ATLANTA -- Karl Turzi has heard them all -- almost every conceivable question about setting up a computer to communicate over telephone lines.
That's his job at CompuServe: helping new customers. He deals with the obvious -- folks who forget to plug the computer's modem into a telephone line -- and is equally at home with the esoteric.
He agreed to share a few tips that will help you get connected to a bulletin board. Once you've set up your system correctly, you won't have to do it again. These tips apply to all computer communications, not just bulletin boards.
* Find the right port. Your modem -- the device that couples a computer and a telephone line -- hooks into what is called a "com port." You need to set your computer's software for the right port: usually 1, 2, 3 or 4. But you usually won't find a label on the back of the machine that identifies the correct com port.
"This is by far the most common problem," Mr. Turzi said. "The easiest way is just to guess. Set the software for com 1 first. If the computer fails to dial, try 2, 3 and then 4. You'll hit the right one in just a few minutes."
* Learn the lingo. Before the program -- called communications software -- that runs the modem will work, it needs some information. Luckily, if you have a standard 2,400-bit-per-second modem -- by far the most common -- the answers are easy.
"Almost all services use the same settings (ironically, CompuServe is an exception)," he said. "When you're asked for parity, tell it 'none.' Data length should be '8,' and stop bits '1.' The flow-control setting should be: 'XON/XOFF.' " (CompuServe is one of the few services that uses parity 'even' and data length '7.' Other settings would be the same as above.)
* Stop Call Waiting. If you pay for the telephone service named Call Waiting, you must turn it off. When you type in the number for your computer to dial, add 70 before the number to disconnect Call Waiting.