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By Stan Vernon, Motorola Corporation

With the use of a computer modem, CPAs can access SEC and SEC EDGAR information for free; instantly transferring files to and from the office; "chatting" with colleagues through CompuServe's Accountants' Forum or the NYSSCPA's LUCA Online; and, downloading information from the American Accounting Association's home page on the World Wide Web.

With the aggressive marketing of online services and widespread coverage of the Internet and World Wide Web, many are finding they want to try out the "information highway," but feel unsure about the technology involved. The so-called information highway is no longer the exclusive domain of those in the technology fast lane. Online services like America Online, CompuServe, Prodigy, Apple's eWorld, and many Internet providers make access to a vast amount of information, services, and entertainment straightforward and simple.

The key hardware component to access these services is, of course, the modem. Modems are available for virtually every computer. But there are few guidelines available to help choose which modem is right for the user's needs. Motorola's Transmission Products Division has compiled a basic information list as a guide:

* For a personal computer, modems are available as external or internal models. External modems simply plug into the serial port on the back of the computer and sit on the desktop. Internal modems are generally somewhat less expensive, but the installation involves opening the computer box. Unless a user is comfortable "under the hood," an external modem is probably the best choice.

* PCMCIA modems are small, credit card-sized modems that fit into the PCMCIA slot of a laptop or notebook computer. When looking at PCMCIA modems, users should consider whether they will want cellular capability. Some modems only work with standard telephone jacks while others also connect to cellular phones and enable connection to online services from anywhere.

* Modem prices have dropped so quickly that there's no reason to buy a modem slower than 14.4 kilobits per second (kbps). If a user only sends e-mail and faxes, 14.4 will serve his or her needs. However, if the user is sending or receiving large files or using the World Wide Web, a modem rated at 28.8 kbps will save a lot of time and frustration. It will also be a money-saver for those online services that charge by the minute. When it comes to modems, nobody even complains of too much speed.

* Power users may want to look into the new digital modems. Also known as terminal adapters, digital modems require special "ISDN" (integrated services digital network) telephone lines, available from the regional Bell companies. Motorola's BitSURFR and IBM's WaveRunner, the first retail products to take advantage of ISDN technology, send and receive data at more than 60 kbps--more than twice as fast as the fastest analog modems.

* Most of today's modems send both data communications and faxes with equal ease. The ability to fax directly from a PC usually leads to the discovery of countless uses, from ordering products and services to sending messages directly to a client's or colleagues' desk.

* Some modems offer advanced features that set them apart from the rest. Available features include a "distinctive ring" that differentiates between voice, data, and fax incoming calls, enabling the use of multiple devices on one phone line; technology that sharpens incoming and outgoing faxes; and the ability to display caller-ID information on the computer screen.

* To ensure the greatest compatibility with software and other modems, purchasers should stick to the brands supported by software packages. Software that includes communication support will usually have a configuration window showing which modems are supported.

* The modem selected should also meet official International Telecommunications Union (ITU) standards. For 14.4 kbps modems, the official standard is V.32bis; for 28.8 modems, it's V.34. Other "unofficial" standards, such as V.FC, V.Fast, V.Fastclass, and V.32terbo, may not be as compatible or as reliable. The standard is usually identified on the box. Modems that do not meet standards may not be able to "talk" to other remote sites.

* Upgradability, refers to whether a modem can be updated with new

features or to use a new standard. Some modems can be upgraded by downloading software from the manufacturer, some have to be sent back, and others are not upgradable at all. Although 28.8 may be the fastest transmission speed for standard telephone lines, new features and data compression techniques are still being developed. It's best to have a modem that can be easily upgraded.

A modem is one of the easiest peripheral devices to install and use. Purchasers are advised to choose a modem manufacturer that has readily-available customer support in the form of an 800 number.

Most modems come bundled with user-friendly software for accessing online services and sending faxes. *

For additional information contact Stan

Vernon at Motorola--(508) 261-4756.

Paul D. Warner, PhD, CPA
Hofstra University

L. Murphy Smith, DBA, CPA,
Texas A&M University

The CPA Journal is broadly recognized as an outstanding, technical-refereed publication aimed at public practitioners, management, educators, and other accounting professionals. It is edited by CPAs for CPAs. Our goal is to provide CPAs and other accounting professionals with the information and news to enable them to be successful accountants, managers, and executives in today's practice environments.

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