Last weekend, my other half had me digging around in the loft to find stuff that she could flog off at the car boot sale. By a strange coincidence I'd been thinking that week that I'd quite like to dig out some old kit that I was sure I'd squirreled away, to provide me with Internet connectivity should my ADSL fail.

Sure enough, in a box full of bits, there they were: a Shiva LanRover/E and the one I was looking for: my trusty old Shiva AccessPort.

In the old days, my AccessPort was my route to the Internet. It's a little ISDN router with a pair of analogue ports (so you can attach a phone and a fax, and route calls to them if you have multiple subscriber numbering turned on on the ISDN line) plus an ISDN port and an Ethernet port. Many thousands of words of Network Week (remember that?) got submitted over this wonderful little grey box that those nice people at Shiva gave me all those years ago.

Later in my career, I found myself supporting a building full of people who wanted remote access, and the answer was the LanRover/D56. Whereas the LanRover/E (now retrieved from the loft and sitting on my shelf) was an eight analogue-or-ISDN2-port dial-in server, the D56 took ISDN30 and provided both analogue and digital services via "digital modem" cards. It was a beast of a box, and bloody wonderful.

After a while, a number of vendors (Shiva included) came up with the idea of a VPN - tunneling packets over the Internet via local-call ISPs instead of making expensive national-rate dial-up calls. A brilliant breakthrough (and, it must be said, one that saved the company I was working for about $1million per annum), and one which caused Intel to acquire Shiva, mainly to get its VPN technology if I recall correctly.

Then they canned the dial-up products.

It's easy to fotget that dial-up connectivity is actually a very useful thing. I still have dial-up facilities into several client sites, for instance, so I can deal with problems when the ADSL's dead, or someone's misconfigured the firewall and locked everyone out, or whatever. And it's a darn handy thing to have for my home office ADSL, not least because I have ISDN2 lying around doing very little just so I can test the telephony software I write.

The LanRover/D56 was a work of art. Intel killed it.

Now all I have left are my poor little LanRover/E and AccessPort. The world is a worse place.

FOOTNOTE - the label on the bottom of the AccessPort says something you don't often see these days on networking kit: Made in UK.