This review was originally published in June of 1992. It’s a fascinating look at how people connected online prior to the internet. One of the things I had forgotten was the ability to use modems across a network. You could actually map your com port a modem on the network. With the proliferation of broadband and routers this became unnecessary.
Two commercial packages released within two weeks of each other promise to whip Windows into shape, so that seamless communications in Windows becomes a reality.
MicroCourier by Microcom was one of the first packages to arrive on the Windows communication scene. Housed in a very bland looking box, the $99.99 package comes complete with both sizes of disks. A refreshing change for Windows applications, which usually only come on one or the other media sizes. Also included in the package is a User’s Guide, Reference Guide, Special Offer for Carbon Copy for Windows, Slicker describing the program and a well-designed Referenced Card.
The installation of the program is extremely straight forward. The standard SETUP.EXE file is run from the floppy disk to install the program. As the program installs, you are given an up to the percentage detail of how much of each disk is installed. The program does create a new program group without asking. It also does not have a de-install procedure. This is extremely frustrating, due to the fact that each Windows program you install modifies an .INI file here or an .INI file there.
Setting up the program for your specific environment is easy. MicroCourier ships with over 100 modem setups ready to go. The only choices you really have to make is telling MicroCourier which modem you have and where it is connected. Speaking of connections, MicroCourier support 8 COM ports and Interrupt 14, which makes using it on a network easy.
Connecting to a BBS or online service is just as easy. The dialing directory is very intuitive, but could stand a different viewing mode. Currently, you can only see one BBS entry at a time. Over 25 separate host configurations are available. Everything from ANSI to TELEX is supported.
When dialing the online service, you can minimize MicroCourier and continue working in another application. You also have this ability during file transfers, which can be completed using one of the 12 built-in protocols. Hooks for external protocols are not provided.
Microcom has added a very fancy scripting language to MicroCourier that allows you to conquer almost any online task. The scripting language also includes automatic debugging and special calls to ensure that conditions are met before terminating an online session. DDE is also supported through MicroCourier. A neat feat, the combination of DDE and MicroCourier can make updating graphs with volatile data downloaded daily a snap. The online help is an excellent guide to setting up DDE links and the scripting language offers commands to control the procedure.
The golden key to this package is the use of customer support. Microcom has given the users the ability to not only automatically register the program online via the use of scripts, but to also call and receive ZAPs through the modem. ZAPs are Microcom’s answer to bug fixes.
A session online with MicroCourier is enjoyable and it seems to have tamed the Windows communications gremlins to a point. Downloading a file with the communications port locked at a high speed did bog down the system, though.