Jan 112023

Note: Since all we have done the last few days is fill boxes in preparation for our move to Alabama, I thought I’d repost a blog about how far technology has come since we became fulltime RVers way back in 1999. No, we didn’t always have WiFi and cell phones that work as hotspots, and wireless modems. Life was really hard back in the “good old days.”

When we started out, cell phones were few and far between and access plans were expensive, and outside of big cities, getting a signal was sometimes impossible. E-mail? We would carry our laptop computer to the campground office, pay $1 to get online long enough to download our e-mail, and read it offline. Then we’d write our replies and wait our turn to get back in line to send them out.

I remember our first wireless modem, an air card type thing called the Ace of Spades that was slower than dial-up when it worked at all. But imagine logging onto America Online right from our motorhome! Who’d have thought something like that was even possible?

Then we got a nifty device called PocketMail, which allowed us to hold it against a regular telephone to download and send e-mail. No attachments, but still a big step forward. We were “with it!”

The next step forward was the huge dishes that offered high-speed satellite internet. You could pay many thousands of dollars for an automatic rooftop dish or a couple thousand for a tripod-mounted dish that you pointed manually.

Some of the folks who sold the expensive automatic units spread all sorts of outlandish rumors about the rooftop dishes. They claimed that they were illegal and dangerous in the hands of anybody except a certified installer. They said that if you aimed one wrong, you could “knock an airplane out of the sky.” I always said that was nonsense, because if that were true, every wacko kid and homegrown terrorist would be out in the backyard shooting down airliners. One rumor claimed that a gentleman in an RV park walked by an improperly pointed tripod dish, and it blew the ink pen he had in his shirt pocket clear through his heart! There were stories of SWAT teams from the Federal Communications Commission swarming down on RV parks and rallies, seizing illegal dishes and the RVs of their owners. Yeah, I know that really sounds crazy, but we heard all of those stories and more!

Here’s a fun story about the days of satellite internet dishes. We had a hybrid, a tripod unit that we mounted to a special folding mast on top of our MCI bus conversion. In transit, the LNB arm was removed and stored inside the bus. When we were stopped, I would boost Terry up through the emergency escape hatch in the roof over our bed, and she was so good at aiming the dish that we were usually online as fast as somebody with an automatic dish could deploy theirs.

direcway dish

Once we were at Elkhart Campground in Indiana and I started to boost Terry through the roof, but she had me stop because she forgot the written coordinates to aim the dish and needed to retrieve them. I started to boost her again, and she had me stop again because she needed the wrench she used to tighten the LNB. Finally we were ready again, and it was one, two three, and up through the hatch. Terry was setting the dish up when the man in the RV parked next to us came outside and said, “I’m so glad to see you!” Assuming it was one of our readers, Terry said she was glad to see him, too. The man told her, “I was sitting there having my coffee, and I saw this head coming up through the roof of your bus, and I told my wife to look at it, and when she did, it was gone. Then it came back again! She said that whatever the heck was going on over there was none of our business!” I’m glad we cleared that up for him. Yeah, we’ve come a long way, baby!

Thought For The Day – To be old and wise, one first has to be young and stupid.

Nick Russell

World-Famous, New York Times Best Selling Author, and All-Around Nice Guy!

  5 Responses to “We’ve Come A Long Way, Baby!”

  1. Oh my word your story had me laughing so hard!!!!

  2. Oh…I remember those days too!! We had a ground mounted Directway. What a huge pain in the butt!! So very glad with the technological advancements for internet, TV, etc. LOL…I also remember seeing Terry pop-up through the roof of your old Bus when we first met you. Great memories!

  3. I remember when we got “pocketmail”. We had the tiger by the tail. Fortunately there still were pay phones around. We have come a long way, baby!

  4. Wow. In 1999, my wife and I had our first RV – a brand new Rockwood pop up that we bought the year before. It had lights and a mini fridge! And you could hook a hose to it for running water. No shower or toilet, but we still thought it was the greatest thing since sliced bread. We never worried about email or online in the pop up, we had books. Well, that and she’d make me play Yahtzee when it rained and we couldn’t get out.

    Now, we have an F350, a 37’ Rockwood fifth wheel, (yeah, we like that brand!) and we get annoyed when the campground has bad WiFi. We’re retired and while we’ll never full time, we load up the dogs, the cats, and take off for two or three months at a time. Yup, a long way indeed!

  5. So much has changed in such a relatively short period of time. Things are much easier now!

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