Horrible Hardware Usability

Last Saturday I set out to buy a 56k modem for my sister, she had just bought a PC for the first time and required dial-up as her phone line was not yet compatible with broadband. I wont reveal the exact location but she lives in a reasonably remote place where there are very few computer stores about.

I ventured downtown, found a store and bought the Conexant Soft56k Data FAX Modem for £20. I didn’t really have much choice. I would have scoffed and made for the door if there were a PC World just across the road, trust me!

For £20 I was expecting a worldbeater of a modem – one which would leave even a 32meg connection languishing behind in the dust. It turns out that I was to get much more for my money in the end..

I placed the card securely within the PCI slot and turned the computer on, Windows immediately recognized the modem and the New Hardware wizard popped up as normal. I then inserted the cute little mini install CD into the drive and THIS appeared within about 10 seconds.

It wasn’t boding well at this stage. How much would it take to cost to buy the full version of the software for gods sake? $30 tops? Id never seen anything this shoddy before.. ever! This brings a whole new meaning to the phrase shit-o-rama.

But still, the best was yet to come!

Can you spot whats wrong here? Conexant have managed to misspell their own name AND install in the space of three words within the title bar. Now I’m hardly pedantic but this is taking the piss.

Wahey, a click later and the Setup Wizard starts. You’ve got to love the retro feel of the buttons at the bottom. Perhaps this was made in Visual Basic 5? It certainly looks god awful. Now I don’t know how exactly to describe what happens next. I click on the funky double blue arrows, the driver supposedly installs and then.nothing. There is no pop-up balloon in the bottom right hand corner of the screen notifying me that my hardware has been installed successfully. Absolutely nothing happens.

As always if something happens like this, I rebooted Windows only to find that the PC would not switch on at all. Great!

I yanked out the modem and promptly smashed the card into smithereens. I felt like chewing on the CD for a while but my stomping foot was urging me on, and much to the bemusement of my sisters neighbours – I promptly performed a one man rendition of Riverdance on top of it.

After my tantrum had subsided, I drove home with the tower, plucked my 3 year old Intel 56k Modem out of a drawer, placed it into the PCI slot, turned the PC back on and Windows configured the modem correctly within 3 minutes. Bear in mind that I spent £8 on it back when I first bought my own computer in 2003..

I’m still quite pissed though. I should have returned the modem to the shop. Thinking about it, I probably still could, after all the card couldn’t be of any less use now that’s in 1000 pieces compared to how well it functioned when it was intact.

The look on the store owners face would have been worth the trouble alone.

Comments are closed.