Dial It Yourself:
Manual dialing adds needed flexibility to online connections

Naturally it’s nice when your computer dials. It’s convenient and fast, but there are many times when it makes better sense to dial phone numbers using the telephone itself, only letting the computer take over once you hear the carrier signal from the computer that you are dialing.

Manual dialing is useful when you are using acoustic couplers (see related article), when you need a hotel or overseas operator’s assistance connecting a call, or when you’ve encountered a particularly troublesome hotel or payphone.

We’ll discuss specific methods here to make manual connections using Dialup Networking in Windows 95, as well as general techniques for use when connecting using other software.

Equipment

To dial using a phone – and to be able to let the computer take over at some point — you’ll need to have both the telephone and the computer connected to the phone line at the same time. This is no problem when using acoustic couplers, as the coupler is attached to the phone itself. It can be more difficult when connecting with a phone line adapter.

Fortunately, most phone line adapters sold or distributed by TeleAdapt are configured such that in addition to accepting your modem’s RJ11 plug, you can plug the telephone back into the adapter after the adapter has been plugged into the wall socket. If the particular adapter you will be using doesn’t allow this, then you’re only option is to carry your own telephone and a small ‘Y’ adapter that lets you plug two American-style RJ11 plugs to a phone line. Plug this into your phone line adapter. Into the ‘Y’ adapter plug your computer and your telephone.

Dialing manually with Windows 95

Microsoft has included some convenient features that you can use to simplify manual dialing if you use the Dialup Networking feature of Windows 95 to connect to the Internet. Here’s how to set up an appropriate connection for use with manual dialing.

Open the Dial-up Networking folder usually found at the top level of My Computer that is found on your desktop. Select Make New Connection and name the new connection something appropriate, such as "Manual Dialing." At the bottom of the Make New Connection’s first screen you’ll see your modem listed. Click on the Configure button below it.

A window will come up with four tabs across the top. Click on the Options tab and then look toward the middle of the window for a section called Dial Control. Place a check mark before the line that reads "Operator assisted or manual dial."

Next click on the tab labeled Connection. Look at the line that reads "Cancel the call if not connected within __ seconds." Place a check before the line if there isn’t one already there and ensure that the number of seconds indicated is set to 60 or more. This is to give you enough time to complete your connection before your modem gives up waiting.

Also while your at the Connection tab, you may want to remove the check before the line that reads "Wait for dial tone before dialing." It doesn’t actually affect this manual dialing procedure, but it’s best to get into the habit of ensuring this line is not checked whenever you will be connecting while abroad so that your modem won’t be confused by unfamiliar dial tones.

Then hit OK to complete your modem configuration. Then hit Next to proceed to the Make New Connection wizard’s next screen that asks you to specify what telephone number you would like to dial. You don’t need to type in a phone number here, as you are going to be dialing it by hand (or having an operator do so), but Windows won’t let you pass without putting something in as a telephone number. It’s safest simply to put a single comma in as the telephone number. Windows will accept the comma and your modem will simply register it as a pause command. You can leave the Area Code blank and there’s no need to alter the Country Code that is specified.

Click on Next and then on Finish from the next screen and you should be all set to use the connection.

To the establish a connection, double click on the new item that you just created. It will that appear in your Dial-up Networking folder, named Manual Dialing, or whatever name you specified. Enter in your username and password in the opening screen and click on Connect. A new window will then appear that instructs you to manually dial the phone number at that time, and then hit the Connect button on the bottom of that window once you hear the computer on the other end of the phone line. Do as the window instructs. Dial the call manually or have the operator place the call, then hit Connect once you hear the annoying computer carrier. You can then hang up the phone, generally the quicker the better.

Dialing with other software

You are left more on your own when manual dialing with other software, but it doesn’t have to be more difficult. The most important thing is to have your modem set so that it does not wait for a dial tone before dialing and connecting. To do this, one way or another you will need to put the code "X1" into your modem initialization string. With some software, there’s an elegant way of doing it, as was the case with Windows 95 Dial-up Networking. Other times you have to get down and dirty and fool with the codes yourself.

Look for a way to display the modem initialization string that your software is using. Somewhere, somehow, you will be able to find it. Once you do, you should add the ‘X1’ somewhere between the ‘ATDT’ that normally begins the string, and the ‘^M’ that normally ends it. Right before the ‘^M’ would be fine.

Next find where you specify the phone number your computer thinks it’s going to dial. The actual phone number you have specified is immaterial, since the phone call will already have been made before your computer dials anything. You can leave it as it is, or to be safe, change it to a comma.

Once you’ve made these changes, you’re ready to make a connection. Hook up your modem, leaving the phone connected as discussed above. Load up your software and bring it to a point just before it would actually dial out on your modem. Dial the phone manually and once you hear the carrier signal, instruct your software to dial out.

If you are able to do all this in a timely fashion, your computer will soon be speaking with the host computer, even though your computer was a bit tardy preparing itself.

Other strategies

If you are using acoustic couplers and you are not having luck making a connection as described above, you may wish to attempt your manual dialing in reverse order. First make sure your modem won’t be waiting for a dial tone. Then, before placing the telephone receiver (handset) onto the coupler, instruct your computer to dial. Once it is waiting to detect the carrier signal, you can manually dial your phone and join the receiver to the acoustic couplers.

In all cases discussed in this article, you should check to see if you can control how long your modem will wait before it gives up all hope of making a connection. If possible, set the time out for a minute or more to give yourself plenty of time to get things right.

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