Micronet 800

Early Micronet 800 Logo

Possibly the biggest, and certainly the most successful of the Prestel IPs (Information Providers). Micronet 800 was a partnership between East Midlands Allied Press and British Telecom.

Micronet main index, 1987

Launched in 1983 targeting Tandy, Apple, Sinclair ZX81, Dragon and RML-380Z machines, their core market quickly became users of the Sinclair Spectrum, BBC Micro and Commodore 64 – Not surprising, as these were the most successful home computers of the 1980s. A PC package was later available, too, but because of the limitations of the graphics on early PCs, was not very successful. An add-on graphics ROM was developed for fitting to some specific graphics cards, but may never have been released. By the time PC compatible machines supporting high resolution graphics became cheap enough to become the dominant computer in the home, the days of Micronet and Prestel were almost over. There were, however, some sofware terminals that supported viewdata layouts and one of these was made available by Micronet.

Initially Micronet 800 was intended to be in a traditional magazine style, with news pages, editorial, reviews, software etc. Quickly, however, the ability for readers to easily interact and give feedback to the writers quickly moved the service into a much more interactive and user-driven direction.

Whilst undoubtedly successful, compared to other online services, they never got anywhere near their original target of 100,000 subscribers.

Micronet was instrumental in popularising online communications with the first generation of Home Computer users. One of their more successful promotions was giving away free modems with a years subscription – made possible by their buying the stock of the collapsed Prism Microproducts at knock down price.

Together with Viewfax 258 and ClubSpot 810, they became part of the larger “Prestel Microcomputing” branding in mid 1984 whereby subscribers gained access to all three services.

Many special interest groups sprung up catering for different computers, activities, or even for rather undefined reasons!  Where Micronet didn’t support a machine or subject directly, they would often set up and grant editing rights to a section for volunteers to run.

Some of the member benefits are described below.

Benefits and Features

Although Micronet 800 was sold as it’s own service, it operated as part of Prestel, so subscribers got access to all the general Prestel features and services, as well as access to all other information providers on the platform.

Micronet’s news service was quite literally up-to-the minute. When lead times on traditional magazines was measured in weeks, Micronet could have stories up within minutes of the news breaking.

With specialised news sections for the various microcomputers popular in the UK, many users made this their first port of call on accessing the service.

Downloadable software was a obvious feature, and featured heavily at launch. No longer did you have to spend hours typing in listings; you could click a button and have a program ready to run within moments!

Downloadable software was an obvious feature, and featured heavily at launch. No longer did you have to spend hours typing in listings; you could click a button and have a program ready to run within moments!

Many programs were submitted by, and bought from, the users themselves. There were some more general commercial releases available, but these were limited by the lack of copy protection available on the files once they were saved.

Gallery was a section where any user could rent their own page and publish what they wanted . Within reason.. one of the daily THD tasks was monitoring user submissions as they were uploaded in order to quickly remove any “problem” pages..

The editors of several Micronet specialised areas started out publishing through Gallery.


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