Reporter's Notebook

The art and science of the interview

Deja New

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This isn’t about interviewing.

In a previous post, I whined about how I couldn’t get a Windows 7 computer to play nice with a Windows XP telephone answering software program that I really liked. Despite futzing around with the compatibility settings, I couldn’t get a PCI modem card from my old PC (which worked perfectly fine before) to work in the new one because the drivers wouldn’t install. I wondered if this was on purpose to force people to put their calls on the cloud thanks to stuff like Skydrive or Google Voice. In desperation, I even dug up from the bowels of the Internet a cumbersome dinosaur of an answering program called Advanced Call Center and bought a bagful of PCI modem cards in hopes that switching them out would help me eventually stumble upon something the either the old or new program would recognize.

But there was another problem; the computer recognized the all of the modems I installed for fax and data, but not voice. Voice modems back in the day were the only way you could get a computer to talk to a telephone. And since it was a voicemail system I was trying to make work, the sound fax and data modems gave was like trying to hear a whisper over someone digging through a box of styrofoam peanuts.

Here’s where it get weird. Back in December, I ordered a USB modem that promised to be a data, fax AND voice modem. I’d never seen one before, and it looked nothing like what I’d grown up with modems looking like; big boxes with lots of lights and parallel port connectors on the back. I was used to names like US Robotics or Hayes splashed all over it. The names and the look gave me confidence. So when I found this thing, I saw a simple black box, barely bigger than a package of chewing gum with two phone jacks, one skinny USB wire and one little red light. I thought, “This is a modem?” But I was desperate so I ordered it. And it came, without an installation disc or instructions, from China.

So I plug it in and the software program says “Please install a modem” and I think, “I’ve just been punked. I’ll never get to have control over my own calls. And I don’t want to revert back to answering machines or cell phone carriers that can lose or delete my saved messages. And I can’t retrieve my message by email. What to do?”

This week, I decided to try the modem switch out dance again, so I do. And again, the bag o’ modems don’t work. But when I dig through my box of gear and pull out the USB modem and plug it in, it works! Maybe Windows had since provided a generic modem update. Or maybe the modem had a few months to think about how it had disappointed me. Anyway, the software says, “Thank your for installing your voice, data and fax modem. Enjoy a rich experience from the full features of your program. Congratulations.” That tells me that even the software developers must know how hard it is to find a decent modem.

Written by Interviewer

July 13, 2013 at 23:35

Posted in Scratchpad

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