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Tuesday 20 January 1998

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Wantree sells rights to RemoteAccess package


ONE of Australia's oldest Internet software companies, Wantree Development, has sold its RemoteAccess networking package to an American developer.

Last month, the Perth-based developer sold RA's source code for an undisclosed sum to a former beta tester after its creator, Andrew Milner, lost interest.

The worldwide rights were bought by Bruce Morse, system operator for My Private World BBS in Haverhill, Massachussetts. Morse won the rights following an online auction that began in April.

In 1990, when the fastest modems trickled a mere 2400bps across twisted-copper phone lines, RA was the package a networked few were most likely to use to pick up their e-mail or chat with other users.

But the onslaught of the Internet in the past three years saw BBSs close shop and RA's fortunes falter even while the author struggled to remake the software for a new market - Internet Service Providers.

"I felt it would be better to sell it to someone who would continue to develop it and support the existing customer base."

Morse said his first task was to change the code to reflect its new ownership. "Some have expressed relief that progress is again being made on their favorite BBS software."

The DOS-package was completed while Milner was studying as an undergraduate at Perth's Curtin University. Development grew out of an early attempt to write a BBS program for the Amiga and later frustration with another package, QuickBBS.

RA quickly attained cult status with the operators of bulletin board systems around the world (BBSs were the forerunner of today's ISPs). At one time RA was the most popular commercial BBS software in Australia and Europe and the third-most popular overall in the world. Clients included Creative Pacific, the federal Government and hobbyists. At its peak, there were more RA BBSs in Australia than there are ISPs today.

Updates to RA were released regularly over the next five years, including a version that helped BBSs re-invent themselves as ISPs.

An extensive distribution system was established in the main markets of Europe and the US. It is estimated that at one time there were more than 30,000 BBSs around the world using the package.

But in 1994, Wantree's focus shifted from BBS software to the emerging market in Internet access provision. Development ceased even as sysops clamored for fixes to serious problems. It is understood that the program suffered a serious case of the Millennium Bug.

In 1996, a US distributor planned to release a 32-bit version that would take advantage of new Internet technologies, 32-bit operating systems and high-speed modems. But disagreements with the author called a halt to development.

A 32-bit Windows clone of RemoteAccess, tcRA32, being developed by an unrelated company should be available by the end of the year. Morse hopes his revised official RA will be ready before then.

Wantree Development continues to provide Internet access to WA and SA.





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Copyright (c) David Syme & Co 1998.