Sportster: a history [Editor's note: these are copies of letters sent to USRobotics by Allegro Consultants.]

Casey Cowell
U.S. Robotics

Dear Mr. Cowell:

In October and November, our company purchased three USRobotics modems (external Sportster 14400). Two have already broken.

We need to purchase more modems, and would like to be able to stay with USR (because of cost and features), but really have to have an answer to the following question: What is USRobotics doing to improve their quality?

We have some other concerns as well, but these are relatively minor:

We are looking forward to any responses you care to make on our comments.

[Editors note: no record of any reply received, but we did send our broken modems to USR service, and they returned them as "fixed".]

To: US Robotics
Fax: (708) 982-0823

Re: Sportster 14,400 Fax

Your equipment is junk.

I want to know how you plan to address this problem. Should our company ship you our three Sportster 14,400 and bill you for $350 * 3, plus $150/hour for our consulting time? We have wasted about 9 hours so far, trying to use your error-prone, defective, and break-down prone pieces of sh*t.


Please reply now, preferably with an RMA # we can return your equipment with, and a PO# we can bill you with.

[Editor's note: we received a phone call from USR, asking to repeat the problem report, and ship the modems]

Jamie Donile
Customer Relations Office
8100 N. McCormick Blvd.
Skokie, Il, 60076
(708) 933-5175

Modem serial numbers:

[Editor's note: we shipped them 3 modems]

To: Jamie Donile
Customer Relations Office
8100 N. McCormick Blvd.
Skokie, Il, 60076
voice: (708) 933-5175

Dear Jamie:

We received our three modems back yesterday. I tested them this morning. At present, the status is: two work, one doesn't.

This is not good.

(I love understatements!)


In addition to your failure to correctly repair and test the modems, I discovered a potential safety hazard:

The power supply & modem combination has a short (or design flaw) that sends electric current out the "back" of the modem (via the DB-25 connector). In other words, you can get shocked by touching a plugged in (and powered OFF) modem. In addition, your computer equipment may be damaged.

[Editor's note: although easily reproduced by us, USR failed to reproduce, acknowledge, or fix this hazard.]

I noticed the above problem when I saw a spark while plugging in my PC's RS-232 cable into one of your modems. Subsequent experiments confirmed the problem. I tried all three modems, and all three exhibited the problem. I tried with the phone cable unplugged and plugged, and always saw the problem. I tried with the PC powered off, and still saw the problem. (In other words, I eliminated the PC and the phone line as potential problem sources, and I eliminated the possibility that a single modem was broken.)

So, we are left with three possibilities: (1) the power supply/modem combination is flawed; (2) the power supply is broken (although it does power the modem successfully) ... I only had one power supply available for testing; (3) all three modems were broken in the same way (that allowed 2 of them to function otherwise correctly).

What do you suggest we do now? Our company president wants me to ship all three modems back, and demand satisfaction of some form (Refunds, or upgrades to equivalent Couriers). I'm willing to let you make the first suggestion.

To: Jamie Donile
Customer Relations Office
8100 N. McCormick Blvd.
Skokie, Il, 60076
voice: (708) 933-5175

Dear Ms. Donile,

The enclosed Sportster 14,400 Fax modem is broken...


Although we've lost exact track of the *many* Sportster failures we've suffered in the last two years, one fact is apparent: the AC power switch design on this model is, to put it bluntly, sh*t.

This same modem has been previously "fixed" by USR for the same problem, and some of our other modem failures have also been related to the AC-power switch.

When fixing the enclosed modem, you will need to replace the power switch with the (apparently) better designed AC-power switch found in the newer Sportster models, or we will not accept the repair as being acceptable warranty coverage. If this necessitates replacing the entire modem with the newer modem, that's fine...and fair, given our history of problems with your modems.

P.s.: Attached is a copy of a posting our president made to the Internet last week. When apprised of the lastest modem failure, he said he would wait to see how USR handles the warranty repair before posting again.

[Editors note: posting lost, but it basically said: we now have a company policy covering modem purchases. It is: "No Sportsters"]

[Editor's notes:

One of the USR Sportsters broke again ... it's been featured in the classic "Mr. Sportster meets Mr. Sledgehammer". The remaining two generally work, but need to be power cycled once or twice a week.

We recently had two Supra V.34 modems die within a week of purchase.

We are now happily using a USR Courier V.34 ... the difference in price appears to be worth it!

BTW: all "modems" referred to herein are external modems.

Updated: 95/10/20