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Honolulu Lite

CHARLES MEMMINGER

Monday, October 29, 2001


The great phone crash of 2001

I don't know what happened the night the lights went out in Georgia, but I can tell you what happened the day the phones went out in Kaneohe: Technology came to a screaming stop.

I'm talking about last Thursday when a Verizon worker accidentally cut a cable and plunged 200,000 phone and computer customers into information darkness. Bank machines couldn't bank, travel agencies couldn't agent and columnists couldn't columnize.

Not one to jump to conclusions, and always cool in a crisis, I calmly decided that the outage was the work of Osama bin Laden and crawled under my desk. Since I work at home, I could do this without attracting too much attention. Then I realized that if U.S. postal workers are able to do their jobs through rain, sleet, hail, snow, anthrax, scurvy, rickets and dust mites, it was my patriotic duty to complete my Sunday column even if the phones were screwed up. Besides, I was getting a wicked charley horse crammed under the desk. I didn't realize it would take every ion of technical hardware, software and semi-flaccidware available to get that column into print.

I had gotten up early Thursday and kicked out my "AloHa! Friday" column, so society was lucky there. The Star-Bulletin's iMac was working like a champ, tied to the main newspaper computer by a fast DSL line. Several feet from the iMac is my personal computer. Both computers share my personal printer, at least they usually do. But this was not a usual Thursday.

Around 9 a.m. the connection to the Star-Bulletin computer was lost. I went ahead and wrote the Sunday column on the iMac, figuring the connection would come back up. It didn't. No problem. I'd just print the column out, retype it into my computer and email it from there. That's when the printer decided not to communicate with the iMac. I called the newspaper computer guy, Alan Stewart, who said he'd come by and smack the printer around until it cooperated.

Minutes later, both the Star-Bulletin phone and my home phone went out. I tried using my cellular, but apparently a couple hundred thousand other people were trying their cell phones at the same time so no calls could get through.

Unable to print the column, I enlarged the type on the iMac to about 48 points, up from the usual 9.5, and then sat across the room at my computer and copied it. Brave new journalism. My phone line eventually came back up, which allowed me to email the column to my editor. If that had failed, I would have had to tape it to my dog Boomer's back and put him on a city bus.

At day's end, phone and computer service was restored, fat lot of good it did me. Alan dropped by and after some really complicated technical computer stuff, managed to get the printer to work with the iMac. If he says that the printer cable had simply come unplugged. He's a big fat liar.




Alo-Ha! Friday compiles odd bits of news from Hawaii
and the world to get your weekend off to an entertaining start.
Charles Memminger also writes Honolulu Lite Mondays,
Wednesdays and Sundays. Send ideas to him at the
Honolulu Star-Bulletin, 500 Ala Moana Blvd., Suite 7-210,
Honolulu 96813, phone 235-6490 or e-mail cmemminger@starbulletin.com.



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