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January 19, 2015

There’s Nothing Like Travel

Filed under: Main — Tags: , — admin @ 12:01 am

I don’t do a lot of work-related travel, not like some people I know. Still, several times a year, I find myself on the road. Having a nice hotel room is good. Restaurants are a plus. Wi-Fi is a necessity.

Back in the 1980s, I sported a laptop bag that had a hacker’s toolkit. It was basically a set of alligator clips and wires on one end. The other end was a standard phone jack. In order to get on the Internet in one hotel, I had to unscrew the phone wall plate and connect the alligator clips to the phone line. I could then plug in my laptop and use it’s modem. I felt like James Bond!

Actually, I felt like a dork: The wires were too short, so I had to lie on the floor to use the laptop and its modem. Worse: I really didn’t have any serious email to pick up. I probably paid $13 for the phone call back to my local ISP just to get a bunch of spam. But like many hackers, I did it because it was fun and I could.

In the 1990s and early 2000s, hotel rooms would come with “modem” jacks on the in-room phone. (I just checked the phone in my hotel room — where I’m writing this blog post — and it still has a “modem” jack for a dial-up connection.)

Starting in the 2000s, hotel rooms began featuring an Ethernet port. That was something! I really enjoyed finding that connection on the teensy work desk.

Yes, you had to bring your own cable, which I always did. Then the hotels started stocking 6-foot Ethernet cables in the closet, right next to the ironing board and iron.

Then came Wi-Fi.

Today, just about every hotel features Wi-Fi. The high-end hotels offer it free. Cheap-o motels charge you. The only problem with the Wi-Fi is that it’s often dreadfully slow.

The signal could be slow from all the connections. Even if my room, I had my phone, tablet, and laptop hooked up to the Wi-Fi. Imagine having some vacationers, complete with teenagers, phones for everyone, plus a few laptops and tablets. That’s a lot of connections!

The problem isn’t really the connections, but rather the throttling taking place on purpose. I noticed upon connecting that a proxy redirection thing was downloaded to my laptop. When I tried to open multiple browser windows, they all stopped working. So as long as I limited my connections, the system worked, albeit dog slow.

When I really needed a connection, such as working on Google Docs or doing something vital like reading Facebook, I tethered my phone’s 4G connection. That worked like a champ.

Still, the situation is far better than it once was. At least i’m not lying on the floor with alligator clips fussing over a 56Kbps dial-up service to read my weekly load of SPAM. Things have changed.


  1. At least in the US you were not at the mercy of BT and the court case that came attached to the screws of each phone socket!

    Comment by glennp — January 19, 2015 @ 12:53 pm

  2. I’m unaware of that court case. I looked up BT on Wikipedia and it listed only something about a patent on hyperlinks.

    Comment by admin — January 19, 2015 @ 1:00 pm

  3. Well back in the day when British Telecom was the only telecomms provider in the UK (they were effectively Government owned part of the Post Office until Maggie Thachter sold them, to people of my generation the line “If you see Sid tell ‘im” means something, Google it) they were hot on anyone plugging in anything to the network that was not BT approved and doing so if you were caught could lead to a cort case. Hence the most popular brand of Modem were the BT model. Back in the day the monopoly that BT had was what Bell got split up for…

    Comment by glennp — January 19, 2015 @ 1:26 pm

  4. Fascinating.

    I had to call the Phone Company (Bell) when I first connected my modem. The directions in the box said to do so. The kind operator was rather confused as to what I was doing. “Is it a fax machine?” “No.” It took a while. Then she basically said that they have no idea what’s connected to their lines and if we called a phone repair guy I should just disconnect and hide the modem. I never had to.

    Comment by admin — January 19, 2015 @ 1:45 pm

  5. By the way, these events happened before Bell switched to modular phone jacks. When I was a kid, phones were hard-wired to the wall. My Grandmother had phone with a four-prong connector, so they could be replaced (only by official Phone Company phones). Eventually, we went modular here in the US, which makes connecting things work a lot easier. But when the phones were hard-wired, you had to unscrew the wall plate to access the wires.

    Comment by admin — January 19, 2015 @ 1:47 pm

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