Monochrome laptop, 14.4k modem, bbs, learning AT commands

A monochrome laptop, hooking up to a 14.4k modem, going on a bbs, learning AT commands

It was nineteen ninety something before five, probably two or three. I must have been eleven or twelve years old.
My dad had a monochrome laptop.

486 25 MHz, monochrome screen, 4Mb ram, 40Mb hard drive. It was a fast machine. It ran MS DOS 5.0 and windows 3.11.
I had been allowed on it from day one. I used to (and still do) have a Sinclair ZX spectrum +2A so knew what a computer was and how to break it. I also knew how to fix the laptop when it broke. I made it run faster by loading dos into a ram-disk, I setup the mouse. I ran games on it. it was awesome. then dos 6.22 came out, so I installed that. it had colour, but I didn’t know that till much later on. it also had ‘help’ from which I learned how to make batch scripts to do all sorts of things: change the autoexec.bat and config.sys files to be better for games, reboot and load the game, etc. they were fun days.

There was also an us robotics 14.4k modem and a manual for it in the bag. I never really used it, I didn’t need to, but one day I got a PC magazine because it had a couple of floppies with games on it and learned about ‘the internet’. it was a very new thing, and you needed a tcp/ip stack and a browser to get on it. you also needed a modem. ahh, I thought, thats what that box is for. the magazine told me that I could download the tcp stack from a BBS and gave me instruction on how to do so. so I fired up minicom, I think, and proceeded to try to try connect to a random phone number. after failing a good few times (probably for a day or two) and reading the manual from cover to cover a few times, I eventually connected, and at the same time learned most of the AT commandset.

it was cool, I could phone anything with this. so I phoned the operator and sent them beeps and clicks :)
anyway. I managed to download the tcp/ip stack from whatever bbs it was, but had no browser, but it was fine, that was going to be in the next months magazine. I think it was netscape, but it could well have been mosaic. it didn’t matter anyway because there were no ISP’s anywhere near where we lived, so that idea was shot in the foot. but I had learned a couple of things: computers could talk to each other and I knew how to do it with these AT commands.

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