The History Of The Modem [INFOGRAPHIC]

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It doesn’t seem that long ago that I was sitting at my computer, waiting to go online while my torturously slow 56K modem whistled and screeched its way onto the World Wide Web.¬†Fast forward more than a decade and I am now spoilt with my broadband wireless connection which kicks the pants off a 56K modem any day of the week. Now I can watch ABBA on YouTube on the toilet with my iPad without that constant irritating buffering spinning circle.

Thanks to the advances in modems and Internet speeds, it is now possible to stream music and video and view interactive webpages without interruption.¬†We’re entering an era where anything before broadband and 3G is becoming an obsolete dinosaur and now 4G and T1 are starting to mark their territory. In fact, I don’t know a single soul who uses a 56K modem anymore.¬†Everyone is getting upgraded to broadband, even the country folks.¬† Do you know anyone who uses a 56K modem or…gasp…anything slower than that?

But when were modems invented and who invented them? What were some of their early uses and what is their potential for the future? All of that is what this infographic from tries to address below in the first of our infographics this week. Let us know if you use 4G or T1 to access the net. If so, is it good value for money? How do you see Internet speeds going in the future?

Click on the infographic to be taken to a larger version

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Image Credit : Markusram

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traditional “modems” are still used everyday they’re called fax machines, and should be destroyed because you can do exactly the same thing with a scanner/printer and faster in email.


Elliott Olson

Some places still have fax machines. If you have a scanner but don’t have a modem, you can’t send them a requested fax. Some still don’t have email.



Dialup isn’t all there is to modems. There’s a whole class of modems that the general public is largely unaware of: leased-line modems. These modems work over two- and (more typically) four-wire circuits, and are essentially always “off-hook.” Because of the critical nature of the applications for which they’ve been used (think banking and government networks), they’ve often been sold with management capabilities that use a small slice of bandwidth to monitor and control them and their networks.

In the ‘early 80s I worked for a couple of firms that manufactured leased-line modems. At the time, we used to say the price was generally “a buck a bit”–meaning, if you wanted to go 9600 bps, that would cost you roughly $10,000. Per end. Plus telco charges, which (depending on distance) could easily range up to $10,000 per month. All justifiable based on eliminating teller jobs, or backing up crucial data, or mitigating travel costs, or whatever.

It’s kind of tragically amusing how the soft side of networking has evolved through the OSI model into the Internet and digital wireless, while the physical/telco side has become, “Please listen carefully as our menu has changed.”



Anyone reading this piece may also find the book
The Information: A History, a Theory, a Flood  by James Gleick
as fascinating as I have. While NOT a “Thriller”… I simply can’t put this book down.
Really interesting and well written.
Have a great weekend gang and Thanks MUO !!!


Thanks for sharing!


G Stream

I like the infographic–it’s very informative and well done….but “T1″ line?!? ¬†Seriously, a T1 is 1.54 megabits / second….that’s about 25% the speed of my horribly slow 6 megabit DSL connection at home. ¬†…and current cable modem speeds are even higher than DSL.

The US is getting our collective rear-ends kicked with data speeds to the home. ¬†When I lived in Japan in 2003, they were rolling out 100 megabit lines for residential installations…and that was 8 or 9 years ago!

I’ll get off my soapbox now. ¬†Happy holidays to all.


Thanks for the insight, G Stream.

Happy New Year!



I remember my first US Robotics 16 kb dial up modem …¬†

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