Subject: Modem-Help: Site Info & Diary
From: Alex Kemp
Date: Wednesday, 15 August 2001 00:00:00 +0000
To: All

Note before: This is an old “Diary Entry” from the Modem-Help site, re-jigged into the etmg format. The original site is now long gone.

Foreword: In November 1998 I began supplying telephone support for Britain’s first national ISP, Freeserve. Freeserve was owned by the Dixons Stores Group (DSG), and they were my bosses until 2003. The Internet was almost unknown at that time, which meant that almost no-one had any experience of it, let alone experience in support of it. Therefore, DSG advertised for technically-competent folks that were comfortable with computers, and gave them extensive training. As the first draft employed by DSG we were promised heaven & earth if successful. We were stupid enough to believe the guy that made the promises; Freeserve was staggeringly successful, & and we put our noses to the grindstone to learn everything that they could not teach us. Our boss got rapidly promoted to Head Office whilst we saw every promise turn to dust before our eyes.

I had experience in using a modem but zero Internet experience, so thought that I better sign-up. That led to starting a website, which led to me starting a company (both called “Modem-Help”). I took modem-help off the ’net in January 2015 and retired in the Autumn of the same year. This page is modem-help Diary entries from inception to 15 August 2001.

16 Aug 2000 — 15 Aug 2001: I stopped writing diary entries as they were simply a vast list of Manufacturers & chipsets added and/or updated — very boring. Features at the end of this period are:

24 March 2001: 3,000,000 page visits total
11 December 2000: 2,000,000 page visits total
13 August 2000: 1,000,000 page visits total

July/August 2000: site structure changed to make updates easier.

June 2000: site update; attempted to implement a non-table-layout without success (“Internet Explorer seems to have a glitch in implementing “float” for CSS1 classes”). In reality, I think that at the time neither Internet Explorer, nor CSS, nor the other browsers were up to being able to implement a trouble-free layout of any complexity that did not involve using tables.

May 2000: Added a banner ad for (a Domain names provider) — perhaps I can recoup the costs of all my uploading!. Later addition: in spite of millions of page-views I got paid nothing, so dropped the banner.

April 2000: Lost use of my computer system due to Windows Protection errors. Eventually turned out to be a piece of fluff stuck behind the cpu cooling-fan, but whilst troubleshooting also discovered software-build errors. This latter resulted from using DirectX7 with graphics drivers certified only to dx5. Rebuilt the system. Slowly. Implemented a change of strategy after rebuild — single topics on single pages using StyleSheets (html 4.0). All previous pages have adhered to html 3.2, but stylesheets allow further size reductions, much improved display capabilities, ease in changing design across many pages at once plus, the greatest majority of the people visiting the site can view them. The principal style for the site is embodied within style.css.

March 2000: registered domain-name.

1st Year (Nov 1999): 138 modem manufacturers/suppliers.

Sep: TheCounter passed 100,000.
Mar: Finally got V.90 speeds with Motorola Beta Build 10 drivers
Feb: Month’s gap due to a fibrillation episode
Feb: Register with The Counter; established 13 Feb 99.
Jan: Make decision to construct website & sacrifice myself to the decision. Goodbye social life. After other trials, end up using TextPad 3.2.5.

October/November 1998: Prompted by difficulties with my own modem begin to read, then compile reports in, After ploughing through over 4,000 messages realise that I have the start of an invaluable resource on my hands.

18 November 1998: After many years of watching and reading, and some try-outs, go to signup with the Freeserve Internet service. Takes a solid 7 hours 30 minutes with just one break for a cup of tea. My Motorola SM56 Soft (cheapo) so-called V.90 modem will not connect without being slowed to V34Bis, & Dial-Up Networking turns out to be corrupt. The hunt begins to fix the modem...

Alex Kemp