Back in the early 90′s, Ethernet was but a young networking pup, battling it out with IBM’s token ring for the emerging ‘office LAN’ market.
As a computer networking instructor for 3Com UK and BICC Data Networks, I had the fun job of giving tech training courses on both of these technologies, as well as for the company’s own products.
Occasionally, our small team would be asked to hold a course overseas.
Being young, single and adventurous I had no problem in volunteering, and so got to see the interior of hotel conference rooms around the globe. Actually, it wasn’t all work; business class air travel was mostly fun and hassle free, the internet was merely a curiosity in business circles (this was pre Windows 3.1, as I recall it), international pagers were a luxury, and faxes from HQ were left waiting for you under the hotel door (along with the morning newspaper).
And that’s where a handheld ‘port modem’ from a company trading as ‘Datatronics’ changed my way of working.
The device in the photo is their Discovery 2400P port modem.
Here’s the techie feature list in action
This state-of-the-art modem delivered 2400 bps connectivity between my Compaq laptop and the company’s email server in the UK. Getting connected was the biggest issue as the modem-to-modem asynchronous communications protocols were quite unforgiving of line errors.
And there were many of those on an international line between Asia and Europe in those days. I can remember having the modem dial ten or more times before a connection was established, and even then the negotiation between server and mail client would often fail or time out.
Another problem was being able to even dial out from the hotel room phone socket, through its PBX system. Often the phone socket was inconveniently hidden behind a bedside drawer, or directly below the bed’s headboard. Once found, the next hassle was that my async RJ-11 cable either wouldn’t reach it, or the socket connector was of the wrong type. Carrying a box of international socket connectors and a modem breakout box became a road warrior’s lifeline.
Once connected, there was only a text-based email client protocol – no attachment or, heaven forbid, attachment files.
Those 2400 benefits per second
Despite these annoyances this portable modem became a real boon on my travels.
Now I could write a trip report and send it to my manager(s), get a reply overnight, and also keep in touch with some of the important training department projects. There was no need for expensive international faxes, where the risk of sending company confidential information was high.
I had become independent of the company’s HQ LAN network yet able to reach it when required. Admittedly, speed was not impressive but 2400 bits per second really did seem like the same in benefits gained.
Business trip communications for this globetrotting technical instructor was to change forever.
I’ve kept this modem all these years to remind me that what a product enables is far more important than how it actually performs.
B2B technology marketing rarely gets simpler than that.