In The Atlantic, Alexis Madrigal recalls the otherworldly howl of a 56K modem negotiating its connection, and quotes our pal GlennF in his 1998 explanation of that characteristic anthem of the heroic bronze age of the Internet:
This is a choreographed sequence that allowed these digital devices to piggyback on an analog telephone network. "A phone line carries only the small range of frequencies in which most human conversation takes place: about 300 to 3,300 hertz," Glenn Fleishman explained in the Times back in 1998. "The modem works within these limits in creating sound waves to carry data across phone lines." What you're hearing is the way 20th century technology tunneled through a 19th century network; what you're hearing is how a network designed to send the noises made by your muscles as they pushed around air came to transmit anything, or the almost-anything that can be coded in 0s and 1s.
The frequencies of the modem's sounds represent parameters for further communication. In the early going, for example, the modem that's been dialed up will play a note that says, "I can go this fast." As a wonderful old 1997 website explained, "Depending on the speed the modem is trying to talk at, this tone will have a different pitch."
That is to say, the sounds weren't a sign that data was being transferred: they were the data being transferred. This noise was the analog world being bridged by the digital. If you are old enough to remember it, you still knew a world that was analog-first.
The sound clip comes from The Museum of Endangered Sounds, where you can find "the mechanical noise a VHS tape made when it entered the VCR or the way a portable CD player sounded when it skipped."
The Mechanics and Meaning of That Ol' Dial-Up Modem Sound
In 2013, Lavabit — famous for being the privacy-oriented email service chosen by Edward Snowden to make contact with journalists while he was contracting for the NSA — shut down under mysterious, abrupt circumstances, leaving 410,000 users wondering what had just happened to their email addresses.
A new phishing attack hops from one Gmail account to the next by searching through compromised users’ previous emails for messages with attachments, then replies them from the compromised account, replacing the link to the attachment with a lookalike that sends you to a fake Google login page (they use some trickery to hide the […]
An anonymous editor from Crimethinc writes, “As 2017 opens, we face new challenges in an increasingly volatile world. Since last summer, we’ve been hard at work expanding our networks and updating our infrastructure to prepare for the global situation that is now unfolding. Over the next month, we’ll be announcing several ambitious new projects.”
Traditional folding wallets are designed for paper bills—but these days, carrying cash is rarely a necessity. More often than not, I don’t carry cash at all. This Bogui Clik Wallet is the best answer I’ve found for avoiding the hassle of those tight-fitting credit card pockets.This attractive, minimalist wallet features a protective lip, so my cards don’t […]
Using my iPhone while it’s charging is always a hassle. With tucked-away outlets and the meager length of included lightning cables, comfortable scrolling while plugged in is annoying. These 10-Ft MFi-Certified Lightning Cables are super convenient and probably the best iPhone accessory purchase I’ve made.At over three times the length of normal cables, these reach anywhere you […]
With countless applications for modern life, artificial intelligence (AI) is one of the most in-demand fields of study in tech. Beyond modelling human decision making processes and learning abilities, AI can be used to analyze massive volumes of data and create complex interactive systems.This Machine Learning & AI for Business Bundle made mastering these concepts possible for […]