Modem Addiction

Did you know that last months (expletive) phone bill is over $450? my wife scolded me in her harshest, my-husband-the-child voice. Thats more than twice the monthly payment you make for that (expletive)computer! she continued as she escalated to screaming.

I confess! I confess! I sobbed. Im just an on-line junkie. Im addicted to my modem! I guess Ill just have to join Modems Anonymous before I owe my soul to the phone company. As a counselor for Modems Anonymous, I hear numerous variations of the preceding story every day. That insidious disease, modem fever, is exacting a tragically large toll from the cream of our societys computer users. Modem-mania is sweeping through the very foundations of our country and there seems to be no stopping it. This disease (yes, it is a social disease of almost epidemic proportions) is becoming a such calamity that soon theres even going to be a soap opera about on-line addiction named, All My Modems.

If you dont already own one of those evil instruments called a modem, take warning! Dont even think about buying one. Modem fever sets in very quietly; it sneaks up on you and then grabs you by the wallet, checkbook or, heaven forbid, credit cards.

Once you own a modem, you enter the insidious addictive trap by dialing up a friend who also has a modem. For some strange reason, typing messages to each other fascinates you. (Even if it is less than 10%of the speed that you can speak the same words over a normal voice phone link. )Of course, you make several attempts at hooking up before you finally figure out that at least one of you must be in the half-duplex mode; that discovery actually titillates you (sounds impossible, but its true).

Then your modem-buddy (friend is too good a term) sows another seed on the road to on-line addiction by giving you the number of a local RBBS (Remote Bulletin Board Service). Once you get an RBBS phone number, youve taken the first fatal step in a journey that can only end in on-line addiction.

After you take the next step by dialing up the RBBS your modem-buddy told you about, you find that its very easy to log-on. This weird form of conversation with an unattended computer is strangely exciting, much more so than just typing messages when youre on-line with your modem-buddy. The initial bulletins scroll by and inform you about the board, but youre too up to comprehend most of it. Then you read some of the messages in the message section and maybe, in a tentative manner, you enter one or two of your own.

Thats fun, but the excitement starts to wear off; youre calming down. Thinking that it might be worthwhile to go back and re-read the log-on bulletins, you return to the main RBBS menu.

Then it happens. The RBBS provides the bait that entices you all the way into the fiery hell of modem addiction. As you look at the RBBS main menu to learn how to return to the log-on bulletins, you find an item called FILES. By asking your host computer for FILES, you thread the bait onto the hook of corruption; the FILES SUBMENU sets the hook. You start running with the line when you LIST the files; you leap into the air with the sheer joy of the fight when all those public domain program title sand descriptions scroll by. Theyre FREE!!! All you have to do is tell the bulletin board to download (transmit) them to you. You download your first program and youre landed, in the creel, cleaned and ready for the cooking fires. In just 55 minutes after you logged-onto the board, youve downloaded six programs, one of them is Andrew Fleugelmans PC-Talk, version 3 (truly an instrument for evil).

BBS-LIST. DQC, which is also among the files you downloaded, contains a list of a great number of bulletin boards throughout the country. (Theres evil all around us, constantly tempting us!) You print the list and find about 60 RBBS phone numbers. (Have mercy on our souls!) The list also gives you the hours of operation, communications parameters and informs you about each boards specialty. You decide to try PC-Talk and use it to dial-up an RBBS about three states away. Since the line is busy, you pass the time entering all those RBBS phone numbers into PC-Talks voluminous dialing directory.

You try the number again — still busy. You think, Hey, theres one that specializes in Pascal programs. Maybe Ill try it. Its about half-way across the country, but its after 5pm and the phone rates have changed. It wont be too expensive.

The Pascal board answers. After 45 minutes youve downloaded another five programs. Then you call another board –only this ones completely across the country from California, in Florida. And so it goes on into the night . . . and the next night. . . and the next. . . . Some days it gets to you. You begin to feel the dirtiness of modem addiction, particularly when your wife makes you feel like a child by berating you for those astronomical phone bills — if she hasnt divorced you by then. Every time you sit down before your PC to do some work, you dial up another RBBS instead. If that ones busy, you call another, and another, until you connect. Then you feel OK, almost high. When you finally hang up, you still cant work; you can only dial up another RBBS.

Your downfall as an on-line addict is just another one of this societys terrible tragedies, such as polygamy or the compulsion to circle all the numbers on computer magazine bingo cards. Eventually your whole social life relies upon only the messages you find on electronic bulletin boards; your only happiness is the programs you have downloaded. (You never try any of them, you only collect them. )Hope exists, however. We, the dedicated but under-paid staff of Modems Anonymous, have done extensive research to find a cure for modem mania, which has been ruining hundreds of lives. And we have succeeded in our quest.

The cure is really quite simple, yet effective: Set up your own remote bulletin board service. Then all the other modem addicts will phone you, and their wives can nag at them about $450 phone bills, and you can find peace — at last.

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