I was about 10 years old and flipping though a catalog of computer supplies. It was something like a Tiger Direct catalog. There were lots of things I wanted, like a big pack of 180k 5 1/4 inch floppies. As I got to the back of the catalog I found an external 2400 baud modem for $120.
I needed it.
I ran down stairs, found my mom, showed her the catalog and explained how badly I needed this modem.
“What is it?”
“It’s an external 2400 baud modem.”
“I mean what does it do?”
“Umm. Well, it does two things. It modulates, and it demodulates. Both of those.”
“It’s for connecting to other computers. Who else do you know that has one?”
“I don’t know anyone who has one, because I don’t have one. If I had one then… Yeah, I haven’t really worked that out yet.”
Somehow she gave in, and I ordered the external 2400 baud modem. A few days later it came. I set it up and… Nothing. This is the part where I need to know someone else with a modem.
I went to Radio Shack and explained my situation. The guy at the counter handed me a print out of local BBSs. Jackpot.
And thus began a lifetime of vitamin D deficiency. I no longer needed the outdoors. There was a whole world out there to explore. Electronic messaging, bulletin boards, software to download, text files. WWIV, Telegard, RBBS.
Not long after that we had a second phone line installed. I set up a BBS of my own called “The Protocol” running WWIV. After a while I took it down and re-launched my board as “The Radio Carbon Method” running Telegard.
The day I ordered that modem may have changed my life more than any other single event. I had no idea what modulation or demodulation was, but it ended up being what paved the path to a career in telecommunications.