Let the Computer Do Your Dialing

LAWRENCE J. MAGID is a Silicon Valley-based computer analyst and writer

The recent strike at Pacific Bell and other regional phone companies made it very difficult to reach directory assistance in many areas of the country. In my case, it wasn't a major problem because I have my own "directory assistance" on both my IBM compatible computer and my Apple Macintosh.

A number of programs allow you to look up telephone numbers, addresses and, in some cases, fax numbers of businesses and government institutions throughout the country. Hot Line Two, PC Yellow Pages and the Fortune 500 Prospector can be used on IBM and compatible machines. Macintosh users, whose units can be equipped with a compact disc drive, have access to information from more than 110,000 companies via the National Directory of Addresses and Telephone Numbers.

A compact disc drive is an optional add-on device using discs similar to those in audio systems that, unlike regular disk drives, can only be used to retrieve information.

Hot Line Two, published by General Information Inc., is a telephone dialing program that comes on disks with a directory of phone numbers and addresses for more than 10,000 companies, government agencies, universities and other medium to large organizations. Hot Line Two can also be used for your personal directory; it stores up to 64,000 listings.

InfoPacks Focus on Specific Industries

The program can be used even while your computer is running other programs. Locating a company through a search takes a couple of seconds at most. Once the program finds the number, the user presses a key to have the program dial the phone, if your computer is equipped with a modem.

Regardless of whether you use the national listings, Hot Line is a handy phone management program. It allows you to automatically dial the lengthy access codes that some long-distance companies require and is able to dial numbers directly off the PC screen, even if they are stored elsewhere such as in a word processing or database management program. It can also keep a record of outgoing calls.

In addition to the basic directory, General Information sells special sets of disks, called InfoPacks, that focus on particular industries. InfoPacks are available for advertising/public relations/media, colleges and universities, computer/high tech, finance, travel and the Department of Defense. The company also publishes a disk with 14,000 toll-free numbers.

Hot Line Two stores its data in the same format as Ashton-Tate's best-selling database program, dBase III. In addition to using Hot Line Two to dial the phone, you can use its data files with dBase or any of the many programs that read dBase files. That would be handy for those who want to use the data for mass mailings.

The data from Hot Line Two and the various InfoPacks is excerpted from General Information's National Directory, a printed book that contains information on more than 110,000 businesses and organizations. The printed version is available for $54, which includes shipping.

Hot Line Two sells for $99.95 from General Information Inc., 401 Park Place, Suite 305, Kirkland, Wash. 98033. Phone (800) 722-3244.

Hot Line Two runs only on IBM compatibles, but Mac users with a compact disc drive can get the National Directory of Addresses and Telephone Numbers. The data comes from General Information, but the compact disc and Macintosh software is a product of Xiphias, a Marina del Rey company that specializes in entertainment and business software for the compact disc market. Like Hot Line Two, the software that comes with Xiphias' version of the National Directory can be used to dial the phone once it has located a number.

Because the directory is stored on compact disc, there isn't the same space limitation as on a floppy disk-based product. In addition to more than 110,000 phone numbers and addresses, it includes fax numbers from about 80,000 companies, according to Xiphias President Peter Black. The fax numbers, according to Black, can be accessed by the software that controls a Macintosh's fax modem, making it possible to generate and send your own mass fax mailings.

Listings can be selected by name, location or type of organization. That makes it possible to use the data to create customized phone or mailing lists. The program can print mailing labels or save data in a format that can be moved to virtually any database management, spreadsheet program or some word processing systems on the Mac, IBM PC or any other computer.

Select by Type, Address

The compact disc has a suggested retail price of $195, but some dealers will sell it as part of a $245 three-disc package that also includes two discs from other companies. Xiphias can be reached at 13464 Washington Blvd., Marina del Rey, Calif. 90292. Phone (213) 821-0074.

Digital Publications of Norcross, Ga., sells several disc-based databases for personal computers. One of its products, PC Yellow Pages, features a database of toll-free phone numbers from 10,000 U.S. businesses as well as an additional customized list of 5,000 companies from your area with address and phone numbers.

Firms can be selected by name or type of business. The program, which sells for $129.99, also offers a database of Fortune 1,000 companies with addresses and names of chief executives. Like Hot Line Two, the program is able to dial the phone and accept additional listings.

The company also sells specialized directories designed for people who want to send advertisements or press releases via direct mail. The PC Press Assistant ($695) includes addresses for 5,000 trade magazines, newspapers, television and radio stations. Magazine listings include the type and size of the publication along with the name of the news editor. In many cases, it also includes fax numbers. It is compatible with Quadram's JT Fax board, making it possible to automatically fax press releases to editors.

The company also sells listings of wholesalers and manufacturers as well as customized mailing lists for particular regions of the country. Digital Publications can be reached at 5390 Peachtree Industrial Blvd., Norcross, GA 30071. Phone (404) 448-6881 or (800) 777-1470.

MZ Group, in cooperation with Fortune magazine, has published the Fortune 500 Prospector. Far more than a directory, the program and accompanying database allow you to identify key executives, sales information, profitability, assets, earnings and other information from both the Fortune 500 and the Service 500. Also included for each company are name, address, phone number, stock symbol, exchange, fiscal year end, industry classification and a brief description.

The program allows you to enter personal information on companies, including the names of contacts and company-specific tracking information such as follow-up dates or other notes. There are also three custom fields and a field for free-form notes. You can also add new companies to the database.

The program, which sells for $299, is available from MZ Group, 1388 Sutter St., Suite 612, San Francisco, Calif. 94109. Phone (800) 345-9111.

Computer File welcomes readers' comments but regrets that the authors cannot respond individually to letters. Write to Lawrence J. Magid, P.O. Box 620477, Woodside, Calif. 94062, or contact the L. Magid account on the MCI electronic mail system.

DIRECTORIES: THE SPECS

Hot Line Two

A memory resident program that dials your phone. Can create personal directory using 10,000 listings excerpted from National Directory that comes with program. Optional InfoPacks provide additional phone numbers and addresses for specific industries.

Requirements: IBM or compatible PC with at least 256K of memory. Requires 1.2 megabytes of hard disk space for 10,000-listing directory. Optional 5,000-listing directory with names and numbers only fits on floppy disk. Modem required to use auto dialing feature.

Bottom Line: Price: $99.95. InfoPack prices vary according to subject. Available from General Information Inc., 401 Park Place, Suite 305, Kirkland, Wash. 98033. Phone: (800) 722-3244

National Directory of Addresses & Telephone Numbers

A compact disc that contains complete national directory with addresses, phone numbers and, in some cases, fax numbers for more than 110,000 companies, government agencies and institutions.

Requirements: Macintosh Plus, SE or II equipped with compact disc drive and copy of Apple's HyperCard (free with all Macintoshes). Modem required to use auto dialing feature.

Bottom Line: Price: $195. Available from Xiphias, 13464 Washington Blvd., Marina del Rey, Calif. 90292. Phone: (213) 821-0074

PC Yellow Pages

A directory of 10,000 U.S. businesses with toll-free numbers as well as additional 5,000 listings for local area.

Requirements: IBM PC or compatible with at least 512K of memory. Hayes-compatible modem required to use auto dialing feature.

Bottom Line: Price: $130. Available from Digital Publications, 5390 Peachtree Industrial Blvd., Norcross, Ga. 30071. Phone: (404) 448-6881 or (800) 777-1470. Digital Publications also publishes other directories, including PC Press Assistant and directory of wholesalers and manufacturers.

Fortune 500 Prospector

A database that provides sales, profitability, assets, earnings, names of key executives and other information from both the Fortune 500 and the Service 500.

Requirements: IBM compatible. Minimum of 512K (640K recommended), hard disk, DOS 2.0 or higher.

Bottom Line: Price: $299. Available from MZ Group, 1388 Sutter St., Suite 612, San Francisco, Calif. 94109. Phone: (800) 345-9111

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