dial-up experiences (was Re: question aaout ISP's)

Ethan Dicks ethan.dicks at usap.gov
Thu Aug 7 17:02:43 CDT 2008

On Thu, Aug 07, 2008 at 05:30:09PM -0400, Keith M wrote:
> I didn't miss the 300 baud era.  I remember my first modem was a "direct 
> connect" 300bps model sold by radio shack.  It had an "answer or 
> originate" switch, along with a big red button that said "Connect." 
> Push the button, carrier was activated.  No Hayes command set, no ATDT, 
> no autodialing, nothing.  You needed to dial manually, listen for 
> carrier, push the button, and hang up.  I used a 4th-hand pulse phone, 
> because that's all my parents had to give me.

That sounds fancier than the VIC Modem... that one didn't even connect
to the wall directly - you picked up a regular phone, dial or touch-
tone, dialled your number, waited for carrier, and, this is the tricky
part, before the far end disconnected, you had to detach the coiled
handset cord from the receiver and plug it into the modem.  I probably
had about an 80%-90% success rate without having to dial again.

It made the modem cheap, but a bit fiddly to use.  If phones had been
cheaper then, it might have made sense to scrap one out and make a
simple switch-box, but I never had the parts on hand to try it.
> It connected to my TRS-80 Color Computer II, which had 16k of ram.  The 
> TRS80 only had 32 columns, where the Commodore-64 and PC's had 40 at the 
> time.  I dealt with half-wrapped lines for years.

Ow... 40 col was bad enough... I can't imagine 32.  I think that would
have screwed up lots of the message boards and online games I used to
use in those days.
> So I dialed upwards of 100 BBS's in Pittsburgh, all thanks to unlimited 
> metro calling, the package Bell Atlantic offered at the time.  I knew 
> every exchange in the 412 area code, where it was located, and whether I 
> could call it for "free."
> This was early 80's.  Compuserve offered trial accounts which you could 
> get via magazines, from other BBS's, etc.  I remember the userid's were 
> always 6 (maybe 7?) digits, and the default passwords were two words 
> separated by a symbol.  Like, "wolf-rhyme" or "phone!warsaw" etc.

Right... I remember my first password... section%angry.  I don't
happen to remember my PPN, but it's on the address label on one
of my old CIS magazines.  I'm pretty sure that PPN was purged
long before I worked there in 2001-2002.
> I am a product of the 80's -- got interested in computers and modems 
> right when WarGames came out, along with Whiz Kids, if anyone knows that 
> show.  You'll never guess what I did during my teenage(and later) years? :)

Heh... I pretty much kept my nose clean back in those days, but I had
older friends who were quite a bit more reckless.  I don't know anyone
that ever built a blue-box, but some of the kids were big into wardialling.

One story from those days - I wasn't there to verify that it actually
happened, but it sounds plausible - was that one kid had use of the
family station wagon when he learned to drive - he piled an Apple II
in the back, with monitor and all, and parked behind a K-Mart by the
garden center, because they had two important resources near each other...
a payphone and an outdoor 110V outlet... he parked as close to the phone
as he could, plugged the computer in and used an acoustic coupler to
do his wardialling from the tailgate.  He was ready to unplug and go
if the authorities came sniffing around, but I don't think he ever got


Ethan Dicks, A-333-S     Current South Pole Weather at  7-Aug-2008 at 21:50 Z
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Ethan.Dicks at usap.gov            http://penguincentral.com/penguincentral.html

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