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Flashback Friday: Dial-Up Modems Were Enough To Make Your Ears Bleed

by Sean P. Aune | November 19, 2010November 19, 2010 4:00 pm PDT

Talking about dot matrix printers last week made me realize just how noisy the early days of home computing were.  While the printers were insanely loud, you didn’t use them quite as often as your modem.

As you can hear in the video above, it doesn’t sound that bad just hearing it once, but in the early days of dial-up, on a 9600 baud modem, you found that very rarely did you connect on the first try.  Sometimes it could take you eight to ten times to connect to where you were calling, and then it’d be all good … sometimes.  Your family member picks up the phone and kills the connection … the service you called into drops the connection … there’s static on the line killing your connection and so on.  Any number of things could kill your connection, and in turn that meant another eight to ten calls to connect, so it wasn’t unusual in a single night to hear this sound 30 to 40 times.

modemWhile the sound was probably a good thing so you at least you knew the modem was working, but in the later days they had lights that told you and kept the sound at the same time.  Why?  We no longer needed it.  And while the sound was an audible cue, why in the world did it always have to be so blasted loud?

When I got my first cable modem in late 2000, I’m not sure if it was the always-on connectivity that I enjoyed the most, or the fact that I never had to listen to that blasted dialing sound again.

Just writing this post is going to make me have nightmares of that screech all night … do you see what I do for you people?!?


Sean P. Aune

Sean P. Aune has been a professional technology blogger since July 2007, but his love of tech dates back to at least 1976 when his parents bought...

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