Daily Giz Wiz 605: Merlin Ricochet

Episode 605 of the podcast

Merlin Ricochet
Subject: Review of Merlin Ricochet
Released:Friday 4 July 2008
Length:about 16 minutes
Download file:dgw0605.mp3 (7.5 MB)

Listen to the episode

Short info

From the Gadget Warehouse: Merlin Ricochet.

Detailed information

Link: ricochet.wikispaces.com

The Merlin for Ricochet was announced in December 2000, to provide high-speed wireless internet access, for mobile devices.  The Merlin was a Type II PC Card wireless modem, made by Novatel Wireless, supporting Metricom's Ricochet 128kbps wireless internet service.

Metricom began providing 28.8 kbps wireless internet access in the mid-1990's (monthly flat rate of just under $30).  Its service was limited to big cities, and by 2001 it covered 17 city areas in the US.  The early modems, one of which Leo still has, such as the Phase II Modem and the Modem SE, were about the size of a cellular phone (in those days) and used a serial port connection for the computer, with a peice of velcro to attach itself to the back of a laptop screen.  Using AT commands, they acted like a Hayes-compatible modem.  For a review of the early service, click here.
For the technology used by Ricochet for the network, see its Wikipedia entry, hamradio-online and techweb.
Later modems became smaller (with the Modem GS about the size of a pack of cards), supporting serial port and USB connections, with the speed of the connection increased to 128 kbps in 1999 (monthly flat rate of $75).  For a review of the 128 kbps service, click here.  Unlike the connection speeds these days, Ricochet's actual user speeds sometimes exceeded the advertised speeds.  Considering that all this took place mostly at a time before WiFi or even wired broadband service became prevalent, Ricochet was pretty cool, as Leo says.

All the modems, over the years, seemed to sell for just under $300.  Unfortunately, the Merlin was one of the last modems released by Metricom.  In July 2001, Metricom filed for Ch 11 Bankruptcy, with debts over $1 billion, and the service was shut down in August 2001.  After a series of acquisitions and asset-selling, its service continued in limited areas, shrunk and is now no more.
In the 9/11 aftermath, 2 months after the initial shutdown of the Ricochet service, Ricochet was revived in October 2001 and called to the rescue, to provide internet access around Ground Zero.  Read the CNET report.

4th of July Fireworks

Apart from the crappy fireworks sound effect that Leo generates, Dick does enjoy the real thing.  He sometimes goes to watch the 4th of July Fireworks on his work boat in New York City, half live and half on TV.  Dick's previous more detailed description of his wacky mode of seeing the fireworks appear in Episode 97 and Episode 348.

TWiTLive Marathon for the iPhone 3G

With the iPhone 3G launch on 11 July, Leo is going to do a marathon coverage of the worldwide launch, starting with Wellington in New Zealand - which will be 10 July US time.  Audible is sponsoring the coverage and will give away 5 iPhones 3G.

Match Game Back, on TBS

Regular correspondent Toyota Boy reports the news that Match Game is going to be back, on TBS, with Sarah Silverman, Niecy Nash, Norm MacDonald, Super Dave Osborne and Rashida Jones.  Leo predicts, "It's gonna be blue."

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