Tuesday, June 07, 2005


After a particularly evil power surge last Saturday evening, our three-year old modem finally keeled over and died. This was definitely a very remarkable event in a household of three Internet users and one unlimited-usage account. The cries and lamentations started not five minutes after we found it the next morning:

"What do you mean, the modem's busted?"

"I can't connect. Did you forget to pay the Internet bill again?"

"Maybe it's the plug. Check and see if the plug is loose." And so forth.

About an hour later, we finally accepted the fact that the overworked modem was irretrievably kaput, and relegated ourselves to an entire day of cold turkey. (A season's worth of CSI on DVD helped us immensely, though.)

The problem with computer hardware is that its very lifecycle almost certainly involves a lose-lose scenario for me. If I get a component that works perfectly, I have to go through all the trouble of installing it and checking to see if its operation somehow poses a danger to life and limb. If I'm unlucky and get something that conks out after a few uses, I have to spend an entire day complaining to the salesman and getting it replaced, after which I still have to install it.

Frankly, hardware doesn't like me, and I don't like hardware. The hatred is mutual.

Adding to the agony of finding a new modem was the canvassing process. If you've ever bought a computer, then you know what I'm talking about -- you can't just waltz into the first place you see and expect to buy your stuff there. You literally have to slog through multiple dealers and retailers, ask them if they carry the component you're looking for, try to see what the difference is between all the available models, and compare all the prices you can find.

And, since anyone only really buys new hardware every two or three years or so, you can never get a good recommendation on what model to buy. Do you plop down your month's salary on an expensive hunk of junk, or lay down a pittance for what might be an even bigger shard of rusting metal? I wasn't able to find anyone who was selling anything similar to our old 3Com modem, and I had to make a quick pick between a money-burning US Robotics model and a weird-looking made-in-China DLink unit. (I took the latter, and ended up lugging it all the way back to the office.)

While the more progressive versions of Windows have made the hardware installation process much easier for the layman, there was still the matter of plugging in the new modem through a maze of wires and outlets. The region behind our PC is a tangle of frayed cables, superheated transformers, and dust motes. Trying to trace the origins and terminals for each component there was like looking for Dr. Livingstone in the middle of the Amazonian jungle.

After I crawled my way out of said jungle, I finally reached for the modem and flicked the "On" switch. No result.

I turned it off and then turned it on again. Still nothing.

Oh, wait. I reached for the plug, yanked it out, reversed the poles, and stuck it back in again. This time it worked just fine. Stupid plug.

It took me a few minutes of fiddling with the system setup before I had the new modem purring like a kitten. By that time, though, I was dirty, tired, and a little frustrated at the effort. That, and I still had to clean up.

We gave the old modem a nice little send-off in the backyard garden. Or not.

In reality, we just stuffed it into the back of a closet along with the old components we've had conk out on us over the years. I've never understood why we haven't sold any of them, or why we haven't thrown any of them out yet. All that I do know, however, is that I could almost swear that I could hear them laughing as I closed the door.

1 comment:

cstiu said...

If worn out and miserably goner hardware stays in the closet for months on end, I'd rather grab it out and take it apart. I've always been facinated with the inner workings of daily used appliances and hardware, and seeing that I recently have my Ixus II digital camera clonking out on me and no hope of redemption (having it fixed will cost me enough to buy a new camera, so never mind) I've had the camera sent off to my boyfriend who's had more experience at tinkering inside mechanisms than I am. If anything else I could always blame him for ruining any hope of reviving my camera. But then again, after his attempt, I'm currently trying to get hold of it again so that I can do the tinkering myself.. maybe I'll have more luck... or NOT. If anything else, you'd have a good learning experience on how things work.. and maybe you'd have more success fixing it next time when a similar hardware clonks out.