QL and the Internet
By Tim Swenson
Over the last couple of years, the Internet has become the hot
topic in computers, with the World Wide Web almost being
considered THE Internet killer application. The dominent view of
how one get's access to the Internet is to use
"Internet-in-a-box" type software and an Internet Provider to
make your computer look like it's on the Internet. For the less
computer savy, hooking up through a service provider like
CompuServe, America On-Line, or Prodigy is the way to go.
All of these methods of getting access to the Internet require
some special software for your computer. For those of us in the
QL world, that leaves us out. At least as far as the above
solutions go. The Internet has been around for at least 15
years, the Web has only been around for about 3 years. There are
many ways to get access to the Internet that don't require much
software on your end.
The Internet has a number of ways of getting information:
World Wide Web
Also known as the Web or as WWW. Web browser software on your
computer makes requests for data from Web Servers. Most data is
in the form of documents, graphics, video, sound, etc. The
interface is mouse driven and has "hot links" which when clicked
on brings up another Web document.
Kind of like the Web but uses a menu interface similar to that
used by a BBS. The original Gopher interface was character
based, but graphical ones came out later. Gopher has almost been
taken over by the Web.
Allows you to connect or login to another system and start using
it. Connecting to a BBS is kind of like Telnet-ing.
FTP - File Transfer Protocol
Allows you to transfer files to and from computers. It only
allows commands like GET and PUT. Does not allow you to run an
application on another computer (like Telnet does).
Finger is a protocol/application that queries another computer
for information about a person on that computer. Some people
have useful information that is returned via the finger command.
Electronic mail is one of the primary reasons for getting on the
Internet. Letters can take minutes instead of days to get where
they are going.
USENET is kind of like the Internet News Service. It's a loose
collection of computers sharing messages that their users write.
USENET sends articles or "postings" around the world.
How to do this on a QL
With a little effort you can use your QL to access all of these
services. The key thing that allows this for the QL (or almost
any computer) is a VT100 communications program. VT100 is the
standard interface for computers and terminals accessing the
Internet. Everyone supports VT100. For the QL, there are a
number of communication programs that support VT100, with the two
primary being QEM and QTPI.
To make all of this work, you will need to get a Unix account on
a computer some place. A number of local Internet Providers
allow "shell" accounts. The Unix shell is what give you a
command line prompt (like QDOS or MS-DOS). Once you access your
Unix account from your QL (via modem) you are on the Internet.
Even though the Web was designed to be used with a graphical
interface, there is a VT100 Web browser called Lynx. It will
view a web page (without any graphics) and allow you to move
through the document and hot links.
Gopher originally came out as a VT100 application so there is no
problem using gopher with a QL. If your Internet Provider does
not have gopher installed, you can still get access. Enter the
This will then connect you to a gopher client and allow you to
browse the Internet.
Most USENET readers (tin, nn, & rn) support VT100. Once you
figure out how to use them, reading USENET is a snap.
FTP, Telnet, Finger, and Mail are all VT100 capable applications.
Once you have a Unix account, you can use them all.
As for what is available on the Internet that is worth while
being accessed using VT100. Here is a short list:
FTP: There are a number of Sinclair FTP sites that have sinclair
related files. Try ftp.nvg.unit.no, garbo.uwasa.fi, or
Archie (a way to look up stuff avialable on FTP
telnet downwind.sprl.umich.edu 3000
Almanac of Events
NASA Headline News
Archie Mail Servers
(with SUBJECT of help)
Fax via Internet (send a fax via e-mail!!)
FTP via E-Mail
(in body of message put help or ftplist)
Finger via E-Mail
(with SUBJECT #HELP)
Gopher via E-Mail
The above is just a small listing of what is avialable even if
you only have a VT100 interface. In fact, if you have E-Mail
only access to the Internet you can still get a large amount of
information (just takes a little more work).
I have Internet access through work, including a Unix account (or
two). Recently I got the urge to get myself a Web Home page.
Since the computer at work is govenment owned, I could not put
the Web page there. I found a Internet Provider that has a
Web-only service. For $24 a year they will host my Web page and
redirect any incoming mail to my real mail account.
For fun I decided to see how much of this page I could create
from home. A Web page is written in a mark up language called
HTML (hypertext mark-up language). It's just a text file with
some imbedded HTML commands. Once I learned the basics of HTML,
creating the pages was fairly easy. Once they were created (on
the QL) I was ready to send then to my Internet Provider.
I dialed into my Unix account at work. On the Unix box I used
cat > file.name
This takes all the incoming data from STDIN (the keyboard) and
puts it in the file called file.name. Then in QEM I selected
ASCII Send, and QEM copied the file to Unix as if I were typing
Once all of the files were there, I FTPed the HTML files to my
Service Provider. Using FTP I entered my account and password
transfered my files to my subdirectory on the Web server, in a
few minutes. The Web server wanted my main page to be called
INDEX.HTML, so once that file resided in my home directory, my
home page was up and running.
Then I used Lynx, on my Unix account, to view my new home page.
I went through the pages, testing all of the links to the other
pages. Obviously there were a few changes I had to make (nothing
is perfect the first time). But soon all was ready.
Just Do It
If you yearn for Internet access but fear that the QL is not up
to the job, don't worry. Just get out there and get connected
and see all that you can do, even with the QL.
Having about 7 years of Internet experience, if anyone needs any
help I'm willing to assist. If you can reach me at:
5615 Botkins Rd. Huber Heights, OH 45423
)                   ( geocities.com/siliconvalley