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David Nightingale: Toothpick Technology

No internet now for three days.

I’d reluctantly called the company – reluctantly because I usually try to sort these things out myself – and had now done all the things the disembodied recording had told me to do. Unplug this, unplug that, wait two minutes, re-plug, etc. And the voice had asked me if it was now working, press 1 for yes, 2 for no.

She/it went on ‘I’m now going to send a pulse to your modem’. Fine, but how was I to ask a recorded voice what I should be seeing/detecting? So I ultimately pressed 0, hoping to get to a person. Another recording: ‘your wait time is between 36 minutes and 53 minutes…

Okay, another day without email.

On the 3rd day’s attempt I had a wait time of only 11 minutes, and the recorded voice also said I could alternatively opt for a call back – if I wanted to hang up and wait.  Time was passing with no email so I decided to wait for their call – however long it took.

Soon a very polite man – I guessed possibly German or Dutch or from one of those countries with well-educated technologists – spoke to me in excellent English, except that it was a poor connection.

He called me back, hoping for a better connection – it wasn’t really – and ran me through some questions and tests and I quickly realized he was intelligent. He asked me to describe what the little lights on the router (wifi and router may be regarded as the same altho’ a stickler might object) were doing, and then told me to unplug the power to the router/wifi box as well as to the modem.

I suggested to him that some years ago during a very hot summer my modem had had to be replaced and that therefore I was again suspicious of the modem. He considered this and apparently was able to do some tests from his remote location – wherever that was. Then, satisfied that the modem was functioning properly he asked me about my wifi: make, model etc. He had heard of the make of my router/wifi and knew what to do – what lights should be on/off/flashing etc, and after some pauses told me that the router was apparently not working properly. He needed more information, if I could access it and read the model number on the base. I told him that in order to reach the router/wifi I would have to climb onto a chair, because it was on a high shelf, and would need to put the phone down. ‘Take your time, take your time, I wait’  he said politely.

He did another magical remote test and concluded again that the router/wifi was indeed not functioning as it should.

Let’s try one more thing’  he said. ‘Please unplug the cable that connects modem to wifi/router, and plug it instead directly into your computer. I wait’, he added, ‘I wait.

Thus, by bypassing the router/wifi my internet came back!

It turned out that he knew the make and model of my wifi/router. ‘You must call them,’ he said. ‘Do you have paper and pencil? I give you their number.’  He was certainly knowledgeable.

I thanked him. We seemed to have solved the problem, and so said goodbye.

Before thinking about telephoning the wifi/router maker I decided I might now look them up on Goodsearch. For my particular model I noticed there was a little ‘factory reset’ option, an operation which didn’t look too complicated. It would involve a toothpick. There was, it said, a pinhole on the back – and it gave a foto of the unlabeled tiny hole. Press a toothpick in there, it said, and hold it there for at least 7 seconds.

I held the toothpick in the hole for 11 seconds, just to be sure, and connected everything back as it was 3 days earlier, and as it had been for many years.

Eureka! It all now worked.

So there’s a moral here. If your wifi/router goes on the blink, you don’t need a screwdriver, or a voltmeter … just have a toothpick handy.

David Nightingale has published in both the Astrophysical Journal and The American Journal of Physics, and is the author of the science-fiction novel The Centauri Settlement published by TheBookPatch.com .

The views expressed by commentators are solely those of the authors. They do not necessarily reflect the views of this station or its management.

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