Welcome to the Atari Safari! Join the famous Dr. Schnorrer, as he leads you on an exciting monthly safari through the wondrous world of Atari. The Doctor's guided tours show you new ways to take advantage of the greatest personal computer in the world . . . your Atari Home Computer.
The first safari series
"The Communications Machine," Dr. Schnorrer's first Safari Series, explores the world of computer telecommunications. You'll discover exciting ways to use your Atari and add to your software library. You'll meet computer pals, buy and sell merchandise and services from the comfort of your home, and increase your understanding of the world around you.
In his second Safari Series, the great Explorer takes you on a guided tour to Atari users groups. He explains what users groups are, shows what they have to offer, and even tells you how you can start your own Official Atari Users Group.
Your ideas and suggestions are an essential part of each Safari. The Doctor will explore any area that interests you. Please write Dr. Schnorrer, the Atari Explorer, in care of this magazine with your suggestions for future Safaris and comments on the ones you've been on.
The communications machine
The modem, an inexpensive device that allows you to use your computer to communicate with other computers through regular telephone lines, has brought the age of telecommunications within reach of all Atari computers owners.
A diverse network of services and recreations is now as close to you and your Atari computer as your telephone. Hundreds of information services and electronic bulletin boards (BBS) are standing by at this moment waiting for you . . . and many of them cost no more than the price of an ordinary phone call.
A wide variety of subscriber information services are now available that enable you to access gigantic databases with your home computer. By calling one of these services, for example, you'll be able to get information on anything from acupuncture to women's liberation. You can play computer games, reserve remote computer memory for your larger programs and check airline schedules. You can even get the latest news update and weather report. For the investor, other services offer complete and current data files on all the corporations traded on the major stock exchanges. The investment information that you can now receive at home is as comprehensive as the information your broker receives in his office.
On his travels through the world of Atari, Dr. Schnorrer has discovered many FREE services that are now available to home computer owners. On his first trek into the bush, the Doctor happened upon a wide variety of bulletin board services.
Atari users groups, hobbyists, entrepreneurs and people like me throughout the world are operating bulletin boards and information terminals that are loaded with easy-to-access features that expand the usefulness of your home computer. The message center is the heart of each bulletin board. Do you have information to share with other Atari enthusiasts? Something to sell? Are you looking for a Blue Kangaroo? You'll probably find it listed in the "Computer Classified Ad Department," the electronic message center.
I was looking for a Blue Kangaroo to help guide an Australian Safari. I placed my. "Blue Kangaroo Wanted" ad on a number of bulletin boards, and within days received a reply from a zoo keeper in San Francisco. My Australian safari was a hopping success, complete with Blue Kangaroo, thanks to the free bulletin board service.
A framed copy of my Kangaroo ad hangs on the wall behind my Atari computer as a reminder of the power of BBS. Here's what it looked like:
MSG# 0326 DATE:02/02/81
TIME: 18:2 6:49
FROM: Dr. Schnorrer the Atari Explorer
SUBJ: Wanted-Blue Kangaroo
Desperately need a Blue Kangaroo. If you
know where I can find one, please leave a
message on this BBS.
Free public domain software available
Public domain software is either uncopyrighted software, contributed by a fellow Atari enthusiast, or copyrighted software put on the BBS with the author's approval.
Once you have the proper "Terminal Software," (I'll be covering this in a future Safari) you can call a BBS, check its list of available software, and download public domain programs to your computer. It's then a simple matter to save your newly acquired programs to disk or cassette.
All types of programs are available: utility programs that ease your programming chores, adventure and arcade games, educational software, business software, terminal software. There are even public domain programs available that allow you to set up your own BBS!
The BBS network is a two-way street. If you've developed programs you'd like to share with other Atari communicators, all you have to do is upload them to your favorite BBS.
In my explorations of The Communications Machine, I've stumbled across some other extremely interesting services that you can access once you've been bitten by the communications bug.
The Living Tree
As its name implies, a Living Tree service is a vast and ever-expanding information bank structured like a tree with many branches. You enter the tree at its top, and by typing commands like down, up, left or right, you slide down its trunk or climb onto its various limbs and branches. (I should know; I fell off one, once.)
I explored a local Living Tree and discovered personal mail boxes in one branch of the tree, classified ads in another, and a "Living Story" in yet another. In the Living Story, I was able to contribute my own continuation to the existing narrative. If you're a budding young, old, or middle-aged writer this may be your chance to vent your literary talents.
Most Living Trees don't offer up or downloading services, but they do give you the opportunity to add to their ever-expanding structure. We'll explore a Living Tree in an upcoming Safari. It's a unique and exciting experience.
Dial Your Match
I felt that I couldn't end this introductory Safari without mentioning Dial Your Match. A good example of the many free services available to Atari communicators is a confidential find-a-mate-by-modem service available FREE in fifteen locations throughout the U.S. You enter a code name, answer a brief questionnaire and check back periodically to see if you've been matched with the romance of your life.
There's much more, folks!
The list of both commercial and free services available to Atari computer owners is growing daily. Entering this exciting world is as easy as buying a modem, hooking it up, and dialing your phone.
Join Dr. Schnorrer on next month's Atari Safari as he shows you how to trap the right modem and bring it back alive with the Complete Modem Buyer's Guide for Atari Owners.
David Heller is a co-author of Space Knights from Reston Publishing and is currently working on a book for AddisonWesley. His Atari Safari columns will appear in different form in a book from Enrich Publishing later this year.
Illustrator John Johnson, co-author of E. McSquared's Calculus Primer, published by William Kaufmann Publishing, is also the author of Milo Whimper, Enrich Publishing.