It came up in conversation and sounded like the best invention since the refrigerator. A way to connect an old pc to the same Ethernet your Windows Vista system is connected to. Maybe even make it wireless. All for around forty dollars. Was this just a wild rumor? I made a sketch to remember the details, a little machine called a “router” with little Martian antenae. Then I made a pilgrimage to the local Radio Shack.
In places like BestBuy and Circuit City, they let you drool over their toys a little before they offer to help you, if indeed you don’t have to search out a clerk yourself once you think of a question. But in Radio Shack, they latch onto you as soon as you walk in the door. Escorting me to the router selection, a male clerk assured me condescendingly, “Don’t be afraid of the technology”.
I imagined punching him unconscious, then waterboarding him. I smiled sweetly.
Yes, it was possible. Once you have the broadband provider’s ethernet gizmo in your place, in addition to the ethernet connections they provide, you can also either connect it through USB ports, or make the whole thing wireless. In fact, your laptop probably already has wireless capability. Looking at the fine print, I discovered not every router will support Windows 98. That narrowed the field a little.
“It’s this one”, said the clerk handing me a box. “I already checked it for you.” Is that code for “Don’t worry your pretty little head about it”? Heaven forbid I should read the box for myself before buying it. The clerk moved off. Perhaps he suspected. Was I was smiling too much? Yes, the router supported everything from Windows95 to Vista, and there was a matching card for the computer. For my configuration, though, it would be closer to eighty dollars than forty for both items. Time for plan B.
Once back home, a quick internet search showed me a lot of available routers. For electronic toys, I like to start with techbargains.com for a summary of weekly specials–it’s faster than trying to read those glossy ad pages that come with the newspaper–then start following their links and reading the ratings. Using the stuff that’s on special at the moment, I can do the whole router thing for about thirty dollars, and make my laptop wireless at the same time. If I can find an old PCI card laying around somewhere, I might even be able to do it for less. Plan B sounds good.