It only needed to last long enough that I could finish the weekly chat, which was usually around 2 hours, and which I would be 30 minutes into as the train pulled out. It did, barely, before I lost coverage. At around 19.2kbaud, it was tolerable for IRC, text mail, and not a lot else.
Fast-forward to November 11, 2002. I had to that point resisted a newer device. Why bother? They didn't get me anything useful. On that day, Walter Wong, who I think was still my boss (on and off he was my boss 3 times) gave me a Treo 300 which had been loaned to CMU, and within 2 hours I knew I wanted one.
The 300 was a flip, and with a small matter of software in addition to being an ssh client and web browser it was a modem for my laptop, first a Linux (PC) and then in July of 2003, a Mac. It changed how I thought of connectivity in much the same way TiVo changed how I watched tv. I once infamously debugged a fileserver issue while I worked at CMU using only the Treo.
In the time since, I upgraded to a Treo 600 (not a flip); a Treo 650 (bluetooth); and a Treo 700p (EvDO: came back from visiting bluelang and magentamom and activated it, in August 2006) all of which have been used among other things to provide data service to my laptop, over thousands of miles including streaming radio over the internet.
In 2005 I got a Windows Mobile device, again from Walter. In 2006, after a year as a T-Mobile customer I sold it and converted my radio streaming back to my Treo 700p. Since then, EvDO has been the bedrock of my mobile computing, for about $32/mo.
On July 11, I bought an iPhone. In spite of the issues I have using it, today, I cancelled my account with Sprint, ending my nearly 6 year use use of Treos. It's really a shame about the missed promise of the iPhone 3g; It still comes up short in some regards, but the Treo had the big problem that I also carried a phone. It was an excellent data device. I look forward in 3 weeks to carrying but a single device. Would that it works out as well for me.