Telefolders : Mac-Like Software & Hardware for
Author: John Longshore
Date: November, 1987
Keywords: modem bbs online on-line system
Text: In September of this year, Semaphore Corporation of Aptos, California began marketing software and hardware for telecommunications that utilize Mac-like commands (pointing and clicking, windows, and menu choices), rather than keyboard instructions. Apparently, to bring their products (called Telefolders) before consumers, Semaphore also operates a Telefolders bulletin board which demonstrates the ease of operation and effectiveness of their system. For $49.95 retail, a starter kit is available which includes a disk with Telefolders communications software for all Macs (with 512K RAM or more), an account name and password, as well as four hours of connect time. At the end of the ''free'' four hours, connect charges night or day are 1*/minute, so I don't think that Semaphore plans to get rich from bulletin board operation. I have just about used up my initial four hours of time, and I have been delighted to be able to point and click my way through the available files. I am not a ''power user'' of telecommunications, and although I have spent some time with Compuserve and GEnie, I have not accessed either of these popular national data bases for months, mainly due to the costs involved, but also in part because I feel intimidated by the massiveness of these services and by the difficulties I have using them. In addition, I can never remember my account number or password; I used to spend minutes trying to find them before signing on (I know, I know: Red Ryder can dial and enter all of that stuff automatically, but I was always so afraid of someone getting my password somehow, that I could never bring myself to put it into a Red Ryder procedure). Once aboard one of these services, I could rarely recall the shortcuts for getting from one place to another, particularly in Compuserve, so I wasted both time and money every time I logged on. Not to say it isn't fun - it is! I'll undoubtedly return to these services the day after I receive a huge inheritance. I have been a lot happier with the local Redwood BBS; the price is right (no charge!), there is an active Mac section, it is not large enough to be scary, and the system operator and users of the board are friendly folks who can help you out of difficulties. I get some of the same flavor from Telefolders. Access couldn't be simpler: insert the startup disk, click the appropriate modem baud rate and port (Fig. 1), type in an easy to remember password that comes with the kit, and presto! you are almost there. (I had some trouble with this at first, getting a dialog box that indicated my modem wasn't connected, but redialing did the trick). After you are connected, all operations, from selecting folders or documents to downloading files, are carried out in true Mac fashion: point and click. There is no danger of getting lost in a maze (as I have done in Compuserve), because each folder or document has little ''close boxes'' in the upper left corner, as Mac applications should; all you have to do to return to home base and start over is close files and folders you have opened, using these close boxes. The first Telefolders window currently shows twelve folders (Fig. 2) which contain all of the accessible files. Clicking once on a folder highlights it and produces information about its contents in the information box at the bottom of the screen. Clicking twice opens the folder. Each of the twelve initial folders (Recent Acquisitions, Telefolders News, Tools, Public Messages, Applications, Entertainment, Accessories, Font Files and Tools, Stackware, Directories, Paint Files and Tools, and one folder with the user's name, for messages) contains other folders, which can be clicked on for additional information or for downloading. Folders at the top of the hierarchy are locked to prevent changes, but when you select a file of interest that is not locked, you can download it simply by clicking on a choice and pulling down the Menu to ''Receive''. When you are ready to sign off, pull down Menu to ''Quit'' and you are done. Several other refinements make Telefolders a pleasure to use, including a means of checking on your current balance and an accounting of previous use, easy message sending (to accounts that allow message reception), assignment of access privileges or privacy levels to the contents of your personal folder, and so on. I found all of these features to be quite intuitive and easy to use (Mac-like!). I have not yet felt any of the frustrations that I met with in Compuserve, and I am pleased with the few shareware and public domain programs that I have downloaded so far. Telefolders lacks features that are standard on many bulletin boards. There is no ''chat'' feature, and no forums for special interest groups, for instance, and the selection of downloadable software is not very large at this time. There are no ''electronic malls''. This is a basic bulletin board in its present configuration. The telecommunications software is a delight to use, but it does not allow you to download to a separate disk, so you have to make sure that there is plenty of room on your floppy disk or hard disk for the material you want to download. Semaphore indicates in its literature, however, that future software upgrades will be free to registered users. Telefolders communications software only works with host computers supplied with the same software; you are therefore restricted to using their bulletin board. There may be many similarly equipped hosts in the future, but for now your selection is definitely limited. If you like the way this communications system works, Semaphore sells entire systems, including a host computer, hard disk, tape drive, and Telefolders host software, starting at $8,300 for a basic system. Larger systems capable of supporting hundreds of users are also available, at prices up to $118,900. For additional information about Telefolders software or hardware, contact the Semaphore Corporation at 207 Granada Drive, Aptos, CA 95003, (408) 688-9200.
Copyright © november, 1987 by John Longshore