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Slideshow

The history of modems: 60 years of hooking up

A visual guide from the 1950's to today

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For anyone who experienced it, the screeching hiss of a modem handshaking over copper phone wires is unforgettable. The technology may have tied up the family phone line, but modems were the gateways to a fascinating digital world parallel to our own.

In the slides that follow, we'll look at modem history from its genesis in the 1950s to the present. An immense range of modems have appeared over the years, so this slideshow is by no means comprehensive. However, it offers a quick survey of non-wireless modem history.


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The early days

Modems originated as a way for teletype machines to communicate over ordinary telephone lines. In the late 1950s, AT&T developed the first commercial, mass-produced computer modem, then called a "digital subset" (shown here circa 1958), to link SAGE computers across the United States. It communicated at 110 bits per second.


  • The early days
  • The first civilian commercial computer modem
  • Acoustic coupling
  • The first PC modem
  • The first smartmodem
  • Early home PC modems
  • More modem madness
  • The early IBM PC era
  • Voice modems and soft modems
  • The land of 56kbps
  • USB modems
  • Beyond dial-up


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