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October 16, 2015 12:51 PM   Subscribe

Relive the excitement of connecting to the internet with the noise of a 56k modem, from Monkey Dust
posted by growabrain (61 comments total) 16 users marked this as a favorite
 
Or, as my mom called it, the beep boop bop boop beep boop bop.
posted by St. Hubbins at 1:02 PM on October 16, 2015 [3 favorites]


And let's none of us forget the horror of being disconnected from the internet by someone else in the house picking up the phone
posted by cubby at 1:10 PM on October 16, 2015 [21 favorites]


The only problem with Monkey Dust is there's so little of it. I'm especially fond of the shorts depicting The Diary of Anne Frank and The Crusades as done by Michael Bay.
posted by Pope Guilty at 1:11 PM on October 16, 2015 [3 favorites]


That sound is a nostalgic love song for me. :)
posted by kimberussell at 1:13 PM on October 16, 2015 [6 favorites]


Here's a nice graphic explaining what all those sounds mean. (Previous Ask) (Previously SLTheAtlantic)
posted by larrybob at 1:14 PM on October 16, 2015 [17 favorites]


Ahhh, I remember having a 300 baud modem that could only do pulse dialing, and had a manual switch on the back which would oscillate back and forth between a receive and send tone until it figured out whether the computer on the other end of the line was sending or receiving. If you picked up another line in the house and whistled into it, you could generate scrambled garbage on the terminal.
posted by not_on_display at 1:22 PM on October 16, 2015 [3 favorites]


I really should make a ringtone that sounds like a 56k modem noise.
posted by rmd1023 at 1:26 PM on October 16, 2015 [16 favorites]


Hearing this makes me remember that there was always this tense moment after the handshake and before modem and server started blasting out their beautiful static when you weren't sure whether or not you were about to be online. It was both stressful and the prelude to a whole new experience.
posted by graymouser at 1:26 PM on October 16, 2015 [25 favorites]


Don't forget to turn off call waiting.
posted by lagomorphius at 1:33 PM on October 16, 2015 [1 favorite]


I still think of the sweet sounds of a 2400 baud modem...
posted by evilangela at 1:37 PM on October 16, 2015 [2 favorites]


No.

I don't miss this sound at all.
posted by Fizz at 1:39 PM on October 16, 2015 [3 favorites]


56k? Luxury.
posted by stevis23 at 1:48 PM on October 16, 2015 [11 favorites]


Controlling your Modem with AT Commands

Makes me nostalgic for connecting to GEnie with their Aladdin software, which got you connected, downloaded comments from topics you were interested in, and disconnected as quickly as possible to save you money because being on GEnie could cost you as much as $24 an hour, depending on time of day and which year we're talking about. You'd read and reply at your leisure, then reconnect to post.

Though at 2400 baud, you could often read the threads while it was downloading.
posted by Foosnark at 1:51 PM on October 16, 2015 [2 favorites]


56k? Luxury.

Speaking of luxury, I need to buy my dad a beer(s) the next time I see him, for being so awesome and spoiling me rotten as a teenager. I was not only provided with a 56k modem, but an additional and separate land line. Probably so I would stop tying up the main line. I definitely did not deserve to have that kind of luxury. Blessed and spoiled.
posted by Fizz at 1:52 PM on October 16, 2015 [3 favorites]


So most modems has little blinky LEDs on the front that were basically hard wired to the incoming data line and blinked as data was transmitted. They actually blinked exactly what was on the data line and while it was too fast for the human eye to really notice... the exact data stream could be reproduced with a photosensor.

Oh modems.

I had a 2400 baud modem that could independently answer the phone and send a customized string of text... it was basically the Out-of-office message of the modem world. I wish I still had it as I'd leave it plugged in all the time.
posted by GuyZero at 1:52 PM on October 16, 2015 [2 favorites]




I bought my 56k modem on the internet, which is superficially paradoxical. I was told I'd never need another modem - which was true.
posted by Segundus at 1:58 PM on October 16, 2015


I really should make a ringtone that sounds like a 56k modem noise.

That's what I have. I spent years working hardware support for a company where we had to dial into our customer's servers using modems, so that sound is imprinted in my head. Not sure where I got the sound file, though.
posted by ralan at 1:58 PM on October 16, 2015


I'll just leave this in the corner and leave quietly...
posted by Monkeymoo at 2:07 PM on October 16, 2015 [1 favorite]


It was both stressful and the prelude to a whole new experience.

Indeed. Relive A.n.t.i.c.i.p.a.t.e the excitement of connecting to the internet with ... a 56k modem, more like.
posted by Greg_Ace at 2:10 PM on October 16, 2015


The nice thing about having a modem, a vt100, and a dialup Unix host was -- no need for a home computer.

Things haven't been that simple since.
posted by hank at 2:10 PM on October 16, 2015


I was told I'd never need another modem - which was true.

You have a direct cranial input to the net?
posted by Thorzdad at 2:10 PM on October 16, 2015 [2 favorites]


Carry it to your next gig.
posted by rhizome at 2:11 PM on October 16, 2015


I remember the first time I stumbled across a saleman pitching 56k modems. WHAT KIND OF WITCHCRAFT IS THIS?

I rember his sales pitch involving the incantation that it was physivcal limit of data that could be pushed down copper wire, we will NEVER experience anything faster, EVER.

And that was probably true for at least fifteen minutes after he said it.
posted by Keith Talent at 2:17 PM on October 16, 2015 [3 favorites]


Yesh, this brings back good memories of th)(JJj3*&^!1j2Dabb3j901JDBKA*H!#H!H!H!

MOM!!! HANG UP THE PHONE!!!!!
posted by JoeZydeco at 2:27 PM on October 16, 2015 [10 favorites]


And let's none of us forget the horror of being disconnected from the internet by someone else in the house picking up the phone

The sound nostalgic, but also emotions like horror for the reason you describe (or in my college apartment, downright hostility and anger). It seems silly in retrospect, but it's probably emotionally comparable to the setup in my house where previous owners (for some reason) wired the power in the entertainment area in the living room, which is near the internet/cable port, to a light switch that is in a high traffic area and about the right high for our three-year-old. For some reason, if it's shut off for more than a few minutes, it's a royal pain to get the connection going again. And when it happens, I'm reminded of the anger of my youth.
posted by SpacemanStix at 2:30 PM on October 16, 2015 [1 favorite]


Speaking of modems, I'm rewatching the mid-1990s TV show Profit and there's a scene where some characters use "modem" as a verb. Re a spreadsheet file that needs to get from one office building to another, a character says he'll modem it to the other character. Then you see a phone number on a computer CRT screen and some rudimentary "file transferring" graphics. Was the word "modem" commonly used as a verb then or were the show's writers trying to throw in some fake techy-sounding dialogue?
posted by fuse theorem at 2:30 PM on October 16, 2015


. Was the word "modem" commonly used as a verb then or were the show's writers trying to throw in some fake techy-sounding dialogue?

I have never heard of anyone using this word in this way. Sounds like its specific to that show.
posted by Fizz at 2:32 PM on October 16, 2015


It seems a little familiar, and my memory's impression is that it was at about "fetch" levels of usage.
posted by rhizome at 2:37 PM on October 16, 2015 [1 favorite]


I remember using it a little, in that dark period where you needed to send something to someone via xmodem and you both manually had to set up the transmit/receive on either end of the line.

It quickly got replaced by "ftp", as in "I'll ftp that up to you now."
posted by JoeZydeco at 2:53 PM on October 16, 2015 [2 favorites]


My first job out of university was in an office where the dialup connection was passed around - resulting many an page over the intercom system: "If you're using the internet, call extension xxxx to let me know when you'll be done."
posted by mandolin conspiracy at 3:07 PM on October 16, 2015


Ah, to remember 300 baud, a baud so slow that you could pick up the phone while connected and scream into it and the line noise would be maybe one character.
posted by grumpybear69 at 3:11 PM on October 16, 2015


And the acoustically coupled modems, too - 110 baud was an amazing technical futuristic thing when I encountered it in 1979 or 1980. A technology predicated on all phones having sufficiently similar handsets.
posted by rmd1023 at 3:33 PM on October 16, 2015 [2 favorites]


I really should make a ringtone that sounds like a 56k modem noise.

this is literally the only reason I want a smart phone
posted by nogoodverybad at 3:40 PM on October 16, 2015 [3 favorites]


[experiencing stab of nostalgia]
posted by FelliniBlank at 4:00 PM on October 16, 2015


Here's a nice graphic explaining what all those sounds mean. (Previous Ask) (Previously SLTheAtlantic)

Great visualization!

The irony of modem connections is that the faster the modem, the slower it would be to connect.

300 baud modems connect *really* quickly. Which is why merchants use really slow transfer speeds to verify a credit card number; their transferring tiny amounts of data, and 300 baud is plenty quick. Waiting 30 seconds for the connection to complete is unacceptable.

The above graph explains why faster modems connect slower.

(protip to jerks: ATM3L3s11=120)

posted by el io at 4:11 PM on October 16, 2015 [3 favorites]


Thank heavens connections have gotten faster so they can be full of advertisements and everything else still goes at pretty much the same speed as ever.
posted by Wolfdog at 4:39 PM on October 16, 2015 [2 favorites]


MOM!!! HANG UP THE PHONE!!!!!

Thus making those of us who experienced the internet for the first time as independent adults feel that much older.
posted by mudpuppie at 4:44 PM on October 16, 2015 [8 favorites]


I remember the disappointment of a busy signal connecting to AOL... and always trying to change the numbers it dialed to find one that was not busy.

Also I remember always loving the end of Space Ghost: Coast to Coast because after the credits they would display either "email us" or "visit us on the web" and play that sweet sweet dial up sound.

Getting cable back in 1999 was awesome too. I was always at the top of the list in the alternative room because I had thousands of mp3s. My "asl" messages increased thrice fold. Ah... the 90s.
posted by daninnj at 5:09 PM on October 16, 2015


And some of us still get to listen to the sound of a 56K modem. Actually not, because I've turned the volume to zero, but the United States is a long way from being completely covered by broadband. Cable companies have a reluctance to connect to rural areas with a population of only 1 house every quarter to half a mile (or more on my road). It does give me a good excuse to head into town to a pub with a fast open wifi, so I don't really complain much.
posted by jgaiser at 5:57 PM on October 16, 2015


They're dialing like 17 digits there, sheesh! How much did that session cost?
posted by xedrik at 7:55 PM on October 16, 2015


2.1 million people are still using AOL via dialup modems.
posted by JoeZydeco at 8:09 PM on October 16, 2015 [3 favorites]


So while nobody "modem"ed anything to anyone there were file transfer tools called xmodem, ymodem and (wait for it) zmodem which maybe some could have verbified. But I think the show's creators were just making stuff up.
posted by GuyZero at 8:31 PM on October 16, 2015 [1 favorite]


Oh geez. I forgot about xmodem and zmodem (not sure I ever used ymodem). THAT was when someone picking up the phone (or the line randomly dropping) was most infuriating. I'm trying to download a HUGE (multi-MB) shareware program, and then connection gets cut off right before the end. ARGH!!!!
posted by primethyme at 8:56 PM on October 16, 2015 [1 favorite]


Which is why zmodem added the ability to resume downloads.
posted by GuyZero at 8:58 PM on October 16, 2015 [1 favorite]


Museum of Endangered Sounds. Still no scrrcchhhh-scrrcchhhh-scrrcchhhh of winding a clockwork alarm clock.
posted by TheophileEscargot at 9:50 PM on October 16, 2015 [2 favorites]


But Ymodem-G was better for high speed (56k) transfers since it didn't have to wait for an ACK.
posted by grumpybear69 at 9:53 PM on October 16, 2015 [1 favorite]


KERMIT ROOLZ OK
posted by not_on_display at 11:17 PM on October 16, 2015 [1 favorite]


I do have a 56k ringtone. Loads of fun to have that go off in your pocket at the conference table. Does anyone hear that? That sounds like... whoa. That's weird.
posted by amanda at 11:28 PM on October 16, 2015


Hmmm, this is my life lately!

I now live in a remote forest. No angle for satellite, no wifi, no cellular. There is an old twisted pair telco line ostensibly for emergencies, so I hooked up an old no-longer-made 56k modem and contracted for dialin service.

When I run a speed test, it's no where near 56k...more like 5-8k! So basically, I can use a text-based email program although it's slooooow. I can peruse the blue because it's text with no graphics. Any page with graphics of any sort can take 10-15m to load in, and they often time out or fail.

So yeah, I enjoy the screech-bong-dingding sounds every day. After 20 years of T-3 lines working for dotcoms and universities, it's not a quaint blast from the past; it's a severe patience test!
posted by CrowGoat at 10:05 AM on October 17, 2015 [2 favorites]


When I run a speed test, it's no where near 56k...more like 5-8k!

You may be comparing apples to oranges. "56k" is kilobits, and if you're seeing 5-8K/s, that's in kilobytes, which sounds about right for 56k.
posted by rhizome at 12:52 PM on October 17, 2015


The year was 1995. I was 22, working a shitty FT retail job and living at home with mom and my 15 year old brother. My SO and I were long-distance, and emailing/chatting every night online, because it was far too expensive to call every day, what with the long-distance charges. There was one PC, one modem (14.4 or 28.8 I think), and one phone line.

Once school let out in June, Brother started staying up late, became aware of the coolness that was our Prodigy account, and demanded equal time. To keep the peace, Mom declared that we'd share every other night. This was unacceptable to me, due to limerance and entitlement (us GenXers had it too) but rules were rules.

So on the nights when I couldn't bear to be without our shmoopy romantic chats, I'd creep upstairs to my room when Brother logged in, and when I'd hear him connect, I'd quickly pick up my phone extension and tap the disconnect button a few times. Rinse and repeat 2x more, and impatient Brother would give up and go to bed. And my shmoopiness would commence. <3

I didn't tell Brother about my hijinks for another 15 years. He threw a pillow at me, and forgave me.
posted by kimberussell at 3:54 PM on October 17, 2015 [3 favorites]


Perhaps more accurately speaking, you're comparing 8 oranges to 1 orange.
posted by Wolfdog at 4:10 PM on October 17, 2015 [1 favorite]


I always estimated it at 10, what with orange-retrieval overhead and all, but yeah.
posted by rhizome at 4:22 PM on October 17, 2015 [1 favorite]


Yeah but oranges respond well to compression.
posted by Wolfdog at 5:00 PM on October 17, 2015 [1 favorite]


Headline: ONE APPLE EXACTLY EQUIVALENT TO EIGHT ORANGES, SCIENTISTS PROVE
posted by Wolfdog at 5:21 PM on October 17, 2015 [1 favorite]


The sound is definitely nostalgic, as I went from a 300 baud modem plugged into the back of a Commodore 634, to a 1200 baud I had to dial from an attached phone, graduating each stage until I got to 56k. I got broadband (finally) in 2004 or so.

But I've actually keep up with dialup since then, since my mother could never justify the cost of broadband for simply getting her email every few days. She paid AT&T $25 a month for dialup until she moved to a retirement community last year. Since they have a computer room with a dozen machines hooked up to broadband, she gave up using her own computer altogether.

Surprisingly, using Gmail in its simpler HTML mode works surprisingly well on dialup.
posted by lhauser at 6:31 PM on October 17, 2015


I can peruse the blue because it's text with no graphics. Any page with graphics of any sort can take 10-15m to load in, and they often time out or fail.

Okay, CrowGoat officially has permission to not read the articles before commenting.
posted by el io at 7:03 PM on October 17, 2015 [1 favorite]


Modems only had speakers because in the old days you'd wouldn't necessarily be calling dedicated lines. Sometimes people only ran their BBS part time, so you'd dial a number at the wrong time and a human would answer and you'd need to be able to hear that so that you could abort the dialer so that it wouldn't retry constantly and annoy the shit out of the person. But serious BBSes had dedicated lines, and eventually commercial services like AOL popped up, which of course had vast banks of dedicated lines. So the speaker was all but obsolete by that time. You were always meant to adjust your init string to turn off the speaker if you didn't need it; I think it was L0 but don't quote me on that, it's been forever.

I mention this because every time I see a thread about modem reminiscing there seems to be someone who shows up to talk about how they would try to wrap their computer in a pillow to soften the sound so that they could go online in the middle of the night when they weren't supposed to be using the computer. And I just want to sigh because they could have easily prevented so much hardship — the speaker was in no way essential to the modem's operation. It was there as an optional convenience! As someone that ran a BBS that was constantly both receiving calls as well as dialing out to deliver netmail packets to the local hub, if I had my speaker enabled I would have been driven sleepless and insane. Learning about and tweaking your init string was like day one stuff of having a modem.

(And also, 56k, are you freaking kidding me? That was the very tail end of the era. It was the last in a slow but steady progression from 110 to 300 to 1200 to 2400 to 9600 to 14.4 to 16.8 (Zyxel for lyfe!) to 19.2 to 28.8 to 33.6 and so on. Each of those steps for the intrepid BBSer represented a new expensive purchase. And don't even get me started about the quest for the magical 16550 UART IO card. Accept no 8250s!)
posted by Rhomboid at 6:13 AM on October 18, 2015 [2 favorites]


This thread is so evoking so much nostalgia it almost hurts.
posted by DarlingBri at 7:30 AM on October 18, 2015


Like it's generating a sort of hissing buzz in your brain?
posted by Greg_Ace at 10:17 AM on October 18, 2015


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