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What happened to the Modem Guy?
December 1, 2003 12:52 PM   Subscribe

What happened to the Modem Guy? A great story on two partners and personal computer pioneers, Hayes (who got the fame) and Heatherington (who got the money).
posted by falameufilho (18 comments total)

 
Great story, thanks. When I started an ISP in 1992 we at first used Hayes externals as they were the best - fast connections, reliable, lots of features, solid built. But they were too expensive, 2 to 3 times as much as brands such as AT&T and Microcom. Hayes dominated the 80s BBS scene and got tromped by innovators like Ascend in 90s.
posted by stbalbach at 1:20 PM on December 1, 2003


Interesting as the article labels modems as "obsolete technology". I don't think that's the case outside the US.
posted by falameufilho at 1:22 PM on December 1, 2003


I'm with Heatherington, I clearly don't get this man. How he could make that much money and not want to cash out and live a simpler life... I find it baffling.

I know that I've sat down and figured out a magic number that'd give me enough to live a very reasonable life, for the rest of my days... I wouldn't want to end up being old, and realizing that I never had time to enjoy life, because I was so busy try to make more money, so I could enjoy life.
posted by mosch at 1:23 PM on December 1, 2003


I wouldn't want to end up being old, and realizing that I never had time to enjoy life, because I was so busy try to make more money

But you have to admit that, for some people, making more money, competing against others, building companies is living and enjoying life.

Someone like, say, Larry Ellison, could retire now and spend at least $100,000 a day for the rest of his life and still not burn through his holdings. But there he is, showing up to his office every day, conducting product reviews, arguing with senior managers and with the press....

It's easy to judge Hayes in hindsight. But if he had been successful and become a billionaire I could imagine this same article taking sly digs at a partner that walked out too early with a paltry $20 million.
posted by vacapinta at 2:16 PM on December 1, 2003


As a rural ISP we still have a Hayes Century rack of 16 modems, with about 5 or 6 phone lines into it. We use it for people whose phone lines are so crappy and distant that the only think they can connect on is a good, solid 33.6 modem. Those modems(and the Livingston Portmaster they are hooked up to) have been taking calls for almost 10 years.

I just checked the Portmaster and it has an uptime of 784 days, with two users currently connected.

Both fit the old cliche "works so well I've forgotten how to configure it".
posted by dglynn at 3:07 PM on December 1, 2003


But you have to admit that, for some people, making more money, competing against others, building companies is living and enjoying life.
It's his true occupation of time.
posted by thomcatspike at 3:12 PM on December 1, 2003


"Hayes dominated the 80s BBS scene..."

I knew of one guy with a Hayes in the 80s. Most people couldn't afford them, going for as much as ten times what the competition asked, and of those who could pony up there were better alternatves: the market was full of cheap no-name 1200s, and later 2400s. Even at the low end, you could get your hands on MNP error correction and compression. At the high end there were initially Telebits (very popular with the UUCP set because of great compression) and then came the pinnacle of modem technology: the USR Courier which was basically a powerful DSP and some firmware and could run for years without a reset. USR was doing asymmetric 16.8k speed at a time when Hayes and everyone else was working on getting 9600 working.
posted by majick at 3:41 PM on December 1, 2003


US Robotics is where it was at, in the 90's. Before... it was bought by... 3com.

Wouldnt you still like a V. Everything 56k External?
posted by Keyser Soze at 5:22 PM on December 1, 2003


See, I don't get hetherington myself. I mean, he's basicaly jus t sitting there, getting by, adding nothing to the world.

Except for the eye thing I'd probably rather live Hays' life.
posted by delmoi at 5:29 PM on December 1, 2003


Another vote for USR, unless I was looking for something to beat an intruder over their head with. I had either a Hayes r AT&T modem that seemed to be housed in a case made from a milled block of solid metal. Fear the modem...
posted by NortonDC at 5:31 PM on December 1, 2003


See, I don't get hetherington myself. I mean, he's basicaly jus t sitting there, getting by, adding nothing to the world.

He helped invent the modem as we know it, thus paving the way for the internet as we know it. That's plenty, isn't it?

Plus he volunteers at hospitals, the article says.
posted by Hildago at 6:49 PM on December 1, 2003


His wife volunteers at hospitals, Hidalgo. He putters around with robot vacuums. I'm jealous.
posted by billsaysthis at 7:42 PM on December 1, 2003


Wouldnt you still like a V. Everything 56k External?

I have one in a box in my Garage collecting dust. Want it?
posted by internal at 7:43 PM on December 1, 2003


This Hayes guy doesn't manage his money very well. He agreed to a $6 million divorce settlement with his last wife and he didn't even save himself $1 million? Now he can't even make the child-support payments?

(Why does he need to make child-support payments to someone who's worth about $6 million more than him anyway?)
posted by VeGiTo at 7:46 PM on December 1, 2003


Oh wow, Hayes. That brings back memories. As a kid I wanted the ultra-cool LED covered Hayes modem, but all I got was a cheesy little 1200 baud something or another. Hayes modems were at least double what the rest cost at the time.

Later I remember how the US Robotics 9600 took the lead as the "must have" modem. In fact, at its release I believe BBS operators were given something like a 50% discount. Which was nice and all, but when your client connections are 1200 baud because no one could afford the 9600 it doesn't seem like such a great idea, but it was good marketing.
posted by skallas at 8:21 PM on December 1, 2003


dglynn -- that uptime speaks volumes, the old analog stuff never worked that well, Livingston and Hayes is about as good as it got. This FPP was also posted in /. and someone said there the digital T1/PRI handoffs for 56K killed the rural small ISPs since they could not compete with the larger ISPs who could pay the FX charges and/or afford to put in overcapacity with a T1 for only a handful of modems.
posted by stbalbach at 10:03 PM on December 1, 2003


I understand that some people are passionate about business, and I respect it. But have enough sense that you don't make yourself have to start over from the first penny again if your parlay into greater things fails.

My view on things is surely tilted because of the life I've led, but I'd rather be a happy millionaire, able to provide for my family without worry, than a guy who can't make child support, because I lost it all trying to become a billionaire.
posted by mosch at 10:54 PM on December 1, 2003


I can't believe money didn't make him happy. Are they suggesting that the foundation for our very existence is flawed?
posted by mecran01 at 11:56 AM on December 2, 2003


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