An old friend called in a panic the other day. The modem on her G3 lime iMac had crapped out, and she needed to get online that evening. We verified that she could still get a dial tone on the line. Had her reboot. No dice. “Still no broadband?,” I asked. “Maybe someday. Haven’t gotten around to it.”
Started troubleshooting. “Click the blue apple icon in the top left of your screen,” I said. “I only have a rainbow apple.” Uh-oh. OS9 user on dial-up. How do people live? Time had caught up with her. Fortunately she had a bit of cash. Told her to order DSL, and meanwhile, I’d pick up a new iMac to get her online by evening. A new Mac is a very expensive modem — even as a stopgap — but the time was ripe.
An hour later, showed up at her place to set up the unit and started plugging in cables. You know what happens next — no RJ-11 on the back of the Mac. And then I remembered reading the news five months ago. “Uhhh… Ummm… I may have to make another trip to the Apple store to, um, pick up a modem.” Watching her excitement about the new Mac turn to puzzlement and then anger was not pretty.
But what looked like a brewing embarrassment soon turned golden, as we booted up and the registration app looked for a connection. She hadn’t asked for Wi-Fi, but she got it — no less than five Wi-Fi networks in the immediate vicinity, one of them belonging to a friendly neighbor, who happily shared its password.
So not only did she not need a modem after all, she didn’t need DSL either. Wi-Fi is flowing through our neighborhoods like water from drinking fountains, like the air we breathe (password-protected air, but air nonetheless). Question is, was she (or was I) incredibly lucky, or is this sort of situation typical? And the bigger question: Why in the world did the Apple store rep not offer to sell me a modem? They certainly do a good job of pitching other accessories.
I’m sure plenty of people went through similar scenarios when Apple disappeared the floppy drive a few centuries ago.