It's time for a trip down memory lane for some, and a history lesson for others.

Long ago, in a universe far away, end users were not allowed to connect their own equipment to the telephone network. Depending on one's perspective, this was either to protect the network from harm or to maintain strict control - both technical and financial - of the network.

Also at this time telephones adhered to a standard. The handset was of a standard size and the earpiece and mouthpiece were roughly circular. Consequently, one of the first methods devised for connecting one's own computing equipment - like a VERY slow teletypewriter with speeds of 110 to 300 bps - was a cradle that the phone handset could be placed into, thereby connecting to the network using an interface of approximately 78 percent nitrogen, 21 percent oxygen, and the remaining 1 percent of various other elements. And no electronic interface or interference with the network.

Jim, by the way, was quite disappointed the time he brought a computer home only to realise that he had a "princess phone" with a different shape for the handset.

For many of us, acoustic couplers provided a life-line that allowed us to have network access legally - and from almost anywhere. Not always the optimal solution, but at least it allowed us to limp by without rewiring telephone jacks in the hotel room, which some of us have also been known to do.

Which leads us to the question of whether anybody except Steve has used an acoustic coupler in the past few years. (That's another story for much later, and admittedly an adaptation.)

But we are on a quest to find out who had the oldest equipment still being used in a production environment, and how it's being used. Anybody still use a 212a compatible modem? (That's the one where the HS button on the front (for "high speed") meant 1200 instead of 300 bps. How about a 103 modem? Punch cards?

Let us know, and we'll share the results. And pictures would be great!

Steve Taylor is president of Distributed Networking Associates and publisher/editor-in-chief of Webtorials. For more detailed information on most of the topics discussed in this newsletter, connect to Webtorials, the premier site for Web-based educational presentations, white papers and market research.

Jim Metzler is the Vice President of Ashton, Metzler & Associates, a consulting organisation that focuses on leveraging technology for business success. Jim assists vendors to refine product strategies, service providers to deploy technologies and services, and enterprises evolve their network infrastructure.