Tuesday, October 29, 2019

Would You Like to Play a Nice Game of Chess?

The Internet is 50 years old today.

I showed up ... well not early, but in 1986, well before the Eternal September. By 1990 I had my first domain (which celebrates its 30th anniversary in February), which picked up mail from MIT via dial up UUCP.  But that's getting ahead of the story ...

In 1986, the Internet was a more innocent place, and for that matter the preferred network protocols were still in flex. Clarkson University had IBM 3270 devices, dedicated serial lines, Bisync lines (including to BitNET), a modem pool, an X.25 network, and that year the school added a MILNET link.  (Clarkson got assigned, which means it got the 25th class B network.)

One day in the staff area of the ERC, three of us were trying out the new MILNET link when the head of operations (an ex-Marine) walked by. He quipped, "Yesterday you were hacking into the X.25 HVAC sensors. What is it today, the Pentagon?"

The VM systems programmer turned around and said, "As matter of fact, yes!"

(We were, too, thanks to a DoD civilian family member who shall go unnamed.)

The head of operations quietly slipped away with an odd look on his face.

Friday, January 4, 2019

One ringy-dingy, two ringy-dingy

I bought my first modem, a Hayes SmartModem 2400, in the summer of 1985; I was returning for my third and final tour of duty at Clarkson and its dial up lines.

As they say, it's been all downhill since then.

In 1988 in Kingston (NY), I installed a second phone line for the modem. After I moved to Boston, use of the second line grew as I used UUPC/extended and its mail functionality to connect to the internet and my family in the early 1990's. For a short time in mid-1990's we had even three lines: a voice, dial-in modem, and a dedicated dial 56K PPP (Internet) Link.

Alas, UUCP and dialup in general lost the war to the always on Internet. The third line got dropped when we replaced dial up with our first cable modem in 1997 -- Katherine wrote about the glory of always-on high speed (for then) Internet in an early Wired issue.

But as our modem usage dropped, Katherine started working at home; she needed a business line, so need for the second line continued uninterrupted. Thus, though we have not relied on dialing a modem at home or on the road since long before we moved west, we have kept two landlines going on thirty years.

Over 30 years, things do change. Katherine's business communications has been moving from the telephone to mail, the web, and chat for years. The marketing robocalls now far outpace the few legitimate calls that Katherine gets on her business line; she has been talking about dropping it for years. 

Still, the two lines lived on. Until this week, that is.

Now, she is transferring the business telephone number to Google Voice; she'll forward that to her cell phone.

Line 2 now has no dial tone. I told our two-line wireless handset base station to not worry its little brain any more about line 2, and replaced the bulky two-line speakerphone I had on my nightstand with a (single line) Trimline.

But my last modem, a little Mac USB modem which is tucked away in the office closet having never been used for real data, ponders old Electric Light Orchestra:
"Okay, so no one's answering
Well, can't you just let it ring a little longer
Longer, longer oh, I'll just sit tight
Through shadows of the night
Let it ring forever more, oh ..." -- Telephone Line (Jeff Lynne)