modems added to the ice floe

I added a couple telebit trailblazers to the ice floe a couple days ago, and tonight my US Robotics courier HST.

My father purchased a Kyocera 1200 bps modem for our family’s Leading Edge model D, with the hope that my mom could use it for her transcription and word-processing business. I used it to call BBSes. It took at least a year before I figured out how to get file transfers working with the included Microsoft Access comm program. (Not Microsoft Access the database — Access the comm program!) I downloaded Procomm with the Xmodem-checksum protocol, then later Telix (with Zmodem).

I saved my paper route money to buy a 2400bps modem. I did ANSI. I ran a BBS. I saved more paper route money and got at 14.4k courier HST through a local sysop of a large multi-line BBS. In the early 90s it was cheaper for me to call across the country in the middle of the night with a budget long-distance provider than to call to the more remote areas of my own area code, but that’s the subject of another post…

When I arrived in college, the sysadmin there knew I had run a BBS, beckoned me to the the sub-basement, and handed me a Xylogics terminal server. “You can make this work, right?” I first configured it to replace the old Cisco STS-10, providing direct text logins for students and alums. I opened up PPP connections a couple months later, and wrote an awk script to parse the log files and identify freeloaders. As a staff member, I of course never showed up on the freeloader list, even though I left my connection up 24/7, phone line connection permitting.

During a year break from college, I was employed at a large regional ISP as a system operator, junior to the sysadmins. I did the grunt-work of hard-resetting (yanking and re-seating) failing modems from the 800+ lines in our local POP, and directing our field guy to busy-out or replace modems that appeared to be broken at the frame-relay-connected remote POPs.

A couple years later I replaced my nailed-up V34 modem with a DSL connection, first CAP and later DMT. When the telco started interfering with their own DSL connections and the combination of video streaming and work-related VPN needs started outstripping DSL, I moved to a cablemodem.

I originally kept my modems with the intent of setting up a backup UUCP connection for my email, as I had provided others in college. Since moving jobs to corpoland, I no longer have control over a remote PSTN line, so can’t set up my own out-of-band UUCP connection. I no longer have a POTS line at home. I suspect that modems over VOIP do not fare well, although V.MOIP is supposed to address this. In any case, the sunset on modems designed to work over the PSTN has long since passed, and so it’s time to say goodbye.

I don’t even have another HST modem to dial in order to capture handshake audio, and a cursory search on the internet doesn’t reveal any such recordings. My HST has spent over a decade in a box, and the last time I fired it up, the NVRAM was completely shot, and it’s not like I have anywhere to dial anymore.

The option of simulating old tyme internet over a serial connection is always available by using a null modem cable. Latency will obviously be better, but it’s just a simulation. screeching handshake not included.

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