I get the impression that at one time Delphi was more popular among the online crowd than it is now. After some time in the doldrums, that popularity seems to be returning, due in part to Delphi's competitive pricing and full Internet access.
Yes, you heard me right. Delphi -- alone of the commercial services -- boasts full Internet access. You can telnet in and out of Delphi and access remote FTP sites to your heart's content. Email in and out works just fine, and you can even read news there. What a deal! There's not really much point in talking about Telnet, FTP, and Gopher here because I cover those subjects from the command line in the next chapter. So keep reading if you want to find out how to use the Internet tools on Delphi.
Other advantages? Hmm, because Delphi is completely connected to the Internet, email in and out should be as fast as possible. Also, like BIX, Delphi has an Internet Special Interest Group that talks about the Internet and the resources you can find on it. This is a big help for a newcomer.
Delphi suffers from two problems in my estimation, though you may not agree with me on either. First, it appears that Delphi found it easy to add full Internet access, because it runs a custom menu-based system on top of DEC's VMS operating system, which is in relatively common use on the Internet. I'm not terribly fond of VMS, having had some bad experiences trying to use it in college, and Delphi's menu-based system is truly weird in places (especially in the file libraries). So, when I log in to Delphi, I either see a custom menu system I don't much like or an operating system that irks me. Those irritations are of course due to personal preference, and you may feel differently. Many people like VMS just fine, and most of them manage to fit into normal society with only a little effort.
Second, Delphi has no decent graphical interface. I can't pretend that CompuServe's menu interface is any better or worse than Delphi's; that's not the point. However, WinCIM is a perfectly reasonable graphical window into CompuServe, and Delphi is hurting in this respect.
Delphi has just announced, though, that it plans to offer a graphical interface sometime in the summer of 1995, not by creating a custom program like WinCIM or AOL, but by making the entire service one big World Wide Web site and giving users a Web browser for access. This is a bold move on Delphi's part, and could prove extremely interesting, especially since it expects to offer full SLIP and PPP accounts for users to be able to access the Delphi Web site.
Like BIX, Delphi doesn't do anything strange with addressing. You can send email to an Internet user by using her Internet address instead of the Delphi address in Delphi's mail program (which, for you minicomputer buffs, is almost exactly like VMS mail). If you want to send email from the Internet to someone at Delphi, simply append @delphi.com to the Delphi userid. My address on Delphi looks like firstname.lastname@example.org.
For information on connecting to Delphi, call 800-695-4005. Monthly rates are either $10.00 for four hours of use, with extra hours at $4.00 each, or $20.00 for 20 hours, with additional hours at $1.80 each. If your account has an Internet connection, you are charged an additional $3.00 per month. Delphi often offers five hours free so that you can try out the service, so ask about the current deal when you call. Delphi tends to advertise its Internet access heavily, but considering how much better (and, if you're a heavy user, cheaper), a WinSock-based SLIP or PPP account at many providers is these days, I wouldn't crow so loudly.