16
Sep
13

Inside a Banksia Bit Blitzer dial-up modem

Dial up internet used to be the main way people connected up until the early 2000’s in Australia. So it was only fitting that one of the most popular brands of modem were made by an Australia company known as Banksia. Like many other manufacturers they frequently used the Rockwell chipsets as integral parts of their modem design. One of these and probably the most ubiquitous type of modem was the Bit Blitzer.

Banksia later merged with or bought many other modem manufacturers including NetComm, and became Sirius Technology, they continued to operate Banksia, NetComm and the others as separate brands.

There are three major types of modems, the old school serial modems, HCF and HSF modems. The old school serial modems did all the processing on behalf of your computer and often were controlled using a simple protocol called the hayes protocol. The benefit of this is drivers were pretty much not necessary, so they often worked very well with very little effort. The Bit Blitzer is one of these.

HCF modems are host controlled which means the computers CPU had to do a large portion of the work determining line speed. HSF modems are basically software modems, the hardware is basically a sound card and all the work is done by the host CPU. Drivers for these types could seriously affect the quality and speed of connection, and they frequently dropped their connections, partly because the CPU would sometimes be busy doing something else. Late USB style modems often fit into this category as well as most PCI modems.

Back at the start of university, living in college we didn’t have the ethernet ports and wireless that is commonly found today. I used an internal HCF type modem to connect to the university internet, but a friend of mine used a 36K Bit Blitzer. His internet connections were usually more stable than mine were despite having a older modem. I later bought an external serial modem so I would have better connectivity.

In these early days in college we often used our modems to connect our PC’s directly in order to be able to play some of our favourite games multiplayer, and to transfer files. Doom was often a favourite. We usually used hyper term to transfer files, but sometimes we also used laplink software as this meant we could chat whilst the files transferred.

This weekend I took apart and photographed the Bit Blitzer modem I have in my collection of junk. It’s not in very good condition as I rescued it when I worked in IT support. It appears that the voltage regulator attached to the chassis doesn’t have good connections so there may not be very much wrong with it. This one has a Rockwell chipset like most other modems of the time but interestingly has an Intel micro controlling it.

Front Panel

Front Panel

Rear Panel

Rear Panel

Overview of the board

Overview of the board

The Intel Chip

The Intel Chip

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