Oldskooler Ramblings

the unlikely child born of the home computer wars

Archive for February 2nd, 2006

Computing Myth #2: Broadband only works with a new computer

Posted by Trixter on February 2, 2006

While this isn’t technically true, I can definitely see how this myth was formed. My father ran on a 486/66 with a modem from 1995-2001. In 2001 he got cable modem broadband, but his 486/66 was so slow that it couldn’t process complex web pages much quicker than it already was, so he saw no actual speed benefit. So he went back to the modem, at which point I almost lost it (“How can you want to go slower?!”)

Later he upgraded to a Pentium 3 @ 450MHz, and could finally perceive the modem as a bottleneck.

Ironically, two years later, I did the same type of thing (downgrade powerful hardware): Through a telephone conversation mix-up, I agreed to reserve and purchase a Yamaha snowblower — and when I got there, I had reserved the wrong one. What I thought was going to be a $600 18- or 24-inch blower was actually a $1300 36-inch semi-industrial model. I was coerced into buying it because renigging on the reservation meant I would be charged $50 because these things were in demand in the middle of winter. So I bought it to avoid the fee, took it home, opened the box, took one look at it and knew I could never use it for my tiny driveway without being embarrased (it wouldn’t even fit in my garage with both cars), and proceeded to box it up and return it. On that day, a snowstorm began. As I’m returning this monster snowblower, I get a goofy look from the kid helping me; when I inquire, he says, “I’ve just never seen anyone return a snowblower in the middle of a snow storm!”.

Posted in Family, Home Ownership, Technology | 5 Comments »

Computing Myth #1: Software cannot damage hardware

Posted by Trixter on February 2, 2006

Oh yes it can. Here’s a story for you: In my teens, I had a friend who got the IBM 5155 (the Portable Computer — you know, the heavy luggable one with the monochrome CRT monitor inside it) from a Computerland. He was screwing around with POKE in BASIC and POKE’d a value somewhere into CGA-land, saw some pretty squiggles for about 3 seconds, then poof and we smell the familiar smell of ozone. We went back to Computerland, but they told him that there was no way that software could have damaged hardware and they weren’t going to repair it (thinking that he had dropped it or something). So my friend, with salesman watching with one eye from across the room, walks over to another one on display, takes the diskette out, boots into BASIC, writes a 1-line program, and poof, ozone, and no more monitor. Salesman didn’t quite know what had happened, so my friend walked over to another one on display and does it again, but steps aside so that the salesman can see it this time.

Let me tell you, I’ve never seen an overweight, balding, 50+yr old move so fast. He sprang like a gazelle toward us and for a second I thought I was going to get the crap beaten out of me. Thankfully, all he did was yell, about how we were going to have to pay for that, etc. This got the attention of the manager, who came out and said they’d honor the warranty and fix his machine if the kid would stop blowing up all the IBM 5155 monitors in the store.

Posted in Technology | 29 Comments »