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minicom vs pon

I have a serial modem connected via a usb serial converter.  I
noticed that if I turn the modem off then on, I can no longer
connect via pon (ppp) *unless* I reset the modem or serial link by
other means, like disconnecting and reconnecting the usb serial
converter or invoking "/etc/init.d/hotplug restart".

OTOH I can "instantly" dial out with minicom or even efax.
Somewhat surprising is that after I use either program, I can
already connect via pon.  I must assume that minicom and efax
issue commands to "prep" the modem.  Does anybody know how these
two programs differ from pon in the way they interact with the
modem?  I need to place something in my crontab so I can use pon
without user intervention.

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