Magazine article Computers in Libraries

Bigskytelegraph

Magazine article Computers in Libraries

Bigskytelegraph

Article excerpt

I always read the comics in the newspaper before I turn to the more serious news. Lately, I have noticed that even the comics have picked up on the current excitement about the idea of an information superhighway. Of course, since these are the comics, there are many amusing comments about getting lost and needing to ask directions. These comics wouldn't be funny, however, if there weren't some truth behind them. We all have a great deal to learn about telecommunications and its use in the exciting future ahead of us, and, fortunately, there are places to turn for help.

The Telegraph in the Global Information Age

The Big Sky Telegraph in Dillon, Montana, defines its mission as "providing person-to-person telecommunications and training to support education, businesses, and communities." The Welcome message on the system further states, "In the last century, the early telegraph system was a welcome link to a distant world. Today, for individuals, schools, and businesses, the Big Sky Telegraph network is opening the doors to success in the global information age." The system first went online on January 1, 1988, and with funding supplied in part by US WEST and Western Montana College. General access to the system is free, but there is a fee for additional services, including an Internet ID.

The main menu for the Telegraph is shown in Figure 1. (figure omitted) Since this was my first visit to the system and, unlike my daily newspaper, there were no comics, I started with the Beginner's Bulletins. The Welcome message I quoted from above is in this area, as are other helpful bulletins such as a system overview, a quickstart guide for newcomers, a tour of the Telegraph, and a roster of teachers and resource persons.

There are four conferencing systems on the Telegraph, and you can choose among them at the login prompt by typing the appropriate code. The first system supports rural education and online classes and is accessed by typing "bbs" at the login prompt. The second system, rural economic development and community services, is accessed by typing "hrn" at the login prompt. Western Montana College classes activities, clubs, and classes on the third system whose code is "wmc." The fourth system is the professional computer conferencing system connected to Usenet, Bitnet, Internet, and FidoNet and is reserved for subscribers. Local BBS's can use Big Sky's advanced global conferencing system (AKCS) to exchange messages with other community networks through the Internet.

On-line Classes

Several bulletins discussed the online lessons available on the system and directed me to the Class files area, so that was my next a of exploration. There were eighteen areas in the Files section of the system, and the Class area was number 6. This area contains numerous files grouped into various subsections. Some of the files are concerned with the history of Big Sky Telegraph, others with successful grant proposals for the project, and still others with community networking, including Native American networking. The section I was looking for was entitled "Lessons and Essays for the Online Class." I found a quick reference guide, a step-by-step guide, instructions for beginning the class, and a course syllabus. The were ten lessons to the course, they convered such topics as capturing and printing text, conferencing, word processing and telecommunications, accessing online library services, receiving online text files, using databases, contributing text files, becoming a community telegrapher, and understanding instructional telecommunications There were also two walking tours, one for Unix and one for the global AKCS. …

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