LAN Card leads to Win95
by John Philips
"The university is getting a direct internet connection." I had heard words to that effect so often and for so long that I no longer took them very seriously. But eventually it happened. Workmen came to all the offices, put in wires that linked us to a server, and there was a hard-wired, direct internet connection on a 10 base-T LAN right in my office.
"The university is buying everyone a new computer" was the next thing I kept hearing. This, too, would take some time. Meanwhile I had a computer with two empty slots in the back. I could always dial up the server, but the connection was only 9600 at best, OK for e-mail but not for the graphics-rich sites often encountered on the web.
I e-mailed my sister in the States to get her to send a compatible LAN card that I could plug into the back of the computer. Soon I had it in my hands, and plugged it into the back of the computer. I followed all the instructions meticulously, carefully inserted the card and installed the software. Then I tried to set up my Procomm Plus 3.0 for Windows for an internet connection over a LAN.
I spent days poring over all the relevant documentation and fiddling with the settings. The guy in the computer office downstairs gave me Novell Netware to set up, although the computer professor said it wasn't necessary. Netware wouldn't set up anyway, since it was only for DOS/V and some of the files wouldn't run on plain old vanilla American MS-DOS. But then neither would the Netware applications I got from the TPC BBS and even Pinboard. Something was wrong, but I didn't know what.
The guy from the LAN card company was no help. Since the card was not bought in Japan they would do nothing for me. So much for multi-national companies and the borderless economy! I've noticed on the WWW sites of several other companies that the Japanese "subsidiary" is also more removed from the parent company than other subsidiaries are. I guess that's what I get for being an alien on this forbidden planet. :-(
"You have to get Win95, suggested the computer professor." The guy from NEC came and spent all day setting up one of their Windows 3.1J computers and then handed us a floppy with the files. He said to just install the same files to the other computers. If you don't get the Win95 'plug and play' it'll take you all year to figure out the settings.
I had too many other things to do to to spend the next year trying to configure a LAN card. I finally had a compelling reason to get Win95.
I had always resisted the Win95 mania. Of course, I had put off getting Windows 3.1 as long as I could, too. The reasons everyone had been giving me for getting Windows had been the wrong ones, and the arguments for Win95 were down right scary.
"You don't need to use DOS," people kept saying.
"I like DOS," I replied. "It's dependable and fast. It does what I want when I want and it does it consistently." That is still more than I can say for Windows, which seems to have a random number generator somewhere inside that spits out random error messages.
But it turned out I did need Windows. The GUI was a necessity for mixing Roman and non-Roman characters, and especially for printing with specialized fonts. And I have to admit that some of the other "user-friendly" features, such as "drag and drop," do make things simpler. I also found it convenient to leave a line of minimized icons at the bottom of the screen instead of waiting forever for a new application to load every time I switched programs. But then it was Windoze that caused the applications to take forever to load in the first place. DOS applications on the new computer ran like lightning.
Replacing the old 8088 machine running DOS 3.3 with a new 486 machine running Windows 3.1 was like taking two steps forward and another one back. My compromise was to create a lot of icons to run DOS programs from Windows. That gave me faster switching and faster applications. I was afraid from the hype that Win95 would mean I couldn't type things in a command line, or even that I couldn't use my DOS programs. But I'm getting ahead of my story here.
"Plug and play" sounded like the only way I was going to get this LAN card configured for the network. The only problem was that there wasn't enough space on the hard drive to upgrade to WIN 95. Things were really packed, even after I ran SCANDISK and DEFRAG and dumped a lot of useless files (like old TPC BBS .qwk packets.) I would have to get a new hard drive if I wanted to set up Win95.
No problem! I'd be in San Francisco in a few months anyway. I'd pick one up there.
In the meantime the university computers finally came, which should give you an idea of how long this was taking. They had Win95 installed, and I could see that both the hype and my fears were groundless. This was not the whole new operating system that I (like so many others) had been led to believe. This was just an upgrade of Windows, probably less different from Windows 3.1 than DOS 6.2 had been from DOS 3.3. My row of minimized icons had turned into a 'Taskbar.' I had all the old features of DOS and Win3.1 that I was used to, and the whole thing came backed up on 14 floppies. I could get a new hard disk, and install it to that as the new boot disk. (Or so I naively thought.)
"Plug and Play" wasn't as simple as advertised, though. This notebook kept telling me it had recognized an "unknown device" which it could never identify, but which it claimed had a conflict with my sound card. After fooling with the settings manually I managed to get both the sound card and the "unknown device" (whose nature and function are still mysterious) set up, at least that's what the computer tells me. Win95 now says that there is nothing wrong with the sound card, and that it has no conflicts, but that it won't work due to an "unknown problem." I wonder if Microsoft would be willing to do the diagnostics.
Instead of the 28.8 PCMCIA modem I had requested the new notebook also came with a PCMCIA LAN card, and I started using Netscape for e-mail and WWW surfing almost immediately. I should have left well enough alone, I suppose, but I figured I already had this LAN card installed in the desktop, and I wanted to be able to use it. Not to mention the fact that I could use a new hard disk anyway.
Finally I got back from The City. I was back in my office with sacksfull of computer supplies and equipment. A new, 2.16GB hard drive was one of the first things I picked up to plug in. Once it was on my system I would load it with Win95 and finally get this LAN card plugged in. The brackets and manual were somehow missing from the box, but I figured I could wing it. How hard could this be?
I had carefully checked all the documentation for my computer before leaving. The optional second IDE server was missing, so I had gotten one to plug into an expansion slot. Boy, they make those things fancy these days! This one said it was capable of connecting to 4 hard drives and 2 floppies. Not that I would ever put that many in.
OK, let's see now. I'm not even going to try to reconstruct all the details of taking the computer apart and putting it back together in so many different configurations (both hard and soft) and then trying to run it. More than one night I had to ask to be let out of the locked gate of the university. I took to running the computer in pieces, with the monitor on the chair and the keyboard on the floor. Right in the middle of my worst run my sempai came to the door to ask for some grammar corrections. I hadn't been going to lunch, where he usually asked.
I finally decided to go back and start over. I had been able to boot the computer from the new disk (which turned out to have Win95 set up on it already) but running like that from the new disk all the applications in my old hard disk just gave me error messages. I had learned about the auxiliary IDE port on the original cable, but when I attached the new disk to that the computer wouldn't even boot. OK, let me try again. Original disk, original connection, original cable. Back to normalcy?
Nothing. The computer wouldn't boot. Even the old boot disk in drive A wouldn't work. Only the Win95 boot disk seemed to do anything. It offered to set up my computer, but warned that it would wipe out everything on the (original) hard disk.
What choice did I have at that point? I couldn't access the computer anyway. I could have kicked myself for not backing up before trying this, though. Now I was going to lose everything on the old 400 some megabyte hard drive, applications built up and customized for years.
Things worked out better than I thought. Very little data was lost (just the address files from WordPerfect when I had to reinstall it), and it turned out there was enough room on the hard disk to set up Win95 after all. I didn't want all those *&%$#@! games anyway.
But I know now I should back up my hard disk before any major surgery.
And I'm still trying to get this new hard disk attached.
And Win95's "Plug and Play" feature doesn't recognize the LAN card.
Hey, you don't suppose the card was defective the whole time, do you? ;-(
Some of my WINMODEM files became corrupted. WINMODEM, for those of you who don't know it, is US Robotics' latest cheap, fast modem. It uses software to control settings that are hardware controlled on most modems. That means it can only run in Windows, and it tends to be temperamental. It also means it is cheaper than most other modems of the same speed.
After looking in various setting boxes to find out what was wrong, I decided the easiest thing to do would be to delete the software and reinstall. During the reboot section of the reinstall, Win95 told me I had new hardware installed, and asked if I wanted to set it up. Just for laughs, after it announced it had recognized the hardware I decided to see what hardware it had recognized. It was the LAN card! I did get the WINMODEM up and running eventually, but I also finally got my LAN card installed.
Now to try to set up that hard disk drive again!
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