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Connect to the World Wide Web with your Vintage Micro!

Want to use your old TRS-80, or other Vintage Micro to retrieve your email...  this is how. - by: Brian K. Hahn


Many believe that the World Wide Web was an

invention of Microsoft,  IBM, or Apple.  Because

of this myth it is believed that only machines that

use the standard Windows or Macintosh GUI can

access the Web.  Even Linux had a shaky start

a few years ago in getting that support. But the

real truth is that the WWW was created by

merging many technologies together, many of

which were developed under the UNIX system. 


This my fellow vintage enthusiast, is why we are

able to use our Tandy's, TRS-80's, Commodore,

Brother or any old computer to access the web. 

I could end this discussion by pointing you in the

right direction by stating that all you need is a

dial-up account, and a terminal program on your old machine.  That would be not only too little information but also

nothing more then a teaser.  UNIX is the system that allows us the capability.


Essentially logging onto the internet is very simple.  All dial-up accounts access the same way.  They all have the

standard handshake using a Hayes Compatible modem, and once connected your are prompted for a user name

(your email name) and password.  Once you are online, if you access the internet with your standard terminal

program, the cursor in many cases will just blink before your eyes.  But what is needed is to set-up your terminal

program to emulate a VT-100 terminal, and the big thing here, is your dial-up account provider MUST be using a

UNIX server.  The good news is that approximately 50% of Providers are still using UNIX.


To test this out, it took a simple phone call to all the providers in our area.  I found a few providers both free and

monthly fee, which provide dial-up shell accounts.  I signed up a UNIX Shell account with Edmonton FreeNet

(Edmonton Community Network). They are using UNIX, and they still allow access under 9600 baud.  Most vintage

micros have a older UART chip governing their serial ports, and in those cases, especially with the TRS-80 Model 4,

if you access at a faster baud rate, you run the risk of loosing a few bits and bytes along the way.


Once you have logged onto the NET using your VT-100 terminal program and have entered your name and password

when prompted, you can view directories, access email using the UNIX command line.  This is where you need to do

some reading, but for our purposes we will provide you with some standard commands in this article.



Essentially there are two types.  The best and cheapest account to acquire is a UNIX shell account.  This is the

most desirable for vintage users who do not have an MS-DOS operating system.  The main reason is the lack of VT-

100 emulation development out there for our trusty TRS-DOS or LDOS systems.  The shell account also is cost

effective because for the most part you are not a resource burden on the provider.  For the most part a shell account

allows for standard UNIX commands, and you would use your system like a dumb terminal with a command prompt.

(See UNIX commands)   Fro there you could access email via the PINE program and newsgroups via the PICO

program. But the trip is to get one.  Many providers are dropping the shell - or (Text Only) accounts.


The second type of UNIX account, is a standard UNIX Dial-up, with FULL Access.  This is great for added features

such as web browsing, news groups in PICO and the PINE email program.  In this environment, the UNIX host

provides you with a BBS style interface.  Menus and prompts.  Although this is ideal for those in an MS-DOS

environment using a program like ProComm Plus or Telix where the VT-100 emulation is superb, it can make 'human

screen interpretation' difficult on a TRS-80 using a program like FastTerm II. This difficulty is a result of "odd"

characters appending themselves to LINKS, and other screen prompts. This is a result of incomplete writing of the

VT-100 code a TRS-80 VT-100 emulator. Probably dues to the RAM limitations of the machine.  But as we explore

this more, I am sure we will find a clean solution.  The account we used here at 8bit-micro is a full access UNIX dial-

up with FastTerm II and we found navigation not that difficult.



TRS-80 Model III LDOS VT-100



TRS-80 Model 4/4P - 64K RAM TRS-DOS/LS-DOS VT-100



TRS-80 Model 4/4P - 128K RAM TRS-DOS/LS-DOS VT-100



Tandy 1000 Series MS-DOS 3.2+ VT-100



INTERNAL HAYES Procomm Plus or Telix
TRS-80 Model 100 - 102 ROM BASED VT-100





Once you have a UNIX dial-up account, the modem connected to your vintage micro via serial port, and you have a

copy of your terminal program that emulates VT-100 with a dial-up interface, you will need to have a few UNIX

commands to get you started.  Remember practice makes perfect, so set-up your computer in a place where you

will not have to relocate.  Then, take the time to access the internet. 



When using UNIX to 'pull' your email from your provider, you must understand that when the email is sent to you it's

not magic, its just straight text.  For the most part, your windows based email software like Outlook, reads the text

as it comes in, and recognizes delimiters to separate fields such as the header and body of the message.  When

you receive it using a terminal program you don't have the 'assist' of a written application.  What we vintage nuts have

is "BUFFER ON" or "CAPTURE TEXT".  That's right, make sure you know how to capture the text streaming in and

save to the RAM buffer.  My TRS-80 Model 4 is a 128Kbyte machine so I can save quite a bit of text before I have to

save it to disk.  This makes receiving SPAM not such a pain, but if your provider has a feature to filter SPAM you

may want to take advantage of it.



Although most vintage micro users will not download programs, packets of text may be available.  If these packets

are binary, your terminal program will require either Xmodem or Kermit protocols.  Fasterm II has Xmodem, and you

can visit Ira Goldklang's Revised Site for a Kermit or a Zmodem protocol program . 



If you are a collector, chances are your not a novice and you already know how to use some older DOS

environments.  UNIX is very much like DOS, but many commands are abbreviated.  Currently under works here at

8bit-micro, we are working on a "stay in resident' program for the TRS-80 Model 4 under TRS-DOS 6.0 with UNIX

help available at a keystroke to be used with Fasterm II.  Other micros, have the ability to emulate a VT-100

terminal.  See chart for cross-references.


Many of these commands require high permissions when online, but we include them here for information purposes.

For those that have a grip on MS-DOS, to assist in understanding the UNIX command we compare DOS with UNIX



Directory dir ls
Copy a file         copy <file1> <newfilename> cp <filename> <newfilename>
Copy files copy <filespec> <newlocation>  cp <filespec> <newlocation>
Rename a file       ren <filename> <newfilename> mv <filename> <newfilename>
Move a file         move <file> <newlocation>      mv <file> <newlocation>
Move files          move <filespec> <newlocation>  mv <filespec> <newlocation>
Delete a file       del <file>                     rm <file>
Make a directory    md <dirname>                   mkdir <dirname>
Delete a directory  rd <dirname>                   rmdir <dirname>
Change directories  cd <dirname>                   cd <dirname>                  
Change to home Directory cd \                           cd ~ (See Further Explanation)
Read Mail           N/A                            pine
Read News           N/A                            tin
Edit a text file    edit <filename>                pico <filename>
List a test file    type <filename>                cat <filename>
Command help        help <command>                 man <command>


The ls command options:

  • -l  Long format - shows file size, owner, group and permissions

  • -C  Columns -  like the /w in Dos

  • -a  All file -  including "hidden" files that begin with a .

  •  -la All file in Long format

Keeping LS, Cat and other commands from going off the screen too fast.

  • add a

  • | more

  • after the command.

The ~ character in Unix

The ~ character in Unix, when used by itself, is the same thing as your

home directory.  If you place your userid after the ~, it is the same thing as

returning to your home directory of the userid.


Other Unix commands

ftp <remote server> File Transfer Protocol, login as anonymous and use your email address as the password.


FTP commands :

  • bin - sets ftp for binary files (.zip, .gif, .jpg, .exe, ect)

  • ascii - sets ftp for text transfers (.txt)

  • get <filename> - downloads file to your account.

  • put <filename> - uploads file from your account

  • mget <filespec> - downloads a bunch of files to your account

  • mput <filespec> - uploads files from your account

  • cd <directory> - change directory

  • telnet <remote server> [port #] Logs into a remote host..

  • lynx <URL Address> - Connects to the WWW using a text only interface, useful when you don't wish to wait

  • for images to download or cannot access a graphical web browser.

Other Commands

  • ?- Help

  • up - previous link

  • down - next link

  • Right, Enter - follow link

  • Left - previous topic

  • +, space - Next page

  • g - Go to a URL

  • a - Add to Bookmark file

  • v - View bookmark file

  • z - Cancel current transfer

Keep checking back for further articles on accessing the internet with a TRS-80 Model 4.  We will be including

screenshots of our Model 4 using several commands, and we will publish our email address that sends your

message to one of 8bit-micro.com's vintage computers.



(c) 2004, 2005, Brian K. Hahn

 All Rights Reserved.