Frustrated with computer communications? Having problems? Here's what's going on and how to deal with it:

Below is a brief explanation of communications issues that should help promote a better understanding, more reasonable expectations and gives an explanation of the limitations of the computer communications systems and programs that we all now use daily. You'll also find the suggested steps to take when experiencing a problem with a communications program:

 By Jerry Erbesfield, Webmaster 


Click on one of these for:

Communications Problems Explanation   -   Steps to take when having a problem -  

Computer communications programs and equipment have become such a big part of our day-to-day life now that it is important to understand what is going on and how to deal with the problems that will occur while using them.

No matter how hard we try, on occasion we, as well as all other companies that deal with computer communications, will have problems, complaints and frustrations when dealing with these programs. It’s just simply not possible to avoid such problems altogether due to the very nature of electronic communications. No one is immune.

It seems that sometimes almost nothing can be more frustrating than receiving hieroglyphics on the screen, garbage from the printer while on line or just being completely disconnected in the middle of using your browser or other on-line communications program. In an effort to help you better understand the complexities and limitations of these programs and computer communications in general, the following information is being made available to you.  Understanding what’s happening helps so here goes:

The ability to connect via telephone line for on-line data communications has only been available in the current form of computer communications on a PC by private individuals for less than the last twenty years. That an untrained person can access information like this, from a far away remote location from another computer, is phenomenal, technologically speaking. To keep it in perspective, this is a relatively short time as far as life on earth is concerned.

Electronic communication while greatly improved in recent years, is still however not a perfect science. It is very much a leading edge technology. With today’s increasing demands and needs for ultra high speed communications, there’s going to be complications no matter how flawlessly set up our computers may be. A 10 to 20 percent glitch rate is normal and simply should be expected. This is completely within a normal range of acceptability even when everything is working perfectly.

With any computer communications program, every time you use it, in addition to using the computer terminal you are sitting at, you’re also using two modems, or two network interface component card modules, yours and theirs. Additionally you’re using a second computer, at the host location - and you’re using miles and miles of telephone or data lines and much other equipment in-between. There are switches, transformers, amplifiers, connectors and multiple other gadgets along the way too. Almost anything can happen to interrupt your session.

Weather plays a part too. Any extremes can interfere: rain, ice, and very cold or even very hot weather. The sheer number of devices and equipment at the other location have a big effect on performance. ALL Internet Service Providers have multiple computers, multiple rollover telephone lines and multiple modems, usually numbering into the hundreds. You might connect to any of them at any one time and if that one particular device has a problem, you’re going to know it. The human factor is involved too. We all make mistakes - and with this leading edge technology, it’s very easy to do. You can see the possibilities.

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The following are the suggested steps to take when experiencing a problem with a communications session:

First, don’t panic at the first sign of a problem. Expect some glitches. - And, remember that it’s not always the computer that YOU are using in front of you that is the cause of the problem. More often than not the percentages are that it’s not going to be your computer that is at fault. If it was working correctly during the previous session, it should still be working okay this time. However, equipment does occasionally fail and you will have some problems on your side once in a while, but the percentages far favor the problem more likely being on the other end - or somewhere in-between.

When experiencing a problem, first, be patient. Hang up, exit the program, wait a few moments and then try again. If using a telephone line and a conventional modem, turn off the modem for a couple of seconds if an external modem, or shut down the entire computer for a few moments if it’s an internal modem. The same goes if you’re using a data connection (T-1, DSL, ISDN or whatever) with an network card or other type connecting device installed. The first step is to shut the computer down electrically and completely for a moment or two. In some cases, it could take more than a few moments or a couple of attempts - and sometimes you may even have to wait till later in the day to try it again. Just the luck of the draw of connecting via a different route or by a different telephone or data line, or the communication session routing itself through a more direct line path and/or different equipment, will often correct the problem. This is a random process and we have absolutely no control over it.

The problem could very well be on the other end and connecting to a different terminal station or a different modem on the other end may solve your problem. Sometimes problems are noticed and corrected in a short period of time from the other end - and sometimes not. Try again a little later. Also occasionally a host system (the other end) will experience an overload. A system is designed to handle just so many calls. When this happens, everything will slow down - or even stop. Try again later or at a different time of day. Remember that weather and other outside conditions such as construction in the area also may be affecting you.

If the problem doesn't go away in a reasonable period of time, a voice telephone call by you to whomever it is that you are trying to electronically communicate with is the next step. Maybe they ARE having a problem that they DO know about, and can tell you how soon it might be up and running smoothly again. If there is a problem that they don't know about, they can't fix it until someone actually lets them know about it.

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Copyright 2011, Jerry A. Erbesfield