Dial-Up Modems Made the Weirdest Sounds, Here's What They Actually Mean



you're old enough to remember this noise then you're probably feeling that nostalgia right now right you probably though had no idea what was actually happening here I mean all I cared about was the sound that came after you've got me or maybe this one I am getting tingles just listening to the sound again and again but I have questions welcome to inner dose of trace this week modem sounds these sounds actually do have meaning I'm sure you knew that it's computer speak or modem speak really modem is actually a compound word for modulator demodulator modem the idea is it uses wires to send signals between two computers be that a government computer to another government computer a researcher to a central computer or supercomputer or your little PC in your house to AOL a VBS a Usenet or Facebook or wherever even the mighty cellphone the pinnacle of modern computing in your pocket has a mote a minute for governments and research institutions the original elite hackers the set line was dedicated completely to the modem sort of like a telegraph line it connected the two things together and that was it that was in the early 20th century modems are way older than you think but then during World War 2 the air force needed to transmit radar data securely so they turned to the network of phone lines that were already everywhere phone lines were designed for people though not machines when we speak over a phone line that data that's not very dense we can speak about 140 to 180 words per minute we can understand closer to 400 or more now if you convert that to bits it's pretty low all of that can affect the call and it might not be noticeable to us humans but it is the computers modems use phone lines differently for example people even though again I can't in the same time it was the modem and yet people can hear the patterns of speech even throw quite a lot of static or noise whereas modems might have more trouble so all these weird sounds that your modem was making is a way to make the modems know what's gonna be said how to communicate who's communicating and how they can do it back and forth over this connection luckily for us una rossington and Alex Madrigal broke this down for us you can find links to their stories down in the description so let's say the blue person is the caller and the red person is the receiver this is what the modems were saying hello this is a friendly modem who you hi this is a friendly blue modem can we use information transfer please turn off echo also I'm in the United States looks like we can both transmit this basic data yeah we can okay turn off echo and other things here's my resume this is a landline by the way our resume is very similar I can do some of this stuff as well and on digital instead of analog I'm on a landline here are my carrier signals in power level samesies lifeline great looks like we can use a pretty good speed try and keep your signals strong you got it so at that point the modems have introduced themselves they found out what speeds they can communicate at and they're ready to transmit their data all of this is called a handshake this handshake might trigger some nostalgia for you but did you notice that it might not be the same as your handshake from when you were a kid depending on the modem the data speed the line they're gonna be a little different but they are very similar over the years clever engineers created echo cancellation phase shifting and other ways to send more data through voice lines but ultimately the reason you heard all that static and beeps and Boop's is because they had to translate those sounds into whatever weird thing you were doing on Geocities that night once we stopped sharing phone lines with actual humans these noises weren't necessary anymore your cell phone modem doesn't behave this way it does handshake with every cell tower and Wi-Fi device that you come near but the protocols are based on digital signals not on audible sounds I personally had a fund out of nostalgia reading Alex madrigals piece but you know me I couldn't just leave it there right that's not why you watch this show so I looked up the Wi-Fi handshake – and it goes something like this hello welcome to Starbucks I am the Wi-Fi here's a resume key MAC address drivers and chipset okay hello I am also a computer here's my key and also the password to access you and the MAC address and also my chipsets all of my resume and all of my code they hold calculating cool here's your session key have fun don't do anything that I wouldn't do on this Wi-Fi Thanks obviously this is oversimplifying and a little silly but these protocols are built to make sure that computers can talk with each other consistently and carefully to be honest when computers were first constructed they weren't designed to talk to each other at the basic chip and board level every computer is different even your iPhone which might look the same on the outside can have different chips running the stuff on the inside not to mention the phone lines the amount of interference radiation even micro surges in power can all affect communication between you and your chat rooms or Google's or whatever Isles done it's an incredible feat of engineering that we can even get these binary hot boxes to converse at all one last thing special thanks to nerd famour Keegan goertz who answered my Twitter call for help on this topic Keegan your astara thanks remember that friend that you used to talk to on AI m send this video to them unless you talk to I like chicken 3 because that was me so I already know this video exists in case you forgot I quit my job to do this this is my full-time thing and I don't get paid as we grow the channel I'm gonna be able to go out and talk to real scientists and bring them here to talk to you it's gonna be amazing I would love it if you could be part of building it so subscribe share this video with your friends there's so many different ways that you can help subscribing sharing liking joining the nerd fan patreon and all of them will make my heart get a little bit bigger not like a medical problem kind of way more like a Grinchy kind of way thanks for tuning in everyone and as always more research behind it bye

23 thoughts on “Dial-Up Modems Made the Weirdest Sounds, Here's What They Actually Mean

  1. I used to use these dial-up cards and surf during off-peak hours for free internet. Also makes it less likely that someone would pick up the phone and disconnect me.

  2. Wow I think I'm a fan of this guy
    Now I'm freaking out about how I can connect to wifi, transmit files onto the cloud, or connect to my printer wirelessly, it's amazing tbh

  3. I'm 24 and when I was a kid my grandma had dial up. I remember that annoying noise and how long it took for things to load. I remember my grandma would tell us to stay off the Internet if she was expecting a call because you couldn't be on the Internet and the phone at the same time.

  4. I think I'm feeling the opposite of nostalgia. I would get SO BORED waiting for dialup to connect as a kid. Listening now, I caught myself cringing. So glad the Internet is mostly faster now.

    That doesn't make this any less of a great video though.

  5. I did notice that your modem sounds seemed to drag on a bit longer in the handshake than I remember. I used one of the late 56ks though.
    I'm not entirely sure if I remember the sound accurately though. I could be remembering the one shared most often on the net?

  6. As I said before: Can't sub, already subbed.

    Girlfriend might not be subbed though….. I'll get on it.

  7. Dude, you're funny! As a side-note… the online content and UX/UI methodologies–that everyone currently takes for granted–had its origins during the 56k/128k dial-up era… a time when rebels and outcasts were tasked with created engaging experiences, while working within the brutal limitations of data compression… a time when the idea of "best practices" was non-existent and rules were meant to be broken… ah, the good 'ol days. Our new generation of developers have no idea how easy they have it. But I digress… hoping that your solo move works out!

  8. You keep saying you quit your job, but we still see you on seeker plus. How long ago were these recorded? The youtube algorithm video for example.

  9. Yes I do remember those sounds, but they don't trigger nostalgia, they trigger frustration. Frustration from so much time lost from something being 95% downloaded and then someone picking up the phone and losing internet connection. AARGH!!!

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