonably common set-up with one of the modems or terminals listed in Figure 3, Z-Pro will run as configured when you get it.
With close attention to the manual and some thoughtful planning, you can use the Z-MOD program to create a completely personalized version of the system. With the exception that certain changes must be made for some modems or terminals you can run this package just as it is. Z-Pro knows what kind of modem or terminal card you have plugged into your machine and treats it accordingly.
Another program that comes with the package is GO.COM, which can be executed once you have exited from Z-Pro to CP/M. Providing you have not run another program or reset the system, you can then re-enter Z-Pro with all flags and data intact. This really comes in handy if you want to rename files, change disk files, etc. and continue your session without disconnecting the phone.
Z-Term, The Professional is the best communications package for the CP/M Apple II that I have seen. It is user-friendly, and had me feeling like a pro in no time.
Table: MAIN COMAND SUMMARY
Table: SECONDARY COMMAND SUMMARY
Table: Some of the peripheral cards and modems supported by Z-Pro.
Products: Southwestern Data Systems Z-Term, The Professional (computer program)