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Newscast: The Ultimate Fix for News Junkies

By Bill Machrone

Forget the Eyewitness News Team. Your desktop computer can be far more informative than your television. Mainstream Data has been supplying its news terminals to companies since 1985. Major news feeds such as Dow Jones, Associated Press, Knight-Ridder, Comtex, Business Wire, and PR Newswire arrive without wires by satellite dish or FM subcarrier. Now Mainstream Newscast for Windows lets you select, cut, paste, and monitor stories as they happen, as long as can afford the almost $2,500 price tag.

The pizza shaped box-size Mainstream Data receiver connects to your PC via serial cable. You can see a window of headlines and the wire services they're coming from. You can set up your own keyword criteria for individual subject categories, and each subject its own window of headlines.

As far as Windows Programs go, this one doesn't have much going for it. Most operations can be
performed only by a mouse, which we found to be a disadvantage: Sometimes it's more convenient to use the keyboard. When you make changes in the program configuration, you have to force a save or risk losing the changes should your system hang.

newscast_pictur.GIF (28142 bytes)You can sort incoming stories by headline, news service, or date and time,which is sufficient for most purposes. The Quick Search facility finds any word or phrase, but it's hardly quick. After you launch a search, you get a blank window and a seemingly live cursor that does nothing. This looks to all the world like a program crash, but Quick Search returns with the retrieved stories if you're patient.

Mainstream Newscast is expensive. The satellite version costs $2,490, and the FM version is $500 less (both include installation and setup). That doesn't include subscriptions to the individual wire services, which can range from $10 per month for USA Today through $500 per month for DowVision.

After all this carping, you might think we didn't like Newscast. Yes, it's flawed and pricey, but it's also utterly addicting. If you need news in order to make better decisions, to keep an eye on the competition, or to keep your employees or coworkers informed, Newscast is invaluable.

The price is coming down, too. A new version is due this fall that will deliver the news you want in just as timely a fashion - for a much lower price.

List price:
Mainstream Newscast for Windows, $2,490 (satellite version); $1,990 (FM version). Requires: 2MB RAM, serial port, Micrsoft Windows 3.1. Mainsteam Data Inc., 420 Chipeta Way, #200, Research Park, Salt Lake City, UT 84108; 801-584-2800; fax, 801-584-2831.

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