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Plug into the world.

Picture yourself in your office late in the evening. Your only company is a cold cup of coffee and the cleaning crew--and that important board report, due tomorrow. You've rewritten it a dozen times, but it just isn't right. Things aren't flowing. You need more information. You lean back in your chair and contemplate a career change: perhaps wood carving.

Been there? Know any association executive who hasn't? It could be the answer to your problem is at your fingetips, providing you are using your personal computer to type the troublesome report. By dialing into your favorite computer information service (sometimes called an on-line data base or interactive service), you can get whatever you need without leaving your office.

Computers talk to each other, usually over telephone lines. By attacjing a telephone line to your computer using an inexpensive device known as a modem, an unlimited amount of information is available to you--day or night.

On-line data bases do more than provide information. I'm often asked, "What can you do on them?" The answer is, "What would you like to do?" How about checking on the latest legislative information affecting your association? Need to contact an expert in personal finance, health care, or government? Have a computer question? Want to make an airline reservation? Need to send a message by fax? Want to buy a facsimile machine? Want to read an artile from today's newspaper, or one from five years ago? Or how about play a game, buy stock, or shop for a car?

There are two types of on-line data base services. I think of them as general-purpose or specific-purpose. General-purpose on-line data bases let computer users do most of the things I mentioned. Specific-purpose on-line data bases provide information on subjects more limited in scope.

Two general-purpose on-line data bases that are considered standards in the industry are Compuserve and Prodigy. Although each data base offers similar services, Prodigy is considered a little more user friendly but offers more limited services. Compuserve, which is also pretty user friendly, is expansive both in terms of the information it offers and the number of subscribers: more than 500,000.

One major difference between the two services is their pricing structure. Compuserve has a minimum $2 monthly charge and charges a per-minute rate while you are connected. Its pre-minute rates are about $.21, which sounds low but can really mount up. Prodigy is a flat $12.50 per month no matter how much time you use.

Legislate--a comprehensive data base containing information on legislative pending in Congress--is one of the most useful specific-purpose data bases for associations. It tracks the status of each bill--who sponsors and supports it--and provides summaries of legislative. Legislate costs $12,000 annually--it's not for use by your basic home hobbyist.

A great way to get started with an on-line data base is to rap into one of the standard general services and find out what it offers. Who knows, maybe the next time you're pounding out that board report late in the evening, you'll be able to finish early enough to get home to see the late innings of the All-Star game. And if not, at least you'll be able to dial AP sports and find out who won it.

And while you're at it, drop me a line: Compuserve 73577,3501. I'm always in.

Questions Answered

As promised, I will begin answering questions submitted by readers of ASSOCIATION MANAGEMENT. Here is our first question, followed by my response.

Question: I purchased a software package named Surpass, which is a Lotus 1-2-3 V3.0 look-alike. I would like to transfer my worksheet files from Surpass to Lotus 1-2-3 V3.0. Do you have any suggestions? I need to keep formulas in the cells when I transder the files.

Answer: Surpass was a feature-rich spreadsheet system that, according to many analysts, actually did surpass Lotus 1-2-3 in its prime. Borland International, Inc., Scotts Valley, California, purchased Surpass in 1989 and incorporated many of its functions into the Quattro Spreadsheet product line.

One of the many reasons Surpass was rated so highly was that it contained many of the features that eventually were to be found in Lotus 1-2-3, release 3. However, Surpass was written before Lotus 1-2-3, release 3. As a result, it does not write files in release 3 format.

Surpass writes data to Lotus 1-2-3, release 2 format (WK1 files). Lotus 1-2-3, release 3 will read these same files. Therefore, I suggest savings your Surpass files in .WK1 format and then reading these same files with Lotus 1-2-3, release 3. This will transfer data and formulas. It will not transfer links between spredsheets. There is no way to transfer these links, since they were not supported by any Lotus release prior to 3.

Borland no longer carries or supports Surpass, although I was able to locate some software dealers who had copies in stock. According to Borland, there is no trade-in available to upgrade from Surpass to one of its Quattro products. You may reach Borland on Compuserve by typing "Go Borland" at any prompt. You cannot reach Borland on Prodigy.

Steven L. Harrison is director of information management systems at the American Nurses Association, Kansas City, Missouri.
COPYRIGHT 1991 American Society of Association Executives
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1991, Gale Group. All rights reserved. Gale Group is a Thomson Corporation Company.

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Title Annotation:business use of on-line data base or interactive service
Author:Harrison, Steven L.
Publication:Association Management
Date:Jul 1, 1991
Previous Article:Compassion and compromise.
Next Article:Responding to recession.

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