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This is what dialup sounded like
September 11, 2011 7:24 AM   Subscribe

Kids today won't know the shrill cry of a 9600 baud, or the magical "doodleeedoo" of a 28.8 modem. Help preserve our digital history. Join us in recording your best impression of a "modem handshake" sound.
posted by Brandon Blatcher (67 comments total) 21 users marked this as a favorite

 
Kid's today have their own problems.
posted by punkfloyd at 7:38 AM on September 11, 2011 [4 favorites]


SSSSKKKKKKRREEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE didddlllliddddllllllllidddllllllllllllllllleeeeee SSSSKKKKREEEEEEE.

My modem is full of machine elves.
posted by Ahab at 7:39 AM on September 11, 2011 [2 favorites]


I was at a party once in a house where they kept the parrot cage next to the computer. The parrot could do the most amazing imitation of the modem dialling the ISP, getting a connection, and completing the handshake!
posted by Multicellular Exothermic at 7:40 AM on September 11, 2011 [17 favorites]


My impression is so pitch-perfect a hundred AOL sign-up floppies show up in my mailbox the next day.
posted by hal9k at 7:42 AM on September 11, 2011 [15 favorites]


Oh you noobs, I remember when 300 Baud was the max, and if you whistled just right, you could get a modem on the other end to lock on for a second or two, and maybe if you were lucky, toss up some random characters on their terminal. Oh how I wish I hadn't discarded my old Carterphone 300 baud acoustic coupler.

BTW, loquacious' link to a demo of a 1964 analog modem, down in the Related Posts at the bottom of the page, is exceptionally awesome.
posted by charlie don't surf at 7:49 AM on September 11, 2011 [5 favorites]


My ringtone is the sound of a 28.8 modem. After spending nearly a decade doing support for a company where we had to dial in to our customer's UNIX servers using modems, my ears are just attuned to that sound. People who were on the Internet back when you still needed a modem recognize the sound immediately. Most of the kids we know, all of whom grew up in a world of DSL and cable modems, either have no idea what that noise is, or think its a fax machine.
posted by ralan at 7:50 AM on September 11, 2011 [5 favorites]


I would provide an excellent imitation of a ZX Spectrum loading software off an audio cassette, but it might make people suspect that I'm not really the young gorgeous thing that the internet allows me to claim to be.

So I have no idea what a ZX spectrum sounds like after you type Load "elite", let alone how much longer it can take when you get that massive 48K RAM upgrade. Or how many hours it takes to actually become ranked as elite at Elite. I know nothing of such things.
posted by -harlequin- at 8:05 AM on September 11, 2011 [8 favorites]


How about the handshake of a 300 baud modem? Deciding whether to downgrade to 110 baud?
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 8:10 AM on September 11, 2011


Pah, that's newb shite. There's some dude transmitting RTTY over the internet: Internet Teletype.

I can do you an Amstrad CPC at SPEED WRITE 0, tho': ooooEEEoooo-khee-khee-khee-khee
posted by scruss at 8:29 AM on September 11, 2011 [1 favorite]


The AT Command Set lives on however. You find it (pdf) in even the latest chipsets from Qualcomm.

Command Line

Commands always start with AT (which means ATtention) and finish with a character.

posted by three blind mice at 8:35 AM on September 11, 2011


I had a trailblazer, which was the best available in 1989, so we could get Usenet by dialing up NYU (cmcl2.com). Someone speculated that its protocols might make a great form of encryption today that would stump young codebreakers born after its time.
posted by Obscure Reference at 8:42 AM on September 11, 2011 [1 favorite]


Oh please. Stand back and gape with awe (awwwwwwwwww) as I perform my stunning, pitch-perfect rendition of an IBM 1403 line printer --

KA CHUNK KA CHUNK KA CHUNK (whrrr) KA CHUNK KA CHUNK KA CHUNK (whrrr)
posted by tspae at 8:43 AM on September 11, 2011 [3 favorites]


Hallo?



sound of a tincan attached by wire to another tincan
posted by infini at 8:47 AM on September 11, 2011 [2 favorites]


Two words: acoustic coupler.
posted by davel at 8:54 AM on September 11, 2011 [1 favorite]


It's an ironic website, as it apparently appeals only to people who are old enough to remember modem sounds but have forgotten the concept of bandwidth—"old-timers" who are nonetheless "newfangled" enough to subscribe to the foolish ubiquitous notion that everything posted to the Internet nowadays must be done in video format. Why the hell does a collection of modem sounds need to be done in video?
posted by cribcage at 8:56 AM on September 11, 2011 [2 favorites]


Why the hell does a collection of modem sounds need to be done in video?

M-face.
posted by danb at 8:59 AM on September 11, 2011 [7 favorites]


I remember how electrified I felt hearing the modem handshake the first time I signed on to AOL.

Little did I know that this sound heralded the beginning of the sweeping away of the entire pre-Web world I had grown up in.

In retrospect, the moment called for a bowing of one's head.
posted by Trurl at 9:13 AM on September 11, 2011 [4 favorites]


Is anyone else listening to these and thinking "how can they be off-key?"

I suffer from very nearly almost quite perfect pitch
posted by zippy at 9:19 AM on September 11, 2011 [1 favorite]


"My ringtone is the sound of a 28.8 modem."

I read this to my husband and said, "Isn't that what yours is, too?" He said "No, mine is 56k. I have TWICE their ringtone."
posted by illenion at 9:20 AM on September 11, 2011 [23 favorites]


Anyone else catch "white pride worldwide" at the end of beardy-guy's video?
posted by arcticwoman at 9:34 AM on September 11, 2011


"white pride worldwide"

+++ ATH
posted by zippy at 9:36 AM on September 11, 2011 [7 favorites]


You guys talking about ring tones made me go out and find The Dial-up Internet Sound (With MP3!).
posted by bleary at 9:39 AM on September 11, 2011 [3 favorites]


Anyone else catch "white pride worldwide" at the end of beardy-guy's video?

He said "eee-niggerrrrr" too. Classy guy.
posted by two or three cars parked under the stars at 9:51 AM on September 11, 2011


I only kind of want to be That Guy, but there were never 9,600 baud modems. 9600 modems, transmitting at 9,600bps were 2,400 baud, or symbols per second. They were figuring out how to get more bits per symbol as they transitioned from 300 baud and 1,200 baud modems. See Wikipedia's section on dialup speeds. Baud speeds kept slowly increasing, but most of the speed improvements in modems were done by better modulations and such.

But, yeah, maybe I should try this. As a teenager, I was able to connect at 1200 a few times, and got 1/4 or 1/2 page of random text. Whee.
posted by skynxnex at 9:51 AM on September 11, 2011


If on OS X you can experience 300 baud using Cathode.

In the preferences, you can set the speed of the connection.
posted by zippy at 9:57 AM on September 11, 2011 [1 favorite]


I've never felt old before.

So I have no idea what a ZX spectrum sounds like after you type Load "elite", let alone how much longer it can take when you get that massive 48K RAM upgrade. Or how many hours it takes to actually become ranked as elite at Elite. I know nothing of such things.

harlequin, are you familiar with this?
posted by vogon_poet at 9:59 AM on September 11, 2011


I don't think that 10 seconds is enough time to capture the sound. Part of the experience of dialup for me, at least early on, was listening to the modem proceeding through the connection process and hoping that it would eventually connect, instead of hanging up and redialing.
posted by Hicksu at 10:21 AM on September 11, 2011 [1 favorite]


You can still hear that old dialup sound if you send a fax via a simple fax machine.
posted by mareli at 10:33 AM on September 11, 2011


chatroullete for antisocial neckbeards...
posted by ennui.bz at 10:36 AM on September 11, 2011 [1 favorite]


oh no! the internet is expanding!
posted by sexyrobot at 10:37 AM on September 11, 2011


My entry point was a Hayes too... in 1984? I heard that sound millions of times, from then until 1999... I still whistle back at fax machines when I fat-finger a number :)
posted by Dean_Paxton at 10:55 AM on September 11, 2011 [1 favorite]


I never understood why this sound was audible. What was the point of playing it over the speaker? Couldn't a dialog just say "connecting..." and then "connected"? Why have a fax-machine-esque sound play for the first 15 seconds of the connection?
posted by tylerkaraszewski at 11:04 AM on September 11, 2011


As a young phreak, every sound and click was important to me. I see from the list of speeds that there were different modulations schemes in use as speeds went up, but is there, anywhere, a technical description of what these bleeps and bloops meant? What, precisely, was each little technical tone-poem negotiating?
posted by fake at 11:11 AM on September 11, 2011


There was an command for silencing the modem speaker, but I'll be damned if I can remember it now. Dialing into my school's network was usually reliable so I remember silencing the speaker for that one. But for other BBS's or my first ISP, there were occasionally problems, so I liked listening since you could get a rough idea as to what was wrong when that first handshake failed.
posted by honestcoyote at 11:57 AM on September 11, 2011


The sequences are defined in the ITU V.blahblah specifications, but I don't think those are freely available. Here's a brief description of V.34 setup. The V.8[pdf] interaction at the beginning (introduced with V.32, I think?) is actually a whole separate 300bps modem protocol that modems use during call setup to negotiate capabilities, instead of the increasingly elaborate dance of shifting carrier frequencies and such which had been used earlier. The bongs towards the end are part of the equalization sequence, I think, which is there to precisely measure the properties of the connection so the modem signal can be adapted to it.

tylerkaraszewski: You can turn off the speaker (ATM0) but then you won't be able to hear if the other end is picked up by a human, an answering machine, a SIT message, or whatever.
posted by hattifattener at 12:11 PM on September 11, 2011 [2 favorites]


Do you think the bearded racist is making a "white noise" pun?
posted by jwhite1979 at 12:21 PM on September 11, 2011


@jwhite1979: No, I don't think so.
posted by Dean_Paxton at 12:28 PM on September 11, 2011


bearded racist

Oh good, I wasn't the only one that noticed this guy. Not sure why MetaFilter is helping to increase traffic of a such a deplorable site.
posted by SeizeTheDay at 12:29 PM on September 11, 2011


I don't think they've noticed them yet? They are only a few hours old. I'm hoping the site owner will find them and drop them quickly... I find it hard to reconcile a fun site about ancient communications methods with abject racism?
posted by Dean_Paxton at 12:35 PM on September 11, 2011 [1 favorite]


hattifettener, thank you. The spectral plot is gorgeous. I'll have to spend some more time looking into this, it has always fascinated me.
posted by fake at 12:36 PM on September 11, 2011


Just saw the bearded racist my. My 5 year old told me to turn it off. That was a treat...not. No "report a user" button to be found on that site. Ick.
posted by clever_username at 12:37 PM on September 11, 2011 [2 favorites]


@jwhite1979: No, I don't think so.

Me neither. My wife says I do mental gymnastics to give people the benefit of the doubt. I guess it's a reflex.
posted by jwhite1979 at 12:49 PM on September 11, 2011 [2 favorites]


Hi all - Eric from Bleeoo here.

Thanks for the heads up about the offensive videos. We've pulled them, and are working on some moderation features now. We were naive enough to hope not to have to deal with this so soon, but it's a lesson learned!
posted by ericskiff at 1:06 PM on September 11, 2011 [12 favorites]


Anyone remember the sound a TSR-80 color computer made when you hooked it up to a cassette recorder to upload "software" or do back ups?

It was like so:

SHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH

KA BONG KA BOING BIP....

SHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH SQUEEK WEEEEE.........DEEDLY DEEDLY DEEDLY...

SHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH

KA BONG KA BOiNG! BIP.

SHHHHHHHH.......

posted by Skygazer at 1:12 PM on September 11, 2011 [5 favorites]


Thanks Eric. I humbly retract my previous comment.
posted by SeizeTheDay at 1:18 PM on September 11, 2011


"ATM0". Silences the modem.

You probably wouldn't know that since your email address ends in aol.com

Long live the BBS.
posted by hal_c_on at 1:25 PM on September 11, 2011 [1 favorite]


Also, US Robotics rules.
posted by hal_c_on at 1:27 PM on September 11, 2011 [1 favorite]


There was an command for silencing the modem speaker, but I'll be damned if I can remember it now.

I used ATM0 and ATL0 to be doubly sure it would be silent. It was annoying when trying to diagnose problems, but when dad is taking his afternoon nap in the next room, the modem handshake sound was not very welcome.
posted by kmz at 1:27 PM on September 11, 2011


Anyone remember the sound a TSR-80 color computer made when you hooked it up to a cassette recorder to upload "software" or do back ups?

Some models had a louder relay in them that would make loud "click" when you started the tape recorder. There was a POKE you could use to engage it and if you did something like:

10 POKE X
20 GOTO 10

you could make your computer sound like it was going to explode.

Good time. Good times.

There was noting quite like working hard typing in a program, saving it, and then having it fail half way through loading it again.
posted by bondcliff at 1:28 PM on September 11, 2011 [1 favorite]


tylerkaraszewski: I never understood why this sound was audible. What was the point of playing it over the speaker? Couldn't a dialog just say "connecting..." and then "connected"? Why have a fax-machine-esque sound play for the first 15 seconds of the connection?
So that when you dial a wrong number, you can hear the tiny, tinny voice of an irritated stranger saying "Hello? Hello?" Which helps you identify and rectify your mistake immediately, rather than ringing him/her up again and again and again.

Similarly, if there's no dial-tone on the line, or if the other end isn't picking up for some reason, or if the line is incredibly noisy, all of those problems are immediately obvious through the speaker.
posted by Western Infidels at 1:53 PM on September 11, 2011


Yeah, people don't know of the acoustic coupler days, when you dialed the number on the phone while holding the receiver to your ear, and once you heard the tone from the other end, you put the phone handset into the coupler. You could hear if you had a bad connection and it wasn't worth trying. This was more crucial when dialups were often long distance calls.

I am so glad that the fax machine is on the way out. I had one home phone number that used to get fax calls all the time and I could never get it to stop. Sometimes I think that people dialing phones actually are millions of monkeys mashing the keys. Oh I'll tell you a great story.

When I moved into my first apartment, my first telephone number was 354-5333. I used to get hangup calls over and over, all times of the day and night. It was driving me crazy, interrupting my sleep, and breaking my concentration constantly. Then one day I picked up and said hello, the caller said, "oh, I'm sorry, I didn't know this was a real phone number. I was playing Mary Had A Little Lamb on the touchtone keypad."

So I immediately called the phone company and berated them for giving this number to me. I insisted that they give me a different one, and that they should remove this number forever from the system, like they did for similar numbers that were sure to be a nuisance like 354-FUCK. I was given a new number for no service charge.

A few months later, I decided to dial the number and see if the telco had given the number to some other unsuspecting customer. They did! When the guy answered, I asked him if he had mysterious hangup calls all the time, he said he did. So I explained the Mary Had A Little Lamb number to him, oh he was mad!
posted by charlie don't surf at 2:28 PM on September 11, 2011 [15 favorites]


hal_c_on: Also, US Robotics rules.

Here, I will respectfully disagree. We sold both US Robotics and Multitech modems, and the Multitech's were much better. Longer lasting, more robust, and better in terms of being able to program (I was all to familiar with the AT command set at one point in my life). We eventually stopped selling the USRs altogether in favor of the Multitechs. Multitech also made great statistical multiplexers, but I think they're out of that business completely now.
posted by ralan at 3:42 PM on September 11, 2011 [1 favorite]


I literally made the 2400-baud modem sound in class today (yes, I have a Sunday class); one of my college students had a question about "old" telecommunications technology (it was only distantly related to the class, really), and I started explaining, and the next thing I know, I'm mimicking the dial-up connection noises and all but two of them are looking at me like I am EXTREMELY HIGH. Spoiled broadband babies. ;)
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 3:43 PM on September 11, 2011 [3 favorites]


I'm familiar with the 2400 through 56k range and still remember the occasional "?!?" handshake tone that I didn't recognize. That signified an oddball speed like 26.4k.
posted by aydeejones at 3:59 PM on September 11, 2011


-harlequin-: " I have no idea what a ZX spectrum sounds like after you type Load "elite", let alone how much longer it can take when you get that massive 48K RAM upgrade. Or how many hours it takes to actually become ranked as elite at Elite. I know nothing of such things."


And you deffo don't know an easy way to avoid the fiddly work of travel and docking:

Choose where you're going to. Then leave the space station, slow down and flip over so that you start to return to the same station to dock. Just before you arrive, jab 'H' for hyperspace and when you come back, you will find your ship docked in a different space station, safe and happy (for certain values of happy).
posted by subbes at 4:06 PM on September 11, 2011


I remember getting high anxiety over this sound on many a Friday nights when I was utterly bored. If I didn't hear that final handshake and the "connection" so I could log into mIRC I was going to DIE of complete boredom.

Yea. Living single in the burbs sucked.
posted by stormpooper at 4:14 PM on September 11, 2011


At this moment I'm typing over a 2160 connection (on a 56k US Robotics). I have a neighbor up the road who's excited if he can get a 1900 connection. Modems are still very alive for some of us at the end of roads that nobody wants to serve. When your neighbors are 1/4 mile apart, the cable companies aren't interested in stringing cable.

Oh.. I've still have my 300baud JCat in a drawer upstairs. Yes, I'm an old fart.
posted by jgaiser at 4:56 PM on September 11, 2011 [1 favorite]


Ok.. That should have been 21600 and 19000, but you knew that..
posted by jgaiser at 4:57 PM on September 11, 2011


Seeing this just brought up an old memory. Wasn't there an Apple ][ modem that was a programmable synthesizer as well?
posted by zippy at 5:18 PM on September 11, 2011


You've got mail.
posted by nzero at 5:29 PM on September 11, 2011


zippy, that'd be the Apple-CAT (I think the same mfr as jgaiser's JCat?). It could generate arbitrary tones.
posted by hattifattener at 6:02 PM on September 11, 2011 [1 favorite]


You probably wouldn't know that since your email address ends in aol.com

After several years of prejudice toward those with aol.com email addresses, perhaps now it is time for it to be hip.

I imagine giving people my suchandsuch@aol.com mail address and watching them subtly roll there eyes after I say "at AOL dot com". I will then be quietly amused as they underestimate my computer skills and value as a person.
posted by Hicksu at 6:48 PM on September 11, 2011


Kids today won't know the shrill cry of a 9600 baud
When I was your age, we used to use analog telephones to connect to the Net. You'd try to download a newer driver for something, and it wold take ages. At the last minute, someone would pick up the phone, breaking the connection, and you'd have to download it all over again.

That really sucked. I have no love for Time-Warner, but I love my broadband, and wifi.
posted by theora55 at 8:47 PM on September 11, 2011


Wasn't there an Apple ][ modem that was a programmable synthesizer as well?

Oh jeez, you reminded me of the biggest mistake of my computer career. Some weekends I would drive about 150 miles, to go to the nearest microcomputer store and hang out, buy some tech magazines, and try to decide what computer I was going to buy. I was saving money and was torn between the Apple 1 and the Sol-20. I bought the Sol because the Apple didn't come with a power supply or a keyboard. Oops. The last Apple 1 that went for auction sold for $213k. Ouch.

Anyway, one day I came in and one of the techs told me the boss wasn't around so come in the back room and check out his project. He showed me an Apple 1, he had it hooked up to an oscilloscope, running a tone generator program. He said, "now watch this," he picked up the desk phone and held the handset over the Apple 1 motherboard. Suddenly a loud tone came out of the handset.

All of a sudden, the owner came into the room. He yelled at the tech, "hey, what is he doing in here? I told you no customers in the back room! Hey, are you phone phreaking again? I warned you, now you're fired!" I felt really bad but the guy said it was no problem, he was already at work on a new computer company, he was going to quit anyway.

So.. it is not widely known that Woz was a phone phreaker and made Blue Boxes that Jobs sold to his buddies. It is even less widely known that the Apple 1 was created for phone phreaking.
posted by charlie don't surf at 9:56 PM on September 11, 2011 [3 favorites]


jgaiser writes "Ok.. That should have been 21600 and 19000, but you knew that.."

I was feeling really sorry for you there for a second.
posted by Mitheral at 11:22 PM on September 11, 2011


Ugh, and remember call waiting? Man, we hated call waiting.

I watched four of them and they sounded like ice in a blender, except the fourth blender which told me, "You've got mail!"
posted by tracicle at 11:44 PM on September 11, 2011


racist guy on retroaffectation site?

thinkin' goon on this one
posted by This, of course, alludes to you at 2:42 AM on September 12, 2011


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