Modems Through the Years

February 1st, 2011 by Benj Edwards

Modems: 60 Years of Hooking Up on PCWorld.com

Last night, PC World posted my latest history-flavored slideshow on their site. It's a visual survey of dial-up modem history that they titled "Modems: 60 Years of Hooking Up."

I wanted to go into more detail, but it was hard to find good quality pictures of old modems. That's unsurprising because modems not devices that folks celebrate as often as, say, computers themselves. My personal book collection on modems came in handy, but the muddy black and white photos printed there are as clear as molasses.

(By the way, if anyone out there has photos of a Racal-Vadic VA3400 or a Bell 212A data set, please let me know. Those would come in handy for a more complete history of modems in the future.)

I didn't go into more detail about non-dial-up modems (i.e. ISDN, DSL, Cable, wireless, or satellite) because you could fill a whole slideshow on the history of each of those separately, and I was already running a bit behind from trying to find photos of dial-up modems. But hey, the result should still be entertaining and informative.

I hope you enjoy it.



10 Responses to “Modems Through the Years”

  1. Eagles409 Says:

    My first modem was a 1200 baud Apple branded modem for my Apple IIe. I think I got it in 1984 and at the time it was the fastest thing around. I still have the computer and the modem.

  2. tcv Says:

    Loved it! My first was a VICMODEM. I used to pick up an extension phone when someone was using it. I'd whisper into the receiver, "LIIIINE NOOOOOOOISE"

    Now THAT'S comedy!

  3. SirPaul Says:

    I have fond memories of my first IBM-compatible's 2400 baud modem. I remember finding a teaser image of Star Trek: Voyager's cast (something like 400 x 300 resolution) and spending something like 3 hours downloading it, getting excited as a new line loaded. Ah, memories…

  4. Xyzzy Says:

    My family's first modem was a 800 or 1200 baud Zoom; Dad was the only one to really use it. More memorable was using the awful toll charges & AOL time fees in the early 90s to convince my parents to upgrade us to 33.6 kbps… Or bizarrely, being unable to disconnect from our ISP for three days even if we left everything unplugged for twenty minutes (thankfully it was an unlimited account with local access number).

  5. Ant Says:

    Internal Hayes MCA and Zoom ISA dial-up modems were for me.

  6. ChasBeau Says:

    Hey y'all !

    I enjoyed going online (to a local-to-Seattle BBS) with a 1200 Baud modem connected to my Amiga 500. TABBBS was a fun diversion - I >ahem

  7. ChasBeau Says:

    Hey y'all !

    I enjoyed going online (to a local-to-Seattle BBS) with a 1200 Baud modem connected to my Amiga 500. TABBBS was a fun diversion - I
    –ahem– have subsequently married the lovely lady who was the asst SysOp!

    I also connected via a C64/128 with a lil' 1200 (I think) baud modem.

    In fact, right now today, I've loaned a down-on-his-luck pal of mine a USRobotics external 14.4 external modem to connect to a local, free dial-up service.

    Perhaps we all oughta consider snagging some BBS software and a modem(s) in anticipation of the possibility of the 'kill-switch' being tripped, so that we can all maintain our connections to one another!!!

  8. Chris Says:

    Paket radio: modems for 2m ham radio bands.
    Had to remember that my father helped set up a packet radio network, complete with a few repeaters, during his ham radio time in the 80s.
    It was fascinating and mind-boggling: a bunch of C64s, unmanned and networked together.

  9. Rory mcDonald Says:

    there wasnt anything cooler than the AppleCat modem, first choice for hackers! I still have one in the original box but am planning to sell it on eBay soon.

  10. Tandyman100 Says:

    My first modem? Not technically a model of modem, but rather a model of computer with a modem built in.
    Enter stage right, the TRS-80 Model 100.
    300baud max! Unfortunately, this is around 2005 that I got the thing, so I never got to experience the joy of Compuserve at 300baud (though there is still a dial-up compuserve node here!) since I don't have a 'legacy' account.
    Oh, well.

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