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                        Electronic Edition
                      October/November 1990
               (C) 1990 Galaxy Telecomm Corporation
    * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
       1 ... Superdemocracy - Tim Stryker
       2 ... Joining the Online World - Victor Baron
       3 ... The FBI Comes Rapping, Rapping at Your BBS -
             Brock N. Meeks
       4 ... What's New in ZMODEM - Chuck Forsberg
       5 ... Under the Boardwalk - Dean Kerl
       6 ... Requirements To Display Telecomputing Magazine
             On Electronic Bulletin Board Systems
       7 ... Table Of Contents From Our Printed Edition
             (What's Missing From The Electronic Edition!)
           Telecomputing Magazine, The Online Authority


   Online technology offers the promise of a fundamentally new form of

government: a government truly of the people, by the people, for the people.

   The form of government under which we now live is technically known as

a "representative democracy". This means that we the people do not directly act as the government… we democratically elect representatives who act on our behalf to create laws, enforce them, and resolve disputes. These three functions correspond to the hallowed "separation of powers" everyone knows from grade school: the legislative, executive, and judicial branches of government.

   The shortcomings of this system are many.  It is generally acknowledged

that although it is the best system yet developed for government on a large scale (and I for one agree), it fails in several key respects, among them:

   1.  Vulnerability to special interests.  Any economic group, such as

real estate developers or tobacco companies, has a much higher stake in the passage of legislation favorable to the group than the average citizen has in its defeat. The proposal to re-zone a property outside a five-mile radius from your house, for example, is something that you personally can only get incensed about in the abstract, whereas the real estate agents, lawyers, and developers involved stand to make or lose millions of dollars on the outcome. Therefore they have an enormously higher incentive than you do to put pressure on the city or county commisioners making the decision.

   2.  Domination by busybodies.  Politics tends to take into account to a

disproportionate extent the opinions of those with nothing better to do, and single-issue constituencies. The mechanisms for candidate identification, conducting public hearings, jury selection and so forth are all so cumbersome and time-consuming that the average citizen has little motivation to participate. The result is often that the outputs of these processes suffer from the Milquetoast Effect. In particular, the only candidates presented to the general public for voting are those that have not been winnowed out by offending a single one of a host of highly vocal sub-minorities.

   3.  Getting involved is too much work for the average person.  You are

unusual if you even know the names of your representatives to the U.S. Congress, much less the names of your state congresspersons, much much less the qualifications of each of the hordes of local judges you may be asked to vote on every few years. The reason is that, although you know exactly how you feel about each specific issue, it would take vast research for you to find out how each candidate feels or has voted on each of the issues important to you, and to form, for each post, a weighted probability of the likelihood that each candidate will perform as you wish them to. (On top of this, if you register to vote, you are penalized with jury duty!) The result is widespread voter "apathy", especially at the state and local levels. This isn't really a lack of caring, it's just a sense among the populace that voting as it stands is too indirect and requires research on each individual's part far out of proportion to the benefit that they will individually derive from it.

   4.  Corruption.  This is just a more extreme form of vulnerability to

special interests. The incentive to influence legislation or enforcement is often high enough that a lobby will succeed in "stocking" elective posts with its own hirelings. The amount of money needed for a campaign, especially lately, is huge, and it can only be expected that a successful candidate will look more favorably on the concerns of his or her big contributors. There is a continuum of possibilities between this state of affairs and outright payoffs for votes or favors. All of this flies in the face of the ideal that elected officials and representatives are supposed to act in the best interests of the community that elected them, as a whole.

   5.  Capriciousness of justice.  This concern applies mainly to the

judicial branch of government. The fact that diverse individuals are elected or appointed to positions of coequal power means that a case may be decided very differently, depending on which particular judge you happen to get. The use of juries for the more serious cases is an attempt in the right direction, but an awful lot still depends on the particular jury, judge, prosecutor, and defense attorney you happen to wind up with.

   6.  Horse trading and smoke-filled rooms.  So much of the actual

mechanics of government takes place outside public knowledge or control that a lot of the decisions made have nothing to do with what is best for the community at large, but only what is best for the personal agendas of the participants. The fact that the participants are subject to removal from office at the next election keeps them from getting too outrageously flagrant, but the continuous on-going exchange of favors among lawmakers in service of their personal ambitions does not exactly constitute government of the people, by the people, for the people.

There Must Be A Better Way

   Suppose that society could decide every issue by simple majority vote.

This tends to work well on a small scale. For example, in the city-states of ancient Greece, the entire populace got together from time to time and enacted the "will of the people" into law, with no man's voice given any more authority than any other. Another example would be the "town meetings" of early New England, at which the townspeople got together and formulated the laws by which they regulated themselves. Today, small non-governmental organizations such as professional societies often decide policy by direct vote of the members.

   The reason this works well (on a small scale) is that it eliminates the

role of the "representative". You no longer have a fallible human being, with his or her own agenda, ambitions, and preconceptions acting on behalf of the group. The group votes directly on the issues before it, not on a personality or a suit.

   The reasons this hasn't worked before on a larger scale are mostly

practical. The entire populace cannot physically gather in continuous session, deciding every detail of policy and law… nothing else in the world would get done!

   What you *could* have, though, is a continuous networked hierarchy of

online referenda, open to all. The idea would be to create an environment in which any citizen is free to propose new laws, amend old ones, and to vote or contribute to ongoing discussions on proposals or amendments introduced by others at any time. I call this "Superdemocracy".

   Superdemocracy would be continuous in the sense that anyone could tap

into the system any time, 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. It would be networked in the sense that anything posted about any issue, anywhere in the system, would be accessible to anyone else. It would be a hierarchy in the sense that each citizen could access his or her own local, county, statewide, or national referenda through a single mechanism: a "tree" of nodes able to collate discussion and voting at all appropriate levels.

   The sorts of things that people could vote on includes everything

currently decided by our legislative and judicial branches, city councils, policy-forming bodies in the executive branch, and so on. The implementational portion of each of these branches would be retained, and all aspects of national life requiring instant decisions would continue to operate under the control of executive branch personnel. The military would retain full autonomy under civilian oversight, just as it does now, and there would still be a President, a Cabinet, police forces, an FBI and a CIA, and so on.

   But the broad, strategic decision-making power would be vested in the

people directly: the making of new laws, resolutions, and policies, the amendment or repeal of old ones, the selection of the necessary executive personnel, and the resolution of conflicts and disagreements. Let's call these things, in general, "measures". Some key provisions of Superdemocracy would be:

   1.  Constitutional priority.  All measures passed would still be

subject to a consistency test against a statement of underlying principles. The statement of underlying principles would require much broader levels of support to modify or overturn. This would help to keep us from wildly gyrating about the legal landscape as current events shape public opinion.

   2.  Instant delegation and revocation of proxy powers.  Each citizen

would have the option to delegate his or her voting powers to other people (their "representatives", if you will) in various ways, and to override or revoke these powers at any time. This would provide for a healthy proportion of the public's voting power to be present in even the smallest decisions of government, without paralyzing the country in an orgy of continuous individual voting. The flexibility of these proxy powers would give each citizen the ability to say to a representative, "I trust your judgement, overall, on matters within a given area that I personally don't have enough interest in to bother with the details; however I reserve the right to change my mind about you at any time or to override your judgement on occasions when my opinion happens to differ from yours."

   3.  Minimum quorum requirements on every measure.  By requiring a

minimum proportion of the overall voting power available to be active in each vote, we help ensure that happenstantial distortion of the people's will, due to low participation in a low-profile issue, will not occur. If quorum requirements are not met in a given vote, it means that not enough people (or their proxies) feel strongly enough about it one way or the other to be worth their time.

   4.  Minimum debate-time requirements on every measure.  After a measure

reaches quorum, there needs to be sufficient time, around 30 days or so, for everyone to talk it over and think about it before finalizing the vote. Each person could continue to update his or her vote status throughout this period, and only the tally of votes at the end of this period would be decisive.

   5.  Minimum hold-time requirements on every measure.  Further

protection against wild gyrations about the legal landscape can be provided by establishing a minimum time period, after a measure is passed, before it can take effect. This would be on the order of 30 days. During this time, opponents of the measure could try to repeal it or amend it, which, if successful, would yield another 30-day period for the population to be really sure that *this* is what it wants, and so on. Any oscillations would quickly die down, and the true "will of the people" would then take effect.

   Several practical considerations arise.  Everyone would have to have

access to a communications link and the knowledge of how to use it, just as now everyone must have eyes, hands, and a basic ability to read and punch holes in order to vote (special provisions for the handicapped would of course apply). Airtight protection against fraud and invasion of privacy would have to be developed. And, the cost of creating and maintaining this colossal network of computers would be high.

Historic Trends

   Technology, strangely enough, has always driven the development of

democracy. Think about it. Democracy has only existed when the overall level of affluence in a population permitted a significant number of people to take nose from grindstone long enough to consider the larger issues.

   During the Dark Ages, there were no large-scale democracies,

representative or otherwise, because travel over distances of more than a few tens of miles was too arduous to make practical the congregation of representatives from widely separated regions for purposes of timely decision-making. Also, before Gutenberg, communications technology was so poorly developed that the knowledgeability of the average villager about anything outside a ten-mile radius from home was effectively zero.

   Our current model of representative democracy derives from conditions

in the 1700's. At that time, the technology of physical transport had reached the point at which it was practical for representatives from communities across the nation to commute to and from a central meeting place. The entire communities themselves couldn't travel, of course, but at least their elected representatives could. Similarly, the entire community couldn't sit in on every 2-bit larceny trial, but they could elect a judge to oversee the process for them (or, they could elect a governor who would appoint a judge, etc.).

   As technology has improved, so has the demand for wider and more direct

participation in the democratic process. As created by our Founding Fathers, it was not possible to vote in most states in the late 1700's unless you were white, free, male, *and* owned a certain amount of property. The property requirement fell away in the early 1800's, as technological advancement brought the affluence of the average freeman – and thus his perceived awareness and ability to be informed about political issues – above a certain threshold. The race requirement was theoretically eliminated in 1870 with the Fifteenth Amendment, once the pre-technological abomination of slavery was forever buried… but further technological advancements in communications and education were necessary before the poll tax, which had been used to prevent many blacks from voting, was banned by the Twenty-Fourth Amendment in 1964. Meanwhile, women gained the vote in 1920, after great agitation and improvements in technology sufficient to emancipate them from the continuous servitude of housework.

   The particulars of *what* we have been able to vote about has evolved,

too. Originally, the public (as restrictively as the term was defined!) was not considered competent to elect the President of the United States directly. It was not even entitled to elect the electors directly! The public elected the members of the State legislatures, among whose duties it was to elect the members of the "Electoral College", which elected the President.

   In this century, a growing tide of "direct democracy" has been sweeping

the nation. This movement, an outgrowth of the Populist and Progressive movements around the turn of the century, has empowered citizens in most states with the tools of the "initiative", the "referendum", and the "recall". An "initiative" is a citizen-sponsored piece of legislation; a "referendum" refers a proposed or existing law to voters for their approval or rejection; a "recall" vote is an attempt to remove an elected official from office prematurely.

   All developments up to this point, though, have centered around the

same cumbersome, bureaucratic methods of vote-gathering that were used in the 1700's. Voters must first register, months in advance. Then, on the appointed day, tens of thousands of polling places open in every village and city neighborhood. Voters then walk or drive, typically several miles, to their particular polling place, and wait in line while dedicated public servants pore through mountains of paper, checking off names and handing out ballots which are voted upon and then reverently placed in the sacred Ballot Box. It is actually a wonderful thing, and vastly preferable to the despotic and corrupt systems it replaced.

An Example of Operation

   Wouldn't it be incredible, though, if the people's participation in

government were to operate something like this:

   You come home from the office after a hard day's work, kick your shoes

off, and, flipping on the tube, decide to take a quick glance at the city's pending resolutions. You notice that today is the last day to vote on the street-repair proposal, the referendum on funding low-income housing on the north side of town, and the decision whether or not to permit someone named John Hosiger to operate a liquor store downtown. The display shows you the votes that your proxy, Sharon Imeld, will cast for you if you don't do anything. Sharon's already fine on the street-repair thing, but she's way off base on the low-income housing issue, so you override her there. You never heard of John Hosiger so you figure Sharon probably looked into his background for you and you leave that one alone.

   You flip over to the "coming-up" screen and find that the next week

contains votes on school bus purchases, giving the "Key to the City" to a certain Mark Havrelman, a proposal to re-zone a tract of farmland nearby to commercial, the firemen's annual contract renewal, and scores of other items. Cosby's on in 5 minutes, but you feel intrigued by the school bus thing, so you select that for a moment. Up on your screen comes a listing of messages on this topic from neighbors, school administrators, and bus manufacturers. Selecting one of the latter, you are drawn into a discussion of the impact of different transaxle designs on fuel economy. You read several messages containing claims and rebuttals, and you leave a sharply-worded message of your own to one of the bus companies, contesting one of their statements.

   Next, you pop out to the statewide level and glance through the issues

there: a debate on introducing a new form of Lottery, a proposal to reduce state sales tax, another proposal to increase it, a new regulation on offshore oil platforms, and many more. You've already registered your votes on most of these, and your statewide proxy, Irwin Marsh, seems to have the others under control.

   Next, you pop over to Trials and note with satisfaction that the 3-time

murderer and child molester, Ted Goondy, has been voted into the electric chair. Up for decision statewide today are Blanche Newald, accused of grand larceny, and Abe Newman, 2nd-degree manslaughter. You select Abe's case and begin poring through the state's evidence and the defense's counterpoints. It's a complex issue, and you decide after a few minutes' review to make a snap decision. Whoops, the box reminds you, in capital cases a review of at least 3 hours of the evidence is required in order to vote.

   Cosby's already started and you don't have the time, so you figure that

wiser minds will prevail on Abe's case and you pop out to National for a quick look. Under debate are sanctions against Irate, confirmation of the new ambassador to France, funding for fusion research, and a proposal to eliminate the penny, among other things. You happen to feel strongly about fusion research, so you select it and jump into the ongoing discussion.

   And ongoing it is!  At the national level, with new messages coming in

at a rate of thousands every second, it is nothing like your relatively tranquil school bus debate! You select a keyword search on "pellet", which responds saying that 7,455 messages are on file with that word. You specify an additional keyword of "comparison", which cuts the number down to 104. Scrolling through these quickly, you see a number of diagrams flash by which you recognize as comparing the pellet-implosion method to the magnetic containment method. Examining one of these closely, you realize that one of your previous assumptions about fusion technology is untrue! You begin a series of hypertext jumps through the database, winding up at last in the quaintly named Library of Congress CD-ROM archives, gleaning more information with which to make your decision.

   Finally, sated with information and power, you indicate your vote on

the tally-screen and head for bed. You've missed Cosby but you've gained something immeasurably greater: a sense of control over your own destiny. Maybe tomorrow you'll write up that proposal for a new school gym you've been thinking about, and send it up on the local node… who knows, maybe others have been thinking about it too, and you'll hit quorum!


   A proposal like this is sure to stir up a hornet's nest of resistance,

if seriously considered. Some of the more likely objections are:

   1.  The "tyranny of the majority": the contention that minority rights

will be trampled in the mad lust of majority rule. This objection has been applied to democracies throughout history, and is no more valid now than it was before. If anything, the wider the empowerment, the less likely the elite are to be able to force their effete and/or status-quo-oriented ideas upon the rest of us. The lesson of small-scale democracies, and the trend of history, is that the more a given decision can partake of the joint common sense of everyday people, as opposed to their charismatic or power-crazed leaders, the fairer and more equitable the decision is likely to be.

   2.  Incompetence and/or apathy of the public.  This is another

hold-over from bygone eras in which the aristocracy had an innate distrust of the "lower classes". Another way this objection might be stated is that Superdemocracy violates the Principle of Representation. This is a fancy way of saying that people are better at deciding who should decide things for them, than they are at deciding things themselves. This is false, because the decision to elect a given politician can only be based on an imperfect projection of the probabilities that the politician will act in accordance with one's future desires. As for "apathy", the apathy that currently exists is directly engendered by our hidebound mechanisms for participation in government on the part of the populace.

   3.  Greater bamboozlement by special interests.  Columnist George Will

recently denounced a proposal to allow nationwide "initiatives" to be voted by the public directly into law: "Any national initiative would be dominated by an intense, unelected minority using direct mail, television commercials, and other techniques of mass persuasion." This is of course exactly how modern-day election campaigns work, except that what is being voted upon is not a policy or law, but a fallible human being who, once elected, personally becomes the focus of a whole procession of "intense, unelected minorities", behind closed doors, for the duration of his or her term in office.

   4.  Fragility of high-tech underpinnings.  It might be argued that the

country could be thrown into permanent confusion by a single well-placed bomb or computer virus, if it has no other means of governing itself than this consensual one. The solution is of course a manual "backup" government, voted into being in the standard way, which would take over in the event of a catastrophe.

   5.  Fickleness of public sentiment.  Episodes of McCarthyism and the

recent "flag-burning amendment" furor make us wonder if the laws under Superdemocracy would not change chaotically. I think that the dual measures of adherence to a Constitution and the "30-day rules" would damp out any wild oscillations. Those it doesn't can be regarded as the natural consequence of a body governing itself, correcting imbalances as feedback is obtained. They would at least not be due to a small minority of its leading citizens behaving erratically, as is often the case now.

   6.  Greater divisiveness.  This is a criticism more aptly aimed at the

proponents of "direct democracy", not Superdemocracy. By bringing complex issues down to a simple yes/no vote, existing methods of initiative and referendum can polarize communities, whereas due legislative process encourages discussion, moderation, compromise, and consensus. Superdemocracy would preserve and enhance this moderating, consensus-building aspect of the legislative process by extending it to all the people. Topical message bases are only one possible tool for doing this – to be sure, a much higher level of overall political awareness and discussion would exist under Superdemocracy, and new tools and techniques would inevitably spring into being. In the future, bidirectional recorded video or other more exotic technologies could come into play.

   7.  Proxy battles: the fight for control of large delegated blocs of

votes, granted by proxy, may loom ominously large in some people's eyes. This is a laudable objection, because it demonstrates a perceptiveness and an ability to extrapolate into uncharted territory. Certainly, there will be proxy battles, and individuals will seek to enhance their social status by garnering "authority" over large numbers of votes. But the saving grace here is the instant revocability of proxy powers, and their entirely voluntary nature. It would be vital to have laws in place prohibiting abuse of the proxy relationship, such as the sale of powers, or the commitment of one's votes to another for a fixed time period, etc. If each voter is free to change his or her mind about the attractiveness of a given proxy at any time for any reason, then proxy abuse cannot occur.

   8.  Difficulty of reaching quorum.  This is another excellent

objection, since it demonstrates insight into the process. The contention is that many important or urgent measures will languish below quorum indefinitely, due to insufficient voter interest or energy, thus clogging up the wheels of government. The reason this would not be a problem is that large proxy-holders would naturally tend to spend more time than the average voter in the sub-quorum "pool", since their influence may be decisive there (this pool, by the way, is expected to be *huge*). By definition, truly important issues could not help but be significant to large numbers of voters, so if the proxies were not doing their jobs, the public would take charge directly. Both within the message databases and outside, in the public media, commentary and exchange of opinions could not help but bring all genuinely important measures into widespread play, with exactly the speed and to exactly the extent that each in some sense "deserves".

   9.  Dominance by technocrats.  A valid concern is that the high-tech

nature of the process will scare away computerphobes, or create barriers for the less technically adept, which would lead to disproportionately high representation of the technocracy in the voting tallies. It is an absolute requirement that the designers of the system eliminate this concern by making it as easy to use as a bank auto-teller. Also, a network of human "facilitators" and manual-interaction "pavilions" should be established nationwide to service the needs of those for whom the proficiency barrier is insuperable. No system of voting can ever be perfect in this regard (the current system requires at least a modicum of intelligence and initiative), but Superdemocracy can and should be made as simple to deal with as a banking machine, or simpler. Touch screens, voice recognition, and progressively more advanced AI technologies can be harnessed for this purpose as time goes by.

  10.  High cost.  Certainly, to install and maintain all of the computers

and networks we are talking about would be expensive. There would also be a need to provide communications link equipment (presumably terminals and modems at first) to those unable to afford them, or perhaps to everybody. The high cost is beyond dispute. But we need to weigh this against the not insignificant costs of the current system, with its state and national capitol buildings, representative's salaries and perks, staffers, and colossal infrastructure. Some of those smoke-filled rooms are pretty big! And computer and communications costs are dropping day by day, with no end in sight.


   Superdemocracy is defined as a continuous networked hierarchy of online

referenda, open to all.

   Special interests would be able to sway the decisions of a group run

this way only by catering to the interests of a majority of the group – in which case they would no longer, by definition, be special interests.

   Busybodies would be able to sway the decisions of a group run this way

only by making themselves the "proxies" of large blocs of people. Even so, they would merely be performing a public service by voting on those people's behalf exactly as those people would, themselves, have voted anyhow – or the busybody would find him- or herself quickly out of votes.

   Citizen participation and morale would be dramatically improved because

each citizen would be voting on the issues that are important to that citizen, directly. The guessing game of figuring out what somebody else is going to do over a multi-year period, on the basis of schmoozy campaign ads and zoot suits, is eliminated.

   Corruption would be limited to the tactical, implementational end of

government. Never again would we have to worry about corruption on the grand scale of Teapot Dome or the S&L scandal.

   Justice would be less capricious because the same group of human beings

would review evidence and deliver a verdict in each case. This group, instead of being just 12 people who could all happen to misconstrue a fact the same wrong way, would be thousands or millions of everyday people, the very people whose welfare depends on the right decisions being made in the courtroom.

   And finally, the expense, waste, and mismanagement of smoke-filled

rooms and their seedy inhabitants would be laid to rest for once and for all. People would begin to have some reason for optimism about the future, and some sense of control over their own destinies.

   I don't expect any of this to happen anytime soon, but if you know

anyone who is thinking of setting up a new country, please show him or her a copy of this article. It's certainly worth a try.

The World Online… Copyright 1990 Victor Baron

 Through the years, computers have been a tremendous source of

enjoyment for me, starting with playing StarTrek on a *printer* terminal for many hours at a time, continuing with the building of a kit IMSAI 8080 with it's seemingly hundreds of LED's on to writing and marketing my own programs. I can't recall anything that gave me more enjoyment, however, than the first time I went online and connected with another computer in the city. There are still many of you out there who lurk in the background, afraid to make the step, possibly fearing that the experience is way beyond your level of expertise. Hopefully, this little article can alleviate some of those fears and open up a new world online.

 There are a *few* things to learn and some equipment to acquire but

nothing exceptionally complicated nor expensive. Depending upon your budget, you can go from a few hundred dollars to a few thousand with plenty of steps in between. I will try to alleviate the frustrations that usually accompany the first attempts and computer communication.

 Since this will be your first trek into the world of computer

communications, you'll need some minimal equipment in addition to your computer. You'll need a modem, some communication software, possibly a serial cable and a telephone extension cord. Your computer essentially telephones another computer and talks to it over your regular telephone lines. The modem is the go-between. It converts the signals from your computer to a form the telephone can understand and vice-versa. Your standard telephone line should suffice (unless you have a teenage daughter) with a little cooperation from other members of your household. It is difficult to describe the visual and emotional impact you receive when someone picks up the telephone while you are online.

 Looking at the specifications of the many modems on the market can

cause your eyeballs to spin violently but when all the frills are removed, you initially start with 2 types, Internal and external. The internal modem requires only a connection to the telephone line and an available slot in your computer. The external requires an external source of power, a connection to the telephone line and a serial cable that you may have to purchase separately. As in automobiles, the features vary widely but the basics are fairly standardized.

 The final piece in your online travel kit is the communications or

terminal software. There is a wide choice of available packages ranging from some of the more popular and inexpensive shareware packages to the more expensive commercial packages. This remains largely a matter of choice but it would be wise to start with one of the simpler shareware packages until your skills develop. Simply put, the terminal software controls what is sent and received by your system.

 Now that you've acquired the proper equipment and software, the

next step is to install your modem. Whether internal or external, this procedure is relatively simple and most manufacturers provide ample guidance in their documentation. The serial cable is connected between the modem and the serial port on your computer, the telephone cord is connected between the modem and the telephone outlet and the modem is plugged in. An internal modem requires only the telephone connection, all other needs are supplied by the system.

 Before you try out your new modem you must set a few parameters

from within your communication program that will make your system compatible with the computer you'll be calling. Most communication programs have a 'Setup' area or a 'Port Parameter' area. This will be your first stop.

COM1 or COM2– Although there is increasing support for additional COM ports, COM1 and COM2 are the most used. Generally your computer documentation will indicate the available ports on your system. Start by selecting COM1, you can always go back and change it later if needed.

BPS or BAUD–Bits per Second is the rate of speed of data transmission and reception through the selected com port. Although incorrect in this instance, baudrate or baud are generally used interchangeably with bps. The most common rate is 2400 bps, although the decreasing cost of higher speed modems has resulted in many non commercial systems communicating at 9600 bps and higher. Slower speeds of 1200 bps are still generally available on some systems and you might still find an occasional 300 bps system out there. The main function of the 'setup' area is to assure that both systems are communicating at the same rate. Therefore if the system you are calling will be at 2400 bps, then your system must be set the same or you will be unable to establish decent communications. The most common cause of communication problems is improper parameter setup. It's much like speaking Greek to an Italian over a long distance telephone line, no communication is possible.

DATA BITS–This setting determines the number of bits that make up each byte of information. Sometimes referred to as word length. Most BBS (Bulletin Board System) normally use a setting of 8 bits while most commercial systems use a setting of 7 bits.

PARITY is an error detection method used to check the validity of a transmitted character. If the computer is using 8 *data* bits, the parity is usually *none*, indicated by an 'N' while systems using 7 data bits usually use *even*, indicated by an 'E'.

STOP BITS are signaling bits attached to a character before it is transmitted which indicate when the character ends. Each character transmitted is preceded by one start bit and followed by one or two stop bits and possibly a parity bit. The most common setting is to use 1 stop bit. Therefore, your most common settings for a PC based BBS would be 8 data bits - No parity - 1 stop bit (8N1) and for commercial systems, 7 data bits - Even parity - 1 Stop bit (7E1).

FULL/HALF DUPLEX also called local/remote echo is the setting that determines which system (local/remote) is responsible for displaying characters on the screen. Most BBS systems supply the remote echo so the usual setting for your system should be remote echo (no local echo). If you can't see what you type on your screen when you are connected to another system, then you should turn your local echo on. If your screen should ddiissppllaayy cchhaarraacctteerrss lliikkee tthhiiss, then you know that both the local and remote systems are echoing the characters and you should turn your local echo off (remote on).

 Now you should be ready to give this thing a try. Your modem is

connected and your communication program is loaded. Following the documentation for your specific program, enter the dialing directory and select the number you wish to dial. At this point, if you press return, most programs will dial the selected number. If your modem has a speaker you should hear phone go off hook, dial the number and start ringing. When the remote system answers, you will hear the modems try to establish a connection with appropriate squealing and hissing. When connected, you will see a message that says CONNECT or CONNECT 2400. Congratulations! You are online! Depending on the type of system you have called, you may have to press the carriage return a few times to 'wake up' the BBS or it may start 'talking' to you automatically. Online etiquette is beyond the scope of this article but remember, you are essentially a guest in someone's home. Please act as you would have a guest act in your home. Profane language is a no-no. Finally, when the time comes to leave the BBS, there is usually a command similar to GO or BYE or EXIT or OFF that will take care of some housekeeping and politely let you leave the system and hang up. Only in an extreme case should you just HANG UP without signing off the BBS. Doing that is similar to walking out and slamming the door without even a goodbye. Extremely rude! On some of the old time systems, this could hang a system thus preventing other callers from calling in. The newer systems don't have a problem with this any longer but it's still tacky.

 This should give you enough information to get you started

exploring the world online. The majority of the people you meet are very friendly and helpful. When you log on to a new BBS, I recommend that you go directly to the message base and read some of the messages. You can get a lot of initial questions answered this way. If you have a specific question, most BBS's will allow you to leave a comment to the sysop (SYStem OPerator) on your first call.

 Remember, you can't hurt anything and the people you contact all

started the same way as you, so relax, happy calling and enjoy the world online.

The FBI Comes Rapping, Rapping At Your BBS

Brock N. Meeks

 The dog-eared manila envelope spilled a coffee stained report onto

my cluttered desk. The title, "The FBI and Your BBS" sounded a little too nefarious, even for this curmudgeon of the information age. But I figured the report was worth at least a quick read. After all, somebody had gone to the effort to track down my address and forward a copy of the report to me. That someone turns out to be the report's author, Glen L. Roberts, director of The FBI Project an organization which publishes a newsletter, Full Disclosure, under the self-defined category "privacy/surveillance.

 The report is chilling, almost paranoid.  And if more people had

known about its existence, a lot of grief might have been saved. As I read I remembered an old, coffee-ringed file folder I'd squirreled away. I remembered something about it's containing information on what I'd off-handedly labeled "FBI Computer Hit Squad." When I found the file, Roberts' report didn't seem so paranoid and knew I was in for a long night of research and bunch of early morning wake up interviews.

If you dig, you hit dirt

 In 1984 a short series of discreet advertisements, placed by the

FBI, appeared in a few computer trade publications and in The Wall Street Journal. The message was simple, and went something like: "We're looking for computer literate persons to join the Bureau." There was no mention of any special task force; however, it was clear that the Bureau wanted to upgrade their high-tech prowess.

 Although the FBI won't confirm the existence of a computerized "hit

squad," an FBI public relations officer did confirm that they "have made an extraordinary effort to recruit more technically oriented personnel" since 1984.

 If you dig hard enough, you'll find substantial evidence that the

FBI is most definitely working overtime in its efforts to monitor the electronic community. "They are desperately wary of the way information flows so freely in this medium," says Roberts.

 Indeed, one has only to recall this past May when some 150 Secret

Service agents, assisted by local police (backed up with electronic "intelligence gathered and provided by the FBI) served some 27 search warrants in a dozen cities across the U.S.

 The bust, code-named Operation Sun Devil, was patterned after the

tactics used to take down suspected drug rings: simultaneous busts, synchronized arrests. All in an effort to preclude any "early warnings" reaching the West via grapevine information moving from the East.

 I was curious about all these high tech hit tactics and armed with

my file folder and Roberts' report I called a number scrawled on the inside flap of my file folder. It was annotated "Former agent; possible source." I called the number, and got a story.

"I was recruited in 1983 by the FBI for my computer skills."

 "I was recruited in 1983 by the FBI for my computer skills," the

former agent told me. Because he still does some consulting for the Bureau, he asked not to be identified, but he laid out a very specific plan by the FBI to increase their knowledge of the electronic communications world. He confided, "During my time the Bureau's monitoring of BBSs was extremely limited; we just didn't know how." In those days, he said, the FBI drew on the expertise of a small band of high-tech freelance snoops to augment their staff, "while we all honed our own skills."


 Certainly the FBI has a tradition of "investigating" groups of

people it deems "unsavory" or threatening.

 In Roberts' The FBI and Your BBS, there's a brief history of the

FBI's willingness to gather all known information on a target group. Pulling from the Final Report of the Select (Senate) Committee to Study Governmental Operations with respect to Intelligence Activities, Book IV, Supplementary Reports on Intelligence Activities, Roberts includes this excerpt:

"Detectives were sent to local radical publishing houses to take their books. In addition, they were to find every private collection or library in the possession of any radical, and to make the arrangements for obtaining them in their entirety. Thus, when the GID (General Intelligence Division) discovered an obscure Italian born philosopher who had a unique collection of books on the theory of anarchism, his lodgings were raided by the Bureau and his valuable collection become one more involuntary contribution to the huge and ever-growing library of the GID. [pages 87-88]."

 Change "any radical" to "any BBS" and "book" to "disk" and quite

suddenly the electronic landscape turns into a winter still-life.

Data collection

 Roberts, quoting from his report, says, "Unlike other

communications media, information on a BBS does not get read by anyone before its instantaneous publication. Therefore, the FBI has much less of a possibility of intimidating the owner of a BBS into not publishing certain information. The FBI also acts as if BBSs have a monopoly on the distribution of so-called 'illegal information.' The FBI often uses this 'danger' as justification to monitor the activities on these systems. In reality, however, BBSs transfer much less 'illegal information' than the phone system."

 Roberts statements are worth noting in light of the government's

increased interest in the marriage of criminal activity and electronic communications.

Crime has moved into the high-tech arena.

 A 455-page report issued by the President's Commission on Organized

Crime, dealing with drug abuse and trafficking cites that fact that crime has moved into the high-tech arena. The report states "To the extent that law enforcement agencies' capabilities and equipment are inferior to those of drug traffickers, immediate steps should be taken to rectify the situation." The report then recommends that data-gathering efforts of several agencies (including the FBI) should be tied together in one "all-source intelligence and operations center."

Any problem here?

 There are no laws prohibiting the FBI (or other agencies) from

monitoring the public message traffic on a BBS; the Electronic Communications Privacy Act of 1986 protects private messages and privately stored files only. But what about an FBI agent monitoring a BBS solely for the purpose of gathering information on the board's users? Any problem here?

 The former FBI agent I spoke with raised the concern that such

casual monitoring might be a violation of the 1968 Wiretap Act. "In order for a wire tap, you have to get a court order. Now if an FBI agent is monitoring a BBS to gather information, that becomes an interesting question, because there are very specific federal rules about a wire tap. My question to you about a BBS [being monitored] is: "At what point does monitoring turn into a wiretap-like act?"

 Good point.  The reality is, however, that there are no rules.

Unless that agent is asking for private message traffic, he can, without impunity, monitor, store, and otherwise manipulate your public messages as he sees fit.

 Roberts points out that a BBS with public access is fair game for

any kind of governmental snooping. But there is a way to make such casual snooping by a federal agent a crime.

 "If you want your BBS readily accessible to the public but want to

protect against unwarranted monitoring, you have to provide a warning to prospective users," says Roberts. "It should read: 'This BBS is a private system. Only private citizens who are not involved in government or law enforcement activities are authorized to use it. The users are not authorized to divulge any information gained from this system to any government or law enforcement agency or employee.'"

 This does two things.  It makes the entire board "private." Second,

it makes any kind of monitoring by the FBI (or other agencies, such as the Secret Service) a criminal offense (because they are would be guilty of unauthorized access; it also forces them to use the established guidelines of gaining information via a court ordered search warrant. The warning also protects you in another way: it stops "freelancers" from doing the Bureau's work.

Get real

 How real is the possibility of the FBI monitoring your BBS?  Much

more than I'd like to believe. Although details of Operation Sun Devil are still sketchy, it's clear that the FBI, working in tandem with the Secret Service, is monitoring several hundred "suspected" boards across the electronic landscape. What kind of board is a potential monitoring target? "Any board that advocates hacking," said a Secret Service spokesman. Yet when I asked for a definition of hacking, all I was told was "illegal activity."

Are the "good guys" getting caught up with the bad?

 The information provided here bears out, if nothing else, an

increased interest by the FBI in the hardball practice of going after electronic criminals. But are the "good guys" getting caught up with the bad?

 How extensive is the FBI's actual fact gathering by monitoring

BBSs? No one knows really knows. However, given the history of Bureau, and the hard facts that crime in the information age makes full use of all the technology it can get its hands on, it's a small leap to believe that at least specific monitoring, of certain target groups, is taking place.

 Where does that leave you and me in all this?  Back to square one,

watching carefully what we say online. If you're a member of a "controversial" BBS, you might pass the concerns of Roberts on to your sysop. If you are a sysop, you might want to consider adding a bit of protection to the board . . . for the rest of us.

Brock Meeks is a Washington, D.C.-based columnist whose articles have appeared in several publications including Byte Magazine. His favorite radical BBS is . . . well . . . private.

 What's NEW in ZMODEM

by Chuck Forsberg

 In early 1986, Telenet funded a project to develop a new file

transfer protocol to alleviate the throughput problems network customers were experiencing with XMODEM and Kermit file transfers. Designing ZMODEM from scratch allowed me to use the best ideas from X.PC, HDLC, BISYNC, Kermit, and dozens of other protocols, while avoiding many of their shortcomings.

 Since then ZMODEM has been incorporated into hundreds of programs.

ZMODEM's speed, reliability, and ease of use has made it the protocol of choice for thousands of bulletin boards, GEnie, BIX, Portal, Delphi, and other information utilities.

 From the beginning, ZMODEM was designed to be extended. Important

reliability, performance and compatibility extensions have been developed since the Telenet project. These extensions accelerate downloads by 5 to 30 percent in many applications, with some files downloading many times faster.

 New programs can exploit these extensions without sacrificing

downward compatibility with older programs. This article summarizes the most important of these ZMODEM extensions.


 Ease of implementation was one of ZMODEM's original design goals.

XMODEM CRC technology was used because XMODEM routines were widely available in many programming languages.

 XMODEM's CRC polynomial is many times less reliable than good 16

bit CRC's. This wasn't an issue with XMODEM because XMODEM itself was inherently unreliable under stress. When ZMODEM's speed and "bullet-proof" robustness soon found use in applications too harsh for XMODEM, ZMODEM's robustness revealed XMODEM CRC to be too inaccurate.

 The first major extension to ZMODEM was the adoption of 32 bit CRC.
 ZMODEM uses the 32-bit CRC specified by ANSI X3.66, FIPS PUB 71,

and FED-STD-1003. A table driven calculation keeps processing overhead low. ZMODEM CRC-32 is five orders of magnitude more accurate than XMODEM CRC, and billions of times more sensitive than 1 byte XMODEM and Kermit checksums. The extra protection of CRC-32 is vital in high speed applications.

 ZMODEM retains XMODEM CRC capability to accommodate old programs.


 Compression techniques compact the redundant information in data

files to reduce storage and transmission time. ZMODEM-90(TM) extensions include "on the fly" compression that boosts throughput on listings and other suitable files. Compression percentages range from -1% on already compressed files to more than 1000 percent (10 times speedup) on the Personal Computing Magazine text file benchmark.

Moby Turbo™ Accelerator

 Many files downloaded from bulletin boards are already compressed

with PKZIP or other compression programs.

 ZMODEM was developed to operate over packet switched networks that

use control characters for network control. When one of these characters appears in the data, ZMODEM protects the network by replacing the offending character with a two character sequence (quoting). Standard ZMODEM quoting increases overhead on compressed files by about 3 percent.

 The protection of control character quoting and its overhead are

not needed in many applications. ZMODEM-90(TM) offers MobyTurbo(TM) to close the speed gap between ZMODEM and less reliable protocols without sacrificing ZMODEM's historical robustness and reliability. MobyTurbo reduces the character quoting overhead on compressed files to 0.5%. In comparison tests the speed difference between YMODEM-g and MobyTurbo(TM) is less than 1 percent. Many users feel 1% is a low price to pay to get Crash Recovery, automatic downloads, and the safety of 32 bit CRC error checking,

                  |      OVERHEAD FACTORS      |
                  |     (Compressed Files)     |
                  |1024 Byte Subpackets |  .5% |
                  |Character Quoting    |   3% |
                  |MobyTurbo Quoting    |  .5% |

Reduced Overhead

 Some networks and modem concentrators reserve control characters

not protected by ZMODEM defaults. Previously the solution was to protect all control characters, resulting in protocol overhead approaching that of Kermit.

 ZMODEM-90(TM) extensions provide individual control of the

protected control characters, avoiding the high overhead of quoting all control characters.

Window Management

 Many information utilities are accessed via complex packet switched

networks. These networks may behave more like a balloon than a pipe as they pass data from a fast mainframe to a relatively slow modem. Undelivered kilobytes swell the network's memory banks, and error correction is impaired.

 ZMODEM allows the sender to limit this ballooning by regulating the

rate of transmission to accommodate the slowest segment of the network. ZMODEM accomplishes this by commanding the receiver to acknowledge data sub-blocks as they are received, and waiting for more acknowledgements when the receiver is too far behind (window too large).

 The optimum window size depends on the network characteristics and

modem error rate. With ZMODEM-90 the receiver can override the sender's window size according to local conditions. Users with error correcting modems can increase throughput by increasing the window size.

 These ZMODEM-90 extensions give GEnie downloads 5 to 30 percent

faster than public domain ZMODEM.

7-Bit Environments

 A pair of ZMODEM-90 programs with 7-bit support will automatically

detect a 7-bit environment and switch to one of two 7-bit path compatible encodings.

 The default 7-bit ZMODEM uses RLE compression and 8th bit quoting.

This mode resembles Kermit encoding, but is more efficient because the RLE encoding is optimized and fewer control characters are quoted. This default is well suited for text files.

 ZMODEM Pack-7 packs 4 bytes into 5 printing characters. This is

more efficient than quoting for sending compressed files. ZMODEM Pack-7 is efficient enough to beat Kermit on ZIP files, even when Kermit is allowed to use all 8 bits.

 A 75136 byte ZIP file was sent between two adjacent machines

directly connected at 2400 bps. These tests demonstrate the difference in protocol performance under ideal conditions.

 Kermit transfers used one byte checksum and 2000 byte packets.

ZMODEM used 32 Bit (four byte) CRC.

                  |         7-BIT LINE         |
                  |CPS| Protocol               |
                  |156| Kermit long packet=2000|
                  |190| ZMODEM-90tm PACK-7     |

Intelligent Crash Recovery

 Crash Recovery allows an interrupted file transfer to be completed

without throwing away the portion transferred before the interruption. Crash Recovery has been a favorite ZMODEM feature since 1986.

 Accurate crash recovery requires that the receiver's copy of the

file match the sender's copy up to the point where the transfer was cut off. If you don't call back instantly the file may change, and simply resuming the transfer will corrupt the file. If this is a concern, choose a program that verifies the accuracy of Crash Recovery.

 Intelligent Crash Recovery(TM) (-rr option) allows files to be

compared without transmitting the actual file contents. The sender and receiver take a 32 bit CRC on the files and compare those numbers. The "zmodem R" parameter controls how much of the files to compare. The default of 0 compares the entire file. The chance of different files producing the same 32 bit CRC is small; an independent comparison of another segment further enhances reliability.

 Currently, ASCII file translation (Unix to DOS format, etc.) does

not allow Crash Recovery.

 A future extension should remove this restriction.

Total Transfer Display

 ZMODEM and YMODEM now support a count of the files remaining and

their total size to the receiver. This allows the receiver to estimate remaining transfer time, updated as conditions change. This information is optional and may not be provided when its collection would cause an unacceptable delay starting a transfer.

VAX/VMS Specific Programs

 Previous versions of the RZ (Receive ZMODEM) and SZ (Send ZMODEM)

file transfer programs were poorly adapted for Digital Equipment's VAX/VMS minicomputer operating system.

 A new VMS RZ writes variable length CR terminated records for ASCII

files and fixed 512 byte records for binary files. These record formats are better suited for standard VMS utilities.

 A -i option may be given to the sender or receiver to force VMS

Stream_LF record format. Stream_LF format preserves the exact data and file length. Stream_LF is suitable for C programs and PC oriented file server and archive applications.

 VMS SZ now supports wild cards and subdirectories.
 These programs are available from Omen Technology Incorporated.
 ZMODEM-90(TM), MobyTurbo(TM), and Intelligent Crash Recovery(TM)

are Omen Technology trademarks.


"Hello, Dean speaking."

"I'm going to quit my job, start a BBS, make a fortune and live happily ever after."

"Excuse me? That's impossible!"

"No really, I'm going to make my living running a BBS."

I never thought I'd have phone conversations like this a year ago, now it happens once a week. One enthusiastic caller was dead serious when he told me "I'm going to put CompuServe out of business." As ridiculous as these statements sound, it should. It tells me that the BBS world is starting to evolve in a big way.

A schism is forming between the FREE and the PAY BBS systems. The hardcore sysop of the past will tell you "Until they pry my cold dead fingers from my keyboard, my system will always have free access." The enterprising sysop of today will tell you "I'm offering a service that my customers enjoy, and I'm not embarrassed to be compensated for it." I hope there will always be a place for the FREE BBS. However, the pay as you go BBS system is todays item of interest. What does it take to make real money running a BBS?

As an example, we'll start a fictitious BBS called OPERATION OVERKILL, or OK BBS for short. We're going to charge $45 per year, run 4 lines at 9600 Bps and use PCBoard on a 386 Novell Network. Congratulations, OK BBS just consumed $10,000 like it was light beer, and nobody calls.

Across town, HUMBLE BEGINNINGS BBS (HB BBS for short) starts up using a spare XT, 1 phone line at 2400 Bps, runs the shareware version of PCBoard and charges NOTHING. The new sysop of HB BBS, Horatio A., has been calling BBS's for years and finally decides to give it a try. Six months later HB BBS has 500 steady callers, but they complain that the BBS is busier than the men's room at Joe's Bar on Saturday night.

After many sleepless nights and countless cans of Jolt Cola, Horatio asks for $20 donations to add another phone line, get a 386, buy the multinode version of PCBoard and increase the hard drive storage. Enough money comes in to cover half of the upgrade. Horatio digs into his pockets for the rest and HUMBLE BEGINNINGS is now running 2 nodes under Desqview on the new 386. He adds more file areas, throws in some DOORS, and answers the mail from his users 3 times a day.

In order to recoup the investment in the upgrade, Horatio adds an Adult file section available to paying users only. He imposes a 20:1 download/upload ratio for non-paying callers. As a bonus, he allows callers with a 5:1 download/upload ratio full privileges. His file area becomes inundated with new uploads as his non-paying callers realize the cheapest way to use the system is to upload new files. There's even a few long distance callers which he gives full access for no charge. Heck, they're already paying good money to our favorite charity THE PHONE COMPANY, so why not?

HUMBLE BEGINNINGS is now busy all the time! The free callers keep the file library bursting with new software while the paying callers are happy to rape this fantastic software resource for only $20 per year. In fact, HUMBLE BEGINNINGS is making a little more money each month. A third phone line is added to keep up with the demand.

Horatio decides to attempt to make some real money with his BBS. HUMBLE BEGINNINGS has been online for 2 years, pays the phone bill, and even makes more of a profit each month. He borrows $5,000 from his brother Donald to bring his system to 6 lines running on a Novell network. He figures 6 lines will keep everyone happy for at least a year. He raises the price to $45 per year, but still allows callers with a 5:1 download/upload ratio full access.

HUMBLE BEGINNINGS is now on it's way to possibly becoming a very large system. Who knows, maybe in another year Horatio will be able to quit his real job to devote 24 hours a day to his BBS. More likely, HB BBS will become a mildly profitable small business. Is there a moral to this story? Not really, but all the would be entrepreneurs out there might want to memorize the countless cliches related to starting your own business.

BBS's must do the same as any successful small business, provide a needed product or service, provide excellent customer service, price it reasonably, and continue to improve while keeping one eye on the competition.

 * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

           T E L E C O M P U T I N G   M A G A Z I N E
                        Electronic Edition
                           Summer 1990
               (C) 1990 Galaxy Telecomm Corporation
                       All Rights Reserved
                800-477-1788, 505-881-6988 - Voice
                  505-881-6964 - BBS - 64 Lines
    * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

Requirements To Display Telecomputing Magazine

No Nonsense Copyright Statement

Telecomputing Magazine is copyrighted material and must be treated as such. Telecomputing Magazine's Electronic Edition may be transmitted and displayed on Electronic Bulletin Board Systems. Alterations, additions, or ommissions of material will be considered a copyright violation.


Feel free to pass this Electronic Edition of our magazine along to your friends and favorite BBS's. For a free copy of our 4 color glossy magazine, give us a call at 800-477-1788 and request a copy!

 * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

           T E L E C O M P U T I N G   M A G A Z I N E
                        Electronic Edition
                      October/November 1990
               (C) 1990 Galaxy Telecomm Corporation
                       All Rights Reserved
    * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *


COVER STORY - Tim Stryker



   News from the Online World - Nia Bennett
   Where Is Everybody? - Jerry Pournelle/Mike Banks
   The FBI Comes Rapping, Rapping at Your BBS - Brock N. Meeks
   Electronic Government - Michael E. Marotta


   What's New in ZMODEM - Chuck Forsberg
   Worried About Viruses? - William Minus


   Intel Goes After 9600 BPS Market - Tom Scott
   TDBS: The Comfortable Revolution - Phil Becker
   Telecommand System 100 by JDS Technologies - Tom Scott
   The Metro BBS System P.D. and Plenty of Power - Jim Reyna


   Aladdin - Genie's Magic Lamp - Dennis Fowler
   The BBSers Guide to COMDEX - Tom Scott
   Joining the Online World - Victor Baron


   BGFT: Background File Transfer System
   Falcon F-16 by Mark Hiatt
   Weight Loss Software by Nia Bennett
   News from Oracomm - Running a Successful BBS by Gary Young
   Wildcat! BBS News - Dawn of the Information Society


   "Using Computer Bulletin Boards" by John V. Hedtke
   - Review by Charles Stuart Klingman


   Software Mania - John C. Dvorak
   Power Suits and Pretty Dresses For BBSing on the Edge
   - Bob Mahoney
   Under The Boardwalk/Commentary - Dean Kerl


   From The Editor
   Letters To The Editor
   EXEC-PC Top 20 Downloads
   telecomputing's BBS Listings (classifieds)

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