This machine is full of interesting features. The trouble
is the owner didn't really want them. They just arrived as part
of the package. There's a fancy audio unit in one of the front
slots offering all sorts of line and fibre optic data input.
No doubt one could transfer old 78 rpm records via this unit
onto the Re-recorder CD Drive but this one will just get covered
The problem started when Word 2000 suddenly stopped working.
Now most computers have lots of interesting software but if you
use a word processor a lot and you have only Word 2000 and it
suddenly stops working then the computer is just so much scrap
This version came with Works plus-Word 2000 but now when the
Word option was selected not a lot happened. The introductory
screen appeared but nothing else. If anything was then attempted
a dire warning notice appeared with the information that the
system was dangerously short of memory. In fact it was so short
that there wasn't even enough room for the pop-up task bar which
is needed to shut down. Admittedly the white backed warning notice
may have changed slightly and given one the option of closing
a program. Unfortunately as soon as the offer was taken up, whatever
it was gobbling up memory, just bagged the little extra that
It reminded me of the ZX81. When its memory got full, bits of
the writing on the screen would begin to disappear. This would
carry on until there was nothing left to look at and you could
really only carry on if you had a strong imagination and a photographic
Well I tried everything. I reloaded Word 2000. That didn't help.
I cleaned up the Registry and picked up the earliest copy available
to no avail. I deleted all traces of Word 2000 I could find and
loaded a fresh version in another directory. Still no good. I
reloaded Windows 98. An hour later still no joy. I ran SFC, SCANDISK
you name it
I traced all the routines used by WINWORD.EXE
and loaded new versions. Still I got the freeze-up.
Eventually I reformatted the hard drive. With a proprietary
computer this is always an exercise fraught with difficulty as
not all the drivers are at hand.
The modem proved hilarious. I placed the CD supplied by the
owner in the drive and followed the instructions in the 3Com
glossy brochure. I found the proper location on the CD and in
went the drivers. "What port do you want
COM1 or COM2",
it then asked? "COM2", I replied. The name duly appeared
in the modem window. I selected "Diagnostics" and was
rewarded by a long wait then an error message. I opened System
Details and double clicked the modem entry. "Resources"
said it was "COM3". Why? Surely I'd selected "COM2".
I changed the setting to "COM2" from "COM3"
and then returned to the modem diagnostic window. There was another
long pause and the same error message appeared but this time
the information in the window said the modem was on "COM3"
despite the fact I'd just changed it to "COM2". I went
back to "System" and checked resources. Now it said
the modem was on "COM2", as I'd set it. I set it to
"COM3" and went back to the Diagnostics window. Of
course it now said "COM2" and it still didn't work.
I "Removed" the modem and re-installed it with exactly
the same results three more times before I studied the installation
instructions in the brochure. I'd done everything exactly as
it said so I read "If you've followed the instructions and
still have a problem read the troubleshooting notes overleaf".
I turned the document over. The back was exactly the same as
the front except it was all in German. It ended with the same
message about troubleshooting being overleaf so I gave up and
rang the 3Com/US Robotics telephone number on the brochure.
A nice young lady answered. I said I was having trouble with
one of their modems. "What are the code letters on the back
of the circuit board", she asked. "I don't know",
I replied "it's inside the computer". "Well",
she said, when I gave her the name it had installed under, "That
one has a glitch (or giving me a similar descriptive term) and
you have to load the drivers before the modem is installed".
"That's not what the installation instructions say",
I replied. "Nevertheless", she said, "first you
load the drivers, then you plug the modem into a PCI slot".
"Then you switch on the computer". "It won't find
the modem so you then switch off and remove the modem".
"You then plug it into a different PCI slot then switch
on again". "This time", she said, "it will
be detected and everything will work OK". I asked her to
repeat it all and asked if it was a hardware fault or a software
fault. She brushed this question aside and said something about
it being a "system thing".
For the next hour I tried unplugging the modem from the computer,
loading drivers, plugging it in then unplugging it. It was absolutely
no different to before. When the diagnostics were run, there
was a long wait and the same error message. The COM ports were
messed up just as before. I tried fiddling with the motherboard
BIOS, making the COM ports "1 and 2", "2 and 1",
"auto" and "auto", and every other combination
under the sun but with the same lack of success. The modem appeared
as COM2, COM3, COM4 and even COM5 but it still didn't work.
I removed the card and noted every one of the codes on its front
and back then rang the manufacturer again. After a short wait
a foreign sounding chap answered. I supplied the modem number
but he couldn't find it. I could hear his keyboard rattling away
in the distance so then I said.. "it's got hyphen OEM at
the end of the number". "Oh", he said, "in
that case we can't help you". "You need to go to your
computer supplier". "Hang on", I said, "It
says in the brochure that you will help and there's no mention
of the computer supplier". "Well we can't help",
he said. I complained and he said, "Hang on a moment",
and music began to play
I started to get optimistic and
thought he'd found what I wanted but then he dashed my hopes
when the music stopped and he said
"Here's the address
to which you write and make your complaint"
up and banged down the phone.
Next I looked on their website (naturally I used another computer).
I searched for the modem code and eventually by swapping around
the various numbers and leaving out the OEM bit found the exact
drivers I needed. The codes were exactly right and they even
included the "hyphen OEM". I downloaded them and put
them on a floppy disk. After a lot of fiddling I eventually discovered
the right combination of mouse clicks which resulted in files
being sucked into the computer. I selected "diagnostic"
and hey presto I got the correct response.
When the computer owner showed up I said, "Are you sure
the CD and the brochure go with your modem?" "Oh",
"No they don't
. come to think of it,
the original modem didn't work properly so I got another".
"I didn't bring the CD for the new one",
The sound card proved difficult. The Creative Website offered
a 12Mbyte driver. The 64Mbyte graphics card also proved a pain.
The ATI Website offered the correct driver but this was 10Mbyte.
Where are the old 15kbyte drivers? It used to be the rule that
all drivers had to fit on a 720kbyte floppy. No longer
seems. Probably the website proprietors get paid in some cunning
way for the amount of time you have their page in front of you
or downloading information from it. To maximise their income
one can only download mammoth chunks of software whether you
need it or not. Have you noticed that since CDs became the norm
with their 680 Meg capacity they seem to be pretty full despite
the fact that a few years ago a single 720K floppy was ample.
When everything was sorted out and I'd loaded Office I clicked
on Word 2000. It flashed up onto the screen in a trice without
the dreaded long delay and without the warning notice.
There's only one problem. I supplied a CD with a dump of all
the DOCs, JPGs and E-Mail files from the original software build.
I hope there isn't a virus hidden in there waiting to pounce
and mess up Word 2000 all over again!