Let’s assume you have no cell phone coverage or can’t tether your phone to your laptop. If you were stuck in Egypt and had a land-line in your room, could you get on the Internet?
This is a question I’ve thought about over the past couple of days. As someone who wrote a comprehensive book on the subject 25 years ago, I wonder if I could manage.
For a number of reasons, I doubt if I could do it.
I use a laptop that has a built-in modem—one of the last from what I can tell—so that’s a start. However, I no longer bring anything else that would help me get online via the modem. I don’t carry the phone connection adapters necessary to hook into the local phone system, so I’d need some alligator clips, which I stopped traveling with 15 years ago (I’m not even sure where they are).
In the olden days, before the ubiquitous RJ-45 Ethernet connection and wireless connectivity, I used to travel with a “kit” that had all sorts of connectors, adapters, and cheats, including an odd miniature acoustic modem that you’d tie to the phone with a Velcro strap. Somehow, I could manage to get a connection anywhere in the world. I was notorious in my clique for this ability; my middle initial “C” stood for “connection.”
Nowadays, I mostly call the front desk to complain when the connection won’t work. I wonder how many travelers are prepared for a return to the dark ages of connectivity. The first thing I thought about when the reports of the Internet shutdown was “could I get connected?”
First of all, where would you call? I still have an AOL account, I think. I could call one of the AOL direct connection numbers, right? What are they? I’m sure not carrying them around. I used to have two or three files on my computer that listed a variety of connection phone numbers from AOL, CompuServe, UUNet, and perhaps a couple of others just in case. Those files are long gone and are probably useless now anyway. Don’t forget the communications software you’ll need to do anything via a modem connection. When is the last time you used communications software?
So I’m thinking that maybe I should revisit the modem just in case. Could I actually find a way to get online via a modem here at home? I’d have to dig through a lot of old stuff to manage this exercise. But watching these events unfold, it might be well worth doing just to be able to send and receive e-mail. A modern Web page will never work or load at whatever miserable speed I might get from dial-up in a back-water area. E-mail should be do-able though.
I did a column a few years back lamenting the fact that it’s almost impossible for today’s experienced user to manage his or her way using Windows 3.0. It’s arcane. I concluded that there is something weird about this computer technology. It’s NOT like riding a bike. If you don’t use these skills enough and continue to use them every so often, you will simply lose the ability to use them at all.
What would you do if you were stuck in Egypt and had to get online somehow?
Personally, I’d be looking for a train or a bus to neighboring Israel.