Articles in the "Telecommunications" Category


FidoNet is a private network connecting bulletin board systems. Unlike most other similar networks, FidoNet still exists today. Created by Tom Jennings in 1984, FidoNet provided a way for ordinary people to communicate across bulletin board systems long before Internet access was available to the general public. FidoNet wasn’t (and isn’t) the only service to interconnect bulletin board systems, but it was the most popular. Jennings described it in 1999 as “largest privately owned computer network in the world.” At its peak in the 1990’s, there were over 30,000 systems on FidoNet.

Tom Jennings created FidoNet in 1984 as part of his Fido BBS. At the time, bulletin board systems only allowed a user to send messages to another user on the same system. FidoNet identified each system by node and provided a way to send a message to any remote system that was part of FidoNet. Jennings later described it as a “store-and-forward emailing and file-transmission system.”

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PT-210 Portable Data Terminal

The TRS-80 PT-210 Portable Terminal (catalog number 76-1001) was a mobile dumb terminal that provided a way for travelers to access remote computers while on the road. Introduced by Radio Shack in late 1982 for a price of $995.00, the PT-210 was promoted with the slogan “Now there’s a TRS-80 you can take with you on business trips!”"

The PT-210 weighed 15 pounds and came in a briefcase-style case. It contained a full-size 53-key keyboard, an acoustic coupler that communicated at 110 or 300 baud, and a “whisper-quiet” thermal printer. The catalog description stated:

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In the early 1980’s, many people thought that interactive computer services over the telephone would be the “next big thing.” TRS-80 VIDEOTEX was Radio Shack’s solution for accessing centralized information services such as CompuServe, The Source, the Dow Jones Information Service, or custom VIDEOTEX services. It was described as “two-way information retrieval system for home or office use.”

Here’s a description of TRS-80 VIDEOTEX from a 1981 Radio Shack catalog:

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CompuServe Menus in 1982

In 1982, CompuServe changed their menu structure to “promote ease of use.” The new menus were grouped under six categories:

  • Newspapers
  • Home Services
  • Business and Financial Services
  • Personal Computing Services
  • User Information
  • Index

Any user could go directly to a page by using the “Go” command. For example, typing “Go HOM-1” would go to the “Home Services” menu page.

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CompuServe was the most famous of the early online services and the one with closest ties to the TRS-80. It actually started in 1969 as a timesharing system, renting mainframe computer time to businesses over phone lines. However, what most people remember as CompuServe dates to August 1979, launched as an online service for microcomputer users named MicroNET.

MicroNET opened the CompuServe network, normally reserved for businesses, to consumers with a telephone modem. Access was only available outside of business hours, when their mainframes were normally idle. MicroNET provided more or less raw access to the CompuServe mainframes running the TOPS-10 operating system. Users could use the included programs or create and run their own programs on the system.

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