|PHILATELY & COMPUTER |
| by Madhukar & Savita Jhingan |
What can a philatelist do with the help of a computer ?
How about an inventory of the collection and want list. There are several software available for this purpose. A few of these are My Stamps, World Philatelist, and Track it Stamps. While the first two are DOS based the last one runs on Windows. DOS is the most popular operating system for the PC (personal Computer) worldwide and in India almost all PC run on DOS. Windows is an add-on to DOS where it turns the plain text based computing of the DOS to a easier-to-use graphical environment. In the Windows environment most commands can be executed by a click on the mouse button unlike DOS where one has to remember the strange sounding names of the command and type these every time one wishes to start the program.
All the three software mentioned above are Shareware. The shareware is a unique concept in marketing the software. It is perfectly legal to copy and distribute the software and charge a reasonable amount, usually US $ 5 to 7, for the media (floppies) and the copying charges. If you like the software thus obtained you are required to pay a fee to the author of the software and in turn receive enhancement and support. Otherwise just delete the software from your computer.
DTP - Desk Top Publishing is one of the success stories of computer usage world over. A philatelist can use DTP software to create professional looking exhibit as well as pages for his collection. Commercial software available for DTP takes some practice to master and knowledge of printing techniques helps. However now software specially written for philatelic application are available. The main advantage is that you do not have to create a box every time you want to mark a place for a stamp or cover on the album page, as these software come with ready-made boxes of all sizes. In addition you can feed the sizes required by you only once . Two of these are - Album Pro and Stamp Album Page Designer both priced at about US $ 60.
With advent of Multimedia and popularity of CD-ROM disks and drives a whole new world for philatelic applications has opened up. Except Stanley Gibbons and Scott all other major and even smaller catalog publishers have released CD-ROM version of their catalogs. CD-ROM catalogs are easier to browse and you get the information required much faster. Also a CD-ROM normally has much more details than the normal printed copy.
And with the cost of CD-ROM recorders coming down it is now possible to have a CD-ROM of your own exhibit as a permanent record and for sharing it with other collectors.
Everybody today has heard of Internet. We will skip the details of what it is and how it works, and focus on what it can do for us. Firstly the majority of the e-mail traffic rides on Internet. As per a recent study about a million persons per month are joining e-mail services. A few of these are bound to be philatelists. This new medium of communication - e-mail has finally made inroads from academic circles to the real world. It is much more convenient and versatile than fax and at the same time much cheaper too. No wonder it has spread like wild fire. To be able to subscribe to the e-mail service one needs a computer, a telephone connection, a modem and the software. The modem is a device which connects your computer to your telephone line. Our own e-mail directory has over 1,000 e-mail addresses of the philatelists, societies, dealers, auction houses, exhibitions and post offices.
World Wide Web is to Internet what Windows is to DOS. In addition to provide a graphical environment it enhances Internets services manifold. The possibilities of its philatelic usage are endless. To give you a real life example have a look at Stamp Auction Central. This WWW site is hosting online auction catalogs form 30 auction houses. You get to see the catalogs, with all the illustrations, much before anyone gets it in the mail. As yet it can not accepts your bids online but this capability is being added and shall be functional very soon.
American Philatelic Society is sponsoring a World Wide Web Stamp Expo 96, the First virtual stamp show tentatively scheduled for December 1996. Participant from around the world can upload their exhibits. The show will be judged and awards will be presented. Anyone will be able view this show from their computers.
There are over hundred WWW sites known to us which are devoted to philately. We noted two which are maintained by Indians in the US.
Is there an India specific software ? Yes there is. Martin Blatt, Librarian of India Study Circle has developed India Post Offices Index. Currently in version 3, it lists over 27,000 Indian Post Offices upto 1947. It costs a reasonable ?42.50.
There is a society dedicated to the philatelic computing, appropriately named, Philatelic
Computing Study Group. PCSG has nearly 500 members in 18 countries. Annual membership dues are $15 for India which includes by air delivery of the quarterly The Compulatelist. More information can be had from PCSG, P O Box 5025, Oxnard, CA 93031, USA.
We sure would like to share the information on philatelic application of computers and urge all those who are interested to write to us. We shall be able to do more in-depth features and detailed reviews of new software in future. Before that we must know that you are interested, so write today and let us know.