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
Most people don’t look at any news, or at one news site; using social media a lot (even without the intention of looking for news) means that sometimes you’ll end up clicking a news link — so heavy social media users, on average, are consuming a wider media diet than those who do not use […]
In 2012, Google introduced Certificate Transparency, an internet-wide tripwire system designed to catch cryptographic “certificate authorities” who abused their position to produce counterfeit credentials that would allow criminals, governments and police to spy on and tamper with secure internet connections.
Yesterday’s massive ransomware outbreak of a mutant, NSA-supercharged strain of the Petya malware is still spreading, but the malware’s author made a mere $10K off it and will likely not see a penny more, because Posteo, the German email provider the crook used for ransom payment negotiations, shut down their account.
If you often find yourself far away from AC power, or just want to guarantee that you’ll have GPS access on your next camping trip, the SolarJuice External Solar Battery is an excellent companion for outdoor adventures. It’s currently available in the Boing Boing Store for $59.99.The SolarJuice has a 26,800 mAh battery capable of […]
Between election hacks, ransomware, and Devil’s Ivy, the cybersecurity space is booming as malware and hackers become more sophisticated. If you’re interested in pursuing a career in ethical hacking, or just want to secure your own devices, The Super-Sized Ethical Hacking Bundle is a great resource.In this bundle, you’ll learn the fundamental skills of ethical hacking, prepare […]
The TREBLAB X11 Earphones are versatile, offer great sound, and are currently $32.99 in the Boing Boing Store.These Bluetooth earbuds are a great workout companion. They’re totally sweat proof and their ear-fins keep them snugly in place during high activity — something that Apple’s AirPods can only do if you were blessed with precisely the […]