OUR Trip down Memory Lane Reference
Internet Contact On The Move (left column)
Updated Sep 2010
RV Living in the 21st Century
click photos to enlarge -
EARLY DAYS OF ON-LINE ACCESS
In the beginning of our early computer days (1997) we spent two very frustrating years trying to hook-up our desktop PC to our antiquated analogue cell bag phone. Finally in 1999 we took the plunge and invested in a laptop computer - BUT it had no internal modem. So we had to add a dual purpose 56K modem in the form of a '3 Com' PCMCIA card - it made our computer compatible with both a land line and a cell phone.
Even with that, we still faced the problem of how to connect from the motorhome. Finally, one technician steered us in the right direction (or rather, to the right connection) and we added an RJ11 adapter (converted 12V to AC) to our bag phone. Those who could not find an RJ11, could have used an S1936D adapter.
Our 3-watt analogue bag phone plugged into a 12-volt circuit so it works almost everywhere. This set-up also allowed us to go on-line by connecting our bag phone to our computer using a regular landline phone cord.
Unfortunately economical service was only available in Canada. This system works well but using an analogue cell phone was extremely slow. The snails and turtles moved faster. On the good side of things, communication or stationary stores stocked these accessories.
With the laptop we could connected to any telephone jack. Generally there was a local dial-up number of our ISP (Internet Service Provider) that could connect to the 'net to pick up email. Surfing the web with a bag phone is possible, but it to was so very slow. (The only good thing about it was this access was barely functional). E-mail contact and web surfing simplified with each passing year.
Because modems become faster almost by the day, some ISP no longer accommodated the slower connection time of analogue cell phones.
A digital phone only worked well in cities and/or populated areas, but since we RVers frequently travel to outlying locales where analogue ruled (that is if a connection was even available). It became obvious that if RVers on the move hoped to go on line with a cell phone, they needed a PC Card that could connect using either analogue and/or digital service.
Even with an digital cell phone, with instant and quick internet connection, (so we thought) that we enjoyed while using a land-line did not exist and WiFi was still only a dream. There were also those times to contend with when the trees, hills and valleys in isolated areas prevented cell signals from getting through to your campsite. When this happened all the cursing and praying prohibited anyone from getting on line from your motorhome.
There were many different ISP plans available -- some offered attractive Internet packages. However, since we RVers are frequently on the go, we also had to find an ISP with connection numbers in the places we loved to travel.
At first John and I subscribed to 'AT&T Canada' ISP. It worked well in Canada plus they had an 800 number when no local dial-up is available (@ .10 cents per minute- Cdn$$). AT&T at the time had 700 local dial-ups across the USA - access was $1.00 per hour billed in 6 second intervals. They also forwarded email messages to my webpage email address and/or to my now cancelled Pocketmail account etc. (Not all ISP did that). 'AT&TCanada' eventually became 'Allstream.net' ('AT&T Worldnet' offered similar convenient hook-ups for USA residents).
ISP costs varied and your choice depended on what you expected from them and how much you planned to use it. Some offered limited usage plans at less cost - this worked well for email.
Frequently, during the winter of 01/02, public access modems in Florida were extremely difficult to find. We routinely visited the library to surf the net and to 'cut and paste' info from our webpage email to a floppy disk. At the library we also posted email Q&A's to our RoadLinks forum().
In the campground I would take my laptop to a land-line public access modem, or occasionally to a Cyber Cafe. While trying to connect I had to place a toll-free call to my ISP to obtain a local dial up number.
After installing the software for their special 'King of Clubs' PCMCIA Card by Ositech it allowed me to connect to the 'Net - first using our Nonie (and then our Motorola) cell phone to our laptop. At the time it was the only PC Card that connected to both analogue service or to digital data. Ositech's 'King of Clubs' PC Card (or the 'King of Hearts' for computers without a built in modem) was the ONLY such card that connected in both formats.
Unfortunately our Canadian cell package with Rogers AT&T cell phone service ran into big problems in 2002/2003 with economical roaming.
Using the Ositech PC Card we had the option to connect no matter what service we had. It was so easy to log on wherever we were - IF??? we had cell service (not in dead air). When we only had analog service I still connect but at a slower 'turtle style' speed.
Without an after-hour program surfing the net accumulated numerous valuable 'anytime' cell minutes. During those times I used my cell mainly for email and searched for a modem for Internet activity.
NOTE: Our phone package of choice by 2003 was from Verizon and we are still with them in Sep 2010. We love dealing with this company. In those early years no matter where I was, I enjoyed an no-cost unlimited evening and weekend plan---great for surfing even if it was slow.
TRIP DOWN MEMORY LANE TO NOWAS OF 2010 UPDATED INFO
Current Cell Phone Facts
If planning on travelling outside of the USA it might be advisable to switch to one of their more comprehensive coverage plan.
Thankfully all we do now is 'tether the cell to the computer'. BUT in the past we had to use an adapter to connect our computer to the net using digital service only; that was until Ositech from Guelph, Canada designed a more connection friendly option.
They then came out with a card to provide access to high-speed Wireless - Costs similar to $60.00 per month. It connected your computer to 'Hot Spots' . These Spots popped up all over in cities, Flying J, McDonalds, Cyber cafes, motels, some downtown cities plus more etc. These cards were sometimes called 'Aire Cards'.- now they are called 'sticks'. Unfortunately then and now these services and 'tethering' do not travel across the border in either directions although they are sold in most countries by Cell companies, but they are separate from the actual cell phone. cost is several $100's to buy or to sign up for a 2-3 year contract plus a monthly usage fee.
Most of us have accepted TV Dishes as a part of life but it is also becoming common to log onto the Internet through some kind of a satellite. Either through one of the high speed systems discussed above OR a manual Tri-pod system OR the more costly roof mount Dish mounted on the roof of any RV. I LOVE my Tri-pod Dish. See Satellite and Cyberspace section on our RV WebLink page for TV Dishes.
ALSO be sure to read my story covering Internet Satellite Dishes from Hughes.net. No phone connection required. Cost for Tri-pod approximately $1500.00 in both USA and Canada - monthly rates range from $59-$79. They also connect on both sides of the border within North America.
We also have a roof mount TV Dish but for the days that trees interrupt that signal we have added an adapter to our 'Internet Satellite Dish' the satellite 'TV and Internet together). This system is finally affordable for many of us.
FREE ISPs were a neccesity in the past
On the other side of the equation around the turn of the century there were numerous NO-COST ISP's available. These have all faded although there are still are a few on the net. However most limit usage hours plus many overload with advertisements .
The majority of the free ISP's required that you downloaded their program. A free ISP allows you to plug your modem/ computer into a phone jack and get an on-line slow connection by dialing up one of their supplied numbers. Some sites are still listed on our RV WebLink page under Internet Service Provider. But remember in 2010, Dial-up is the least desirable way to connect.
As we each changed locations we had to search the ISP's data base to locate a local number from our present location. Several years ago these FREE services were a special 'plus' to RVers, but many are no longer available - nor are they needed.
However your choice of connection is very personal and you simply must shop around to find the plan for you.
No-cost e-mail addresses
When connected to the Internet from any computer, there are several 'no-cost' sites you can visit to obtain a free e-mail address. Hotmail www.hotmail.com is the most famous and, with a 'Hotmail' e-mail account, you can retrieve your messages anywhere in the world from any computer connected to the internet. (The Spam that comes in on this site is abundant).
Many RVers set up a 'GMail' Account through Google.com This is a great site to establish a 'Blog' to keep family and friends up to date on what you are doing and where you are heading.
Another option we used for e-mail access from any server --- was www.mailstart.com. One FREE access per email address was available every 7 days. Annual membership costs$18.00.
We typed in our regular e-mail address and password but we could not download photos or store files on this site. We were happy to be able to read our e-mail. It was possible to save the file to a floppy disk (now obsolete) or our hard drive by clicking 'File' on the task bar followed by clicking 'Save As'. When on your own computer, answer or print your email and/or files.
Many ISPs including FREE ones provide minimum space for you to create and maintain a personal webpage. However writing a 'Blog' through Google is so much easier.
Others like www.myfamily.com allowed anyone set up a "family" meeting place - at the time it was a great way to stay in touch with family members or when planning a 'Reunion' etc..
Two additional well-known FREE sites were 'Yahoo and GeoCities' (Yahoo bought out GeoCities). Although one word of caution - the privacy/user agreement allows Yahoo and GeoCities to access any 'cookies' on your computer. The fine print gives them all rights to your content. Other sites with this clause are @Home, Tripod and Suite101. Be careful what you agree to and read the agreement before clicking 'I agree' or 'Submit'.
Staying in touch got easier every day. E-mail, Internet connections, online banking, and shopping plus much more added a touch of convenience to being on the road. Although use caution when sending personal information over the 'Net. Adding a firewall to your virus software is a MUST to protect others from breaking in to access your data.
Hope you are enjoying the advances and pluses of where technology is heading. Happy Travels and have fun traversing the cyberspace highway!