Why was the modem down? Let us count the ways. And phone lines

Was the idiot behind this phone call managing your money?

On-Call Welcome again to On-Call, our regular reader-contributed tales of the jobs they've been asked to do at unpleasant hours of the day or night, in out-of-the-way places or under otherwise ridiculous circumstances.

This week, reader Jean-Marc brings us a memory from 1998, when he worked as “a sysadmin looking after a network of 400 financial planners throughout Australia.”

1998? Network throughout Australia?

You guessed right: one of Jean-Marc's main responsibilities was overseeing “corporate internet access through dial-up modems.”

Aaah the dial-up age! A time before widespread USB made peripherals predictable. And a time when lots of people were trying to get online for the first time.

Like the financial planner who called Jean-Marc asking for help.

“The planner said he had received the dial-up and log-in details and needed some assistance to make sure that everything was correctly set up. So we checked all the details of the dial-up connection and proceeded to run a test connection.”

No dial tone could be found.

Jean-Marc suggested the planner check the cables. Everything checked out. What about the modem settings? AT commands made the right lights blink so it was clearly alive.

With the cables and the modem seemingly in working order, Jean-Marc decided he needed to probe the state of the phone line to which the modem was attempting to connect.

The following dialog ensued:

Jean Marc: Are you sure this phone line is working?

Financial planner: Yes, I'm pretty sure.

Jean-Marc: How can you be so sure?

Financial planner: Because that's the one I'm using to talk to you

Jean-Marc: [sounds of exasperated laughter]

Financial planner: Oh shit. I probably need to hang up, don't I?

Don't laugh too hard yourself, dear readers because as Jean-Marc points out “these are the people you trust your money with.”

If you'd like to trust us with your story of user-generated On-Call idiocy, fire up your modem and write to me. We might just make you the star of a future On-Call episode. ®




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