the ELECTRONIC ANSWERING MACHINE The 'ELECTRONIC ANSWERING MACHINE' is, simply, a computer
°°°±² the ELECTRONIC ²±°°°
°°°±² ANSWERING MACHINE ²±°°°
The 'ELECTRONIC ANSWERING MACHINE' is, simply, a computerized
version of the plain old voice answering machine. When you go out
to get lunch, go to a movie, or whatever, just pop up EAM and you
will never miss another important message again. It's very simple
to use and maintain, the few instructions necessary are outlined
below. The original idea for this program inspired by Sean Nolan
who wrote the original version of EAM called simply AM (Answering
Early in August, 1985, I was faced with a failure on the HARD DISK
I was using to support my BBS system. As a consiencious BBS sysop
I searched for the right tool to stay in touch with my users while
the HARD DRIVE was being repaired/replaced. I found the original
AM program by Sean Nolan and attempted to run it on my system. The
original program would not even pick up the phone upon receiving
an incomming call. There were other problems that followed:
1. The caller's communications parameters had to match the
method used to open the COM1 or COM2 line EXACTLY. The program
was very unforgiving about this. EAM automatically switches
to re-configure itself to the callers settings.
2. There was no mechanism to hang up in the event that the caller
terminated simply by dropping carrier. At best, you had to
endure a time-out by decrementing a counter. This was maintain-
ed as a REAL number of 340000! (or something like that)
This has obvious disadvantages for multi-tasking or using a
compiled version of the program. EAM will reset immediately
upon detecting loss-of-carrier. EAM also sets waits by using
appropriate number of SECONDS by reading the system timer.
3. Much of the messages and prompts were "hard-coded" and not easily
changed by the inexperienced user. This version places the most
commonly changed items on the first line of code, and both the
initial message and trailing (logoff) message are read from disk.
4. A facility has been included to allow the remote SYSOP to list
his messages from the remote point. (Kinda like having one of those
fancy little beepers that let you read your phone messages from
any outside telephone).
5. CHAT mode has been greatly improved over the original code, as well
as the text editor used to enter messages to the system operator.
the format of the MESSAGES file contains the callers name and time
that he called. The call number is also recorded.
6. LOCAL mode is also supported in all but the CHAT function. After all
who would talk to himself, anyway? Not me! (Are you sure?) fersure!
7. Since the program is essentially a long-running BASIC program, it is
susceptable to running out of string-space by variable re-definition
unless you take special care to issue a CLEAR statement. EAM does
a FULL reset each time a caller hangs up. It maintains the current
BEEP and CHAT setting on a disk file across the RE-INITIALIZATION so
that these settings are not lost.
8. Error-handling for communications problems and missing disk-files
did not exist in the original program beyond displaying the line#
of the failing statement. EAM has extensive error-handling and can
tolerate all but the most uncommon problems.
Most of the resulting code is taken directly from techniques used either
by Sean Nolan in the original program, or from techniques used in RBBS
itself. So in reality... I must acknowledge all of the developers of
RBBS as contributing, in some way, to this program. If you desire...
EAM can be the beginning of your own custom BBS software... all of the
communications routines would work just fine in such an effort.
It has even found use as an Electronic MAIL-DROP for PC users wishing to
avoid the high cost of commercial electronic-mail systems. Consider
other possibilities !
The documentation that follows, shows just how easy the ELECTRONIC
ANSWERING MACHINE is ... to operate and maintain.
OPENING MESSAGE - When a remote user first logs on to EAM, he is given
a welcome message not unlike that displayed by RBBS:
WELCOME TO ZAP!-BBS (...or whatever)
He is then sent a message asking if he needs linefeeds, and his REAL 1st
and Last name. After this is completed, the disk-file named "OUTMSG" is
sent. This file is optional but I can't see why you would ever NOT have
one. The intent is to describe to the caller what he has dialed into,
and (maybe) why the normal system is down (or some other stuff).
After the file OUTMSG is displayed... the following menu appears:
E)nter msg O)perator page G)oodbye H)elp : _
These functions are outlined below:
ENTER A MESSAGE - The system also allows for the remote user to
enter a message for the operator. The message editor is simple
and self-explanitory, just view the file menu help file to see
the functions. These messages are saved under the name MESSAGES
and may be read by using TYPE MESSAGES from DOS or by VIEWING the
file either under LOCAL mode or by calling in remotely and using
the hidden command ~ (Tilde). This will allow the remote system
operator to view his messages from some outside terminal. To clear
the messages file, type ERASE MESSAGES from under DOS.
CHAT - One option the remote user may choose is O)perator page to
Chat with the operator. If the SYSOP is available, EAM will then
page the operator through the use of a pulsating beep (for up to
30 seconds). During this time, the operator should press the F3
key to enter CHAT conversational mode. Just type away...and your
characters will come out on the remote screen, as well as your
own. To end chat mode and return to the command prompt, type the
escape-key. EAM, at initial start-up, checks the settings
for CHAT and BEEP in the configuration file. If the CHAT setting
is OFF, the caller will be informed that you are not currently
available... and would he optionally please leave a message.
Finally, at any time during program usage, the operator can press
the F3 key and the system will break into chat mode.
GOODBYE - when the caller decides that he has had enough... he can
terminate his session bye responding with the G)oodbye command.
The file BYEMSG is then displayed to the caller (if it exists) and
then the communication line is closed, effectively hanging up on
the caller. It is suggested that you customize the BYEMSG file
with your text editor for a cordial fare-well.
HELP - more detailed description of the available commands is available
for both the main menu and the ENTER MSG menu (text editor menu).
The function keys are active at any time during the caller's session.
They are assigned the following functions:
F1 - toggle whether the operator is available to CHAT
F2 - toggle whether to silence or activate the BEEP
F3 - activate CHAT (can be used at any time irregardless of F1 setting)
F4 - IMMEDIATE FLUSH. purge the caller and reset EAM for next call.
It is suggested that you execute a program such as CRTSAVE to auto-
matically turn off the crt screen in the event that there is no
terminal activity. This will prevent the BURN-IN that could occur
if the same screen image is displayed for a length of time.
A batch file might consist of the following statents:
BASICA ANSWER ... or simply "ANSWER"
if you are using the compiled version
Enjoy this most useful little software offering! This program is
copyrighted, but it may be distributed in any media, provided that:
1. You do not alter or remove the REM statements out of the
source code or alter the documentation in any way.
That you include BOTH answer2.bas + answer2.doc in whatever
media is chosen for distribution.
2. You do not DISTRIBUTE a modified version of this code. If you MUST
modify the software,... use the accepted practice of creating a
MERGE file to contain your changes. In this way... any bugs which
are fixed or new feature which are to be included can be done in a
reasonably maintainable fashion.
3. Charge no fees for the distribution of this software beyond the
minimal charge ($4 maximum) for a distribution diskette.
If other programs are included on the diskette, do not charge
more than once for the distribution diskette.
If you would like to receive free updates of the program,
send a donation ($20 is suggested for private use, $20 minimum for
commercial or corporate usage is mandatory) to:
4022 Tanglewood Rd.
Snellville, GA 30278
Call: ZAP!-BBS (404) 972-3458
Supporting ASCII & XMODEM downloads
at 2400/1200/300 baud 24-hrs/day
Please also send me any changes you would like to make in the program,
I'd really like to see what you people do with it. Please send any
submissions for updates in TEXT to the Data Number listed above.
E-Mail Fredric L. Rice / The Skeptic Tank