The Agony of Dialup

Another weekend, another computer…

My sister-in-law could use a computer, and my husband reminded me that we have a brick of a laptop, a Toshiba Satellite 1605CDS, lying around the house somewhere.

I found it, dusted it off, and inventoried it. Windows 98, 475MHz AMD K6-2 processor, 160MB RAM, 4GB hard drive (I love how the spec sheet says “4.3 billion byte hard disk drive”, as if bytes are more impressive than gigabytes!), and (ooh!) a modem. Weighs about 8 pounds. A perfectly respectable machine for someone who mostly does email.

It probably hadn’t even been turned on in two years; the virus definition was dated May 2001. And what kind of reponsible gift-giver would I be if I didn’t apply all the outstanding Windows security patches?

I start to remember why this computer was such a bargain in the first place – it has a passive matrix screen with maximum 800×600 resolution and the world’s stiffest eraserhead mouse. I rummage through the household Box O’ Computer Leftovers and find a nice Kensington Expert Mouse, with a serial cable and a serial to PS2 converter, clean it off, and plug it in. Works just fine. I decide it’s good for me (as a web designer) to stare at 800×600 for a while.

Time to get connected. I look up my ISP’s long forgotten dialup number, wince through the too-loud modem connecting boing-boings, find the Windows Update site, and start waiting. It’s been a long time since I’ve done this.

The first critical update takes 3 hours to download. The second critical update takes 2 hours, 9 minutes, but I manage to screw it up in the last 15 minutes by trying to do too much, and I have to do it again. The third critical update is DirectX 9.0, which of course I don’t need, but it’s only 273KB! It turns out that the 273KB is a little program that wants to download another couple hours worth of stuff.

Ok, Windows all happy now, how about virus definitions? One and a half megabytes, another half hour. I guess there’ve been a lot of viruses since 2001.

I try to develop new habits. Don’t have a driver for a USB memory key? Don’t try to download one, make the kids scour the house for the CD. Need to upgrade Adobe Reader and WinZip? Download them on another machine and copy the 10MB files on the memory key to move to the laptop.

Ten or twelve hours later, I set the timezone to Eastern Standard, try to hack the registry so that Office thinks it’s registered to my sister-in-law (didn’t work) and pack it up.

That was fun. Forget single payer healthcare, how about universal free broadband for everyone?


1 Comment

  1. sandra

    Dialup blows. That’s all I have at home. And yeah, I’m with you on the broadband thing! That’s dedication though. :)


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