My day began. It was still dark, but that's winter for you. I tend to wake up rather slowly, so I dragged myself to my computer to check my e-mail. Hmm. Nothing since 1:30 in the morning. Slightly unusual.
Then I noticed the error messages from my e-mail program. They indicated that both my personal and school in-boxes could not be accessed. I looked at the modem.
Rats. The Internet light was out. I rebooted my computer and watched the modem lights start to blink as the operating system reloaded and began polling the computer's peripherals. I relaunched Firefox, which splashed my home page on the screen very nicely, but I soon saw that it was just the cached version. No new information was being downloaded. The modem lights were flickering between red and green. It wasn't settling down to the nice steady green I was used to.
Time for breakfast. Let the modem fuss with its DSL access while I scan the morning newspapers and take on some fuel.
When I returned, my Internet connection was still on the fritz. I powered down the modem, powered it back up, and rebooted the computer again. The very Christmasy red-and-green light show returned, but no DSL.
I called the AT&T support line. A very friendly recorded voice told me the number I was calling from. “Is your call related to service on this phone number?” I replied in the affirmative and entered the maze of twisty little passages, all alike, that constitutes AT&T's automated help system. By answering several questions, I eventually managed to get the system to understand that the problem involved my DSL service.
“I have finished the tests,” announced the original friendly recorded voice at last. Despite our long-established friendship—or at least working relationship—it could not be troubled to tell me what was wrong with my line. Instead it informed me that one in five connection problems could be resolved by powering down the modem and rebooting my system. Had I done that recently?
It suggested I try it again. Grudgingly, I did. With mechanical patience, the disembodied voice waited for me while various commercial messages assured me that AT&T could sell me services that were much better than anything I currently had from them. But I was already quite sure of that.
And it was still no-go. No green Internet light. My life as a denizen of the computer world was in jeopardy.
The recordings suggested visiting a local AT&T store or rebooting my computer. (I did that already! More than once!) It suggested that after visiting a local AT&T store and/or rebooting my computer, I could call back the help line in 24 hours if the problem persisted. Considering the length of time I had been on the line, I wondered if calling back in 23 hours would be considered a trifle hasty.
I hung up the phone and immediately redialed. (Actually, I hit the Redial button on a phone that doesn't even have a dial. Modern life is weird.) The whole process started again, but this time I mashed the zero key for Operator and was rewarded with the digital miracle of a live human voice.
The young woman ascertained that I was having a DSL problem and ran some line tests. She asked me if I had reset the modem and rebooted the computer.
Oh my yes.
She got her test results. She was getting a null response from my modem. She asked which of the display lights were lit up. I looked at the modem again and did a double-take.
Whoa! None of them.
Not even the power light?
Not even that. They're dark. All of them. No red. No green. Nothing.
My modem had gone completely dead. Stone cold. Perhaps the problem was now identified.
The young woman suggested I switch the power cord to a different power source. I did. Still no lights. I reported the same back to her, wondering whether she had put me down as one of those goofballs who don't even notice when they're unplugged. But there were lights earlier. I swear! (The modem had died while waiting in AT&T's emergency room.)
The young woman asked for my Zip code and gave me the addresses of the two nearest AT&T stores, suggesting I take the modem and its power adapter to one of them for testing.
I disconnected the modem from the computer, unplugged the power cord from the power strip, and conveyed the modem and power adapter to the nearer of the two AT&T shops. The assistants looked at my modem with goggle eyes and said, “Oh, we only do cell phones here!”
I went to the second AT&T store. It was a much bigger facility. I took the modem and power adapter up to the counter and explained the situation to a company rep. She carried my distressed equipment to the inner sanctum where they keep their technicians sequestered. A few minutes later she came back out.
“Your modem is fine. The power adapter has failed.”
I felt a sense of relief. Just the power adapter!
“Okay, good. How much is a replacement adapter.”
“Sorry. We don't carry separate power adapters.”
“Thank you for your help. I think it's time for a visit to Radio Shack.”
“Oh, that's probably a good idea,” she admitted.
Soon I had a Radio Shack replacement power adapter, matched to the specs of the original device. Instead of spending $100, I had spent under $20. (I later discovered that the AT&T on-line shop carries the adapter as a separate replacement item for a list price of $10, but the company's fancy service center in my town can't be troubled to have it in inventory.)
Back home, I reconnected the old modem with the new power adapter and was soon rewarded with bright green lights. Hurray! Problem over!
AT&T had reset my password after my service call. After all, my modem had failed and it would be necessary for me to log in as a new user with a new modem and initiate my service anew. When I opened my browser, it informed me that additional log-in information was required before I could access my Internet service. It switched me to an automatic log-in system on the AT&T support page that offered a swift and sure re-initiation process—which failed multiple times. (Perhaps it was upset when it discovered I was using the same old modem.)
I tried one more time, choosing the “manual” mode over the “automatic.” It had me punch in the access code on the bottom of my modem. It asked me for my new password. Did I have one? Was it in the support e-mail that the on-line technician had told me she was sending me (that I couldn't access until after I was logged in)? I dug out my steno pad, where I had been scribbling notes all during the on-line support sessions. (This is one of my very best habits.)
In the midst of all the hassles, the young woman had had me write down a six-character network access code. Was that it? I wasn't starting a new account, so I had not worried too much about it at the time. I didn't really expect to need it. But I tried it.
It was only six hours after the original discovery that my connection was down. Life was good again.