Magazine article Computers in Libraries

Telecommunications

Magazine article Computers in Libraries

Telecommunications

Article excerpt

Pepper National

Music Network

I spend a good deal of time browsing the large commercial information services and am constantly amazed by the vast amount of information available. Each time I go online new databases have been added or additional special interest groups are represented by new forums or roundtables. Despite this diversity, there is still room for the small system with a specialized focus. This month we will look at one such system, the Pepper National Music Network.

The Pepper National Music Network (PNMN) is sponsored by J. W. Pepper and Son, Inc., a Valley Forge-based music distributor. The system is billed as a "data network for school and church music directors."

At present there is no access charge for PNMN, and telecommunications are free because they have an 800 number for dial-in. This may change over the next few months, however, when a decision will be made regarding fees for users who are not Pepper customers.

Registration Required

Even though the service currently has no fees, you must register to get a user I.D. and personal identification number. If you are using an Apple II, Macintosh, or IBM PC-compatible computer, Pepper will send its Custom Communications Program with your system I.D. However, it is not necessary that you use this program if your regular telecommunications software provides VT-100 terminal emulation.

VT-100 emulation is used to compensate for the differences in control codes among various types of computers. For example, when the control code for boldface text is sent to your computer, your emulator will interpret the code and translate it so that boldface text appears on your screen. Without this translation, you would receive a screen full of gibberish. I used both ProComm Plus on my PC-compatible notebook and Red Ryder on my Mac to access PNMN with no difficulties.

Session Recording Difficulties

PNMN sends information one screen at a time, with each screen overwriting the previous screen rather than scrolling upward from the bottom. The problem here is that you cannot simply open a buffer and capture your entire session on disk.

If you wish to save a particular screen, you need to find out if your computer or your telecommunications software permits you to save screen files to disk. On my Macintosh, I simply press Command-Option-3 to save the screen as a MacPaint file; I can't edit the text, but I can read it offline. Pro-Comm Plus will save information to a file when you press Alt-G.

Menus Make It Easy

The main menu for PNMN is shown in Figure 1. The system is menu driven with some letter options designated for easier navigation. Online help is available, but the system design is so simple you probably won't need it.

The manual that comes a part of the start-up kit provides a good introduction to the system. It is written with the novice telecommunicator in mind and includes numerous screen displays to familiarize the new user with the system before he or she actually goes online.

Since Pepper is a music retailer, a major component of the system is the ability to browse and place an order. …

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