The Evolution of Dial up Modems
The device used to make a dial up connection is called a modem.
The word "modem" is a contraction of
the words modulator and demodulator. A modem sends and receives
data over a phone line. The modem has two main functions. While
sending data, it modulates the data into a signal that is compatible
with the phone line, i.e. an analog signal. While receiving data,
it demodulates the analog signal received over the phone line
back into digital data.
Modems came into existence in the 1960s. They were used to make
dial up connection by the individual terminals to connect through
a network to a central computer over the phone lines. The 1960s
were the age of time shared computers. Hence, a business could
buy computer time from a time share facility to connect to its
terminal. They used modems with the speed of 300 bit per second
(bps). In a system configuration existed at that time, a remote
dumb terminal could dial in to a large, central computer through
a 300 bps modem.
Here, it is important to understand that a dumb terminal is simply
a keyboard and a screen. In that time, the DEC VT-100 were very
commonly used and popular dumb terminals. They had become a standard
of the day. The VT-100 could display 25 lines of 80 characters
each. When the user typed a character on the terminal, the modem
sent the ASCII code for the character to the computer. The computer
then sent the character back to the computer so it would appear
on the screen.
300 bps modems were popular in 1960’s and 1970’s.
The reason for that is that is that the speed was good enough
at 300 bps as it could transmit at almost 30 times faster than
a person can type or read. When personal computers started appearing
in the late 1970s, bulletin board systems (BBS) became highly
popular. A person would set up a computer with some BBS software
and a modem and other people would dial in to connect to the bulletin
board. This result inn increase in the data transfer over the
connection. With the arrival of internet and GUI, the images were
also started flowing through the connections.
Once people started transferring large programs and images to
and from bulletin board systems, however, 300 bps became intolerable.
Hence, various companies started coming out with faster modems
over next 15 years. Modems went through a series of steps in evaluation
in 1980’s and 1990’s.
1200 bps and 2400 bps modems were in use in 1980’s. By
the end of 1990, 9600 bps modems came in use. 33.6 Kbps modems
became the standard in mid 1990’s. They were the mostly
used modems thought 1990’s. The most important step in evaluation
of modem came in 1998-99 when 56 Kbps Modem came in to picture.
Today they are the most commonly used dial up modems. Also, many
more versions of modems like cable modems and wireless modems
are in use. Modems are getting faster and more sophisticated with
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