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By: Michael R. Monett
Now that winter is upon us, you may be experiencing strange behavior
while browsing the Internet. Sometimes the modem relay clicks off for no
reason, or sometimes you cannot even log on. Before you blame the modem and
decide to get a new one, try the following: take a small dab of ordinary
white petroleum jelly and put it on the little gold connectors in
every phone connection in your system. Insert and remove each connector 4 or
5 times to spread the petroleum jelly evenly and to clean off the surface
grime inside the connector. If your phone system is anything like mine, you
may be surprised at how many connections you have. I have two lines, with a
total of 18 connectors, including two in each handset. (Don't forget the
ones in the basement - they are probably the cause!) The reason this helps
is simple. The little gold connectors merely rest against each other - there
is no clamping action to press them together. Ordinary dust and grime
can work their way in and cause intermittent or poor connections. This is
aggravated by changes in humidity and temperature as the furnace turns on
and off. The petroleum jelly cleans the surface of the connector and
provides an insulating film which prevents further buildup of grime in
the connections. When you plug the connector in, the microscopic roughness
on the surfaces punch through the insulating film to make a
low-resistance, metal-to-metal contact. This is a simple solution to
what could be a very expensive problem. Try it before condemning the modem,
the Internet, or your poor service provider. You may be pleasantly
surprised at how much better everything works, and how much clearer the phones
sound when you make a call. It works for any electrical connection
(except high temperatures that would burn the jelly!) This is an old Radio
Engineer's trick from the 30's, taught to me by the operators of radio station
CFRB in Toronto (The station is now dismantled.) Updates and Related
Info Modem Speed I never realized until I tried this how much the modem
depends on good, clean connections to the phone system. You can be connected
to a site 5,000 miles away, and the weakest link is the last 50 feet inside
your home. High-speed modems depend on equalization to transfer all those
bits. This makes them much more sensitive to changes in signal level, and
minor pops and clicks, than the human ear. When a loose connection causes a
line click, the modem generates an error that causes the block of data to be
re-sent. This slows down the data transfer, and you get the impression that
the web is "slower than usual today". However, after treating each
connector with a dab of petroleum jelly, the web has regained its youthful
vigor. Pages snap up on the screen just like they used to, and it is a
pleasure surfing the web again.
Rubber Erasers: Some people have suggested
using a rubber eraser instead of petroleum jelly. This is a bad idea. The
rubber leaves tiny particles that contaminate the surface of the connector.
This makes an erratic connection, and actually increases contact resistance.
Any apparent improvement will quickly degrade, and you think the problem
must be somewhere else because you know you just fixed it. This can send you
off on an expensive wild goose chase.
Contact Resistance: The petroleum jelly helps remove surface oxides and contamination and leaves
an insulating film that protects the contact against further contamination.
Actual contact resistance measurements, made by me, show the contact
resistance decreases by a factor of ten, and becomes very stable. This is
compared to a normal, clean, untreated connection.
Other Sprays and Contact Cleaners: Over the past 40 years, I have tried just about
every commercial contact cleaner sold. None of them do as good a job, or last as long,
as plain old petroleum jelly.
Try it - you'll like it!
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