Jump to content
bluejay

How did dial-up internet work?

Recommended Posts

My very first experience with dial-up type stuff is from my dad with our first coupler modem- this would've been like 1985-ish I'm thinking.

 

http://www.mainbyte.com/ti99/hardware/modem.html

 

He used it to dial in to TexNet or something like that, but those memories are pretty much at the outer edge of my memory. :)    

 

I may have mentioned before, but we're just NOW phasing out dial-up OOB modems in our company for connecting to routers/etc.  It's a PITA tech, but it (for the most part) is pretty reliable and sturdy.

 

 

  • Like 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
49 minutes ago, digdugnate said:

I may have mentioned before, but we're just NOW phasing out dial-up OOB modems in our company for connecting to routers/etc.  It's a PITA tech, but it (for the most part) is pretty reliable and sturdy.

Shoot, I am adding some to my infrastructure.

 

I have a serial port server to control various devices like NASes, switches, firewalls, Unix boxes, &c.  This serial server supports a PPP dial-in, so I have it set up with a USR USB modem connected to an LTE phone adapter.  I dial into the phone number for the LTE device, it rings the USR, the USR answers, and I now have a PPP connection into a back-end network.  The LTE voice line costs me $20 per month, but that is 1/5 the price I would have to pay for a static IP over LTE connection.

  • Like 3

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
1 hour ago, OLD CS1 said:

Shoot, I am adding some to my infrastructure.

 

I have a serial port server to control various devices like NASes, switches, firewalls, Unix boxes, &c.  This serial server supports a PPP dial-in, so I have it set up with a USR USB modem connected to an LTE phone adapter.  I dial into the phone number for the LTE device, it rings the USR, the USR answers, and I now have a PPP connection into a back-end network.  The LTE voice line costs me $20 per month, but that is 1/5 the price I would have to pay for a static IP over LTE connection.

Ours still use POTS to get 'outside'.  We use Minicom from a Linux box through a SSH session to dial into the routers.  Our biggest problem was scale with the number of sites and reliability of *certain* POTS lines company-wide.  The big push is for SDWAN to replace MPLS, so we're using cable and LTE backups at the sites that have been converted.

 

I think our Data team was looking at an LTE solution similar to how you were describing at one point.

  • Like 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
3 hours ago, digdugnate said:

I think our Data team was looking at an LTE solution similar to how you were describing at one point.

If I were an honest man I would admit this is a convoluted way to do it, but it does work.  The PPP connection is a major bonus which changed the game for me.

 

3 hours ago, digdugnate said:

Our biggest problem was scale with the number of sites and reliability of *certain* POTS lines company-wide.

I have heard tell that in some areas the POTS lines are like going back to the 70s or 80s with tons of noise and lucky if you can get connected to anything at all, and in some places you have to upgrade to a business line or fax-quality line.  It does seem amazing to me the advancements in analog technology we experienced during the 90s and 00s, just to fall back to garbage.  Fortunately not an issue in my area, yet.

 

You want to see the modern definition of Voo-Doo, check out how G.vectoring works.  In short, the DSLAM is capable of calculating how a bundle of VDSL lines interact with each other (cross-talk, &c.,) and modulate signals on across lines to produce maximum quality signals.

  • Like 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
On 8/3/2021 at 3:10 PM, OLD CS1 said:

I have heard tell that in some areas the POTS lines are like going back to the 70s or 80s with tons of noise and lucky if you can get connected to anything at all, and in some places you have to upgrade to a business line or fax-quality line.  It does seem amazing to me the advancements in analog technology we experienced during the 90s and 00s, just to fall back to garbage.  Fortunately not an issue in my area, yet.

The company I'm currently a part of had AT&T DSL up until about four or five months ago.  AT&T placed an ATA at the site and ran the landline through it rather than directly over the twisted pair coming in to the building carrying the DSL circuit.

 

When I called to ask them why this was, I was told that if someone used the phone at the same time as the Internet, the Internet would cut out if DSL and voice were on the same pair.

 

My response was simply to hang up the phone.

  • Confused 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Nothing in what they did or told you makes sense.  We are all dumber for having been exposed to it.

 

CenturyLink will run fiber to a premise mini-DSLAM to provide 100Mbps VDSL to building tenants.  It also has the ability to provide POTS via a line card, but none of these kids use a so-called "land line" anymore.

  • Like 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Agreed on both counts.

 

Our office is in something of a data infrastructure black spot - we can get cable (which is ultimately what we did, once Cox figured out that the premises had previously been lit for it) or DSL.  That's it.  Oh, and we're in the middle of town, within spitting distance of a high school that is on municipal fibre (which residents and businesses can't connect to) on one side and a bank's regional HQ on the other.

 

The annoying part of being able to get DSL but not fibre is that AT&T is the ILEC here, and runs both locally - in fact, we have their home service.  Nice to see that the incompetence and indifference of the Ma Bell days lives on in this century.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
On 8/3/2021 at 1:21 PM, digdugnate said:

My very first experience with dial-up type stuff is from my dad with our first coupler modem- this would've been like 1985-ish I'm thinking.

 

http://www.mainbyte.com/ti99/hardware/modem.html

 

He used it to dial in to TexNet or something like that, but those memories are pretty much at the outer edge of my memory. :)    

 

I may have mentioned before, but we're just NOW phasing out dial-up OOB modems in our company for connecting to routers/etc.  It's a PITA tech, but it (for the most part) is pretty reliable and sturdy.

 

I remember at my elementary school, there was a storage room and it had a coupler ATARI modem. At the time, I loved playing my Atari 2600, so that modem kind of stood out to me because it had a huge Atari logo on the side. I didn't really know what it was, but having remembered seeing it a few times, I now know that it was a coupler modem...

 

Anyway, my first modem was an external 2400 baud Hayes modem... I always got a kick out of the fact that people used to use coupler modems. I'm not sure I understood why that was a thing. It worked all the same, but trying to push the signal through the air (both ways) locally... speaker / microphone / speaker / microphone... I can only imagine the number of errors. What would that have been 180bps? Maybe 300 baud tops? 1200? Maybe they just figured it was convenient... and it only worked with that style of headset that came with the phones that the phone company used to lease to you back in the 70s and early 80s... hah.

  • Like 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
2 hours ago, 82-T/A said:

I remember at my elementary school, there was a storage room and it had a coupler ATARI modem. At the time, I loved playing my Atari 2600, so that modem kind of stood out to me because it had a huge Atari logo on the side. I didn't really know what it was, but having remembered seeing it a few times, I now know that it was a coupler modem...

Interestingly, they've made something of a comeback in places like Vietnam and China as a means of skirting Internet censorship.

2 hours ago, 82-T/A said:

 

Anyway, my first modem was an external 2400 baud Hayes modem... I always got a kick out of the fact that people used to use coupler modems. I'm not sure I understood why that was a thing. It worked all the same, but trying to push the signal through the air (both ways) locally... speaker / microphone / speaker / microphone... I can only imagine the number of errors. What would that have been 180bps? Maybe 300 baud tops? 1200? Maybe they just figured it was convenient... and it only worked with that style of headset that came with the phones that the phone company used to lease to you back in the 70s and early 80s... hah.

Most of the ones of the time were generally 110 or 300 baud.  My recollection is that they were generally falling out of use by the time 2400bps modems arrived, though they were still available for use by people travelling who might need to work around incompatible phone jacks, digital phone systems that didn't allow plugging in an analogue modem, etc.

 

Somewhere around here I have one that dates from roughly the late 1990s to early- / mid-2000s.  Absolute best I ever managed to squeeze out of it was 14.4Kbps in testing, which I thought was pretty damned amazing for one of those.  Certainly blew my first modem (Atari 830) out of the water :)

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

It is my understanding that accoustic coupler modems were a thing, because AT&T was very iron-fisted on what devices could be plugged directly into the telephone line. They had a monopoly, and were strict on enforcing their rules. (It was actually ILLEGAL to attach a non-blessed device into the network.)  It's the same reason why that era had all those ugly rotary phones.

 

To get around AT&T's byzantine bullshit, and still get data to and from a destination, you used your "Phone company approved!" handset, sat the receiver in the little rubber cups, and then blasted sound into it with the coupler. 

 

 

  • Like 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Acoustic couplers seemed popular before 1977. For that very reason. Come 1977-1978 all I was required to do was notify the company with the ringer equivalent number so their line diagnostics didn't report a false/faulty load.

 

After around 1979 acoustic couplers were used more by journalists for convenience. Not every public phone could make a direct wire connection, for obvious reasons. Think TRS-80 Model 100.

  • Like 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
11 hours ago, 82-T/A said:

 

I remember at my elementary school, there was a storage room and it had a coupler ATARI modem. At the time, I loved playing my Atari 2600, so that modem kind of stood out to me because it had a huge Atari logo on the side. I didn't really know what it was, but having remembered seeing it a few times, I now know that it was a coupler modem...

 

Anyway, my first modem was an external 2400 baud Hayes modem... I always got a kick out of the fact that people used to use coupler modems. I'm not sure I understood why that was a thing. It worked all the same, but trying to push the signal through the air (both ways) locally... speaker / microphone / speaker / microphone... I can only imagine the number of errors. What would that have been 180bps? Maybe 300 baud tops? 1200? Maybe they just figured it was convenient... and it only worked with that style of headset that came with the phones that the phone company used to lease to you back in the 70s and early 80s... hah.

I remember the early 80s movies and TV shows like Wargames always featured acoustic couplers,  so that when my friend got an XM301, it actually felt like a letdown that it didn't have an acoustic coupler 😄

 

The reason is, when AT&T/Bell System had their phone monopoly,  it was common for phones to be hard-wired in the house,  the modular phone jack was not common (not sure when that was invented).   But the AT&T monopoly was broken up in 84, I think, and after that it became much easier to add your own devices to your phone line.

  • Like 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
13 hours ago, 82-T/A said:

trying to push the signal through the air (both ways) locally... speaker / microphone / speaker / microphone... I can only imagine the number of errors.

Literally playing a game of "telephone" with data! It was brute force ambition against technical/legal limitations.

  • Like 2

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
On 7/30/2021 at 12:11 PM, x=usr(1536) said:

Yes. Leased lines, PRIs, ISDN, X.25, and others.  All of which were horrendously expensive, and the price of ISDN never really came down to a point where the average person could reasonably afford it.

 

That why my point, consumers only had one solution that was viable.

 

It's the same with battery technology today. Although in that case it's much more intentional.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
On 7/30/2021 at 12:11 PM, x=usr(1536) said:

Yes. Leased lines, PRIs, ISDN, X.25, and others.  All of which were horrendously expensive, and the price of ISDN never really came down to a point where the average person could reasonably afford it.

Emphasis mine.  That depends upon the service area.  If you had asked me a few years ago, I still had my bills from the early 2000s and I could have told you exactly, but pricing in my area during that time was affordable enough that we had several dozen ISDN users on our service, and it was far less expensive for business versus T1, T3, or fractional of either.  In 2004, one of my customers went with a frac-T1 split between voice and data (rather neat setup,) but they definitely needed it and could definitely afford it.

 

Mind you, during the 1998-2000 time period, cable and ADSL was kicking off quickly in our area, too.  By the end of 2000 we were doling out ADSL as a wholesaler of the local last-mile -- Sprint, at the time.  Another local outfit had actually laid a bunch of fiber in certain areas of town and was selling 10Mb up to 100Mb symmetric services, and had also co-located DSLAMS in Sprint COs.  They were pushing DSL before Sprint was!  Tallahassee has some interesting telecom history, including two local CLECs.

 

BTW, all this talk, I think, inspired a dream I had the other night in which a bunch of people were looking for dial-up services for Internet.  I wound up setting one up in my home office using about a dozen SIP TAs on a number roll-ver schemed and some modems.  I had enough bandwidth on my VDSL pipe to carry both the incoming VoIP and the dial-up traffic.

 

WTF...

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
10 hours ago, OLD CS1 said:

Emphasis mine.  That depends upon the service area.  If you had asked me a few years ago, I still had my bills from the early 2000s and I could have told you exactly, but pricing in my area during that time was affordable enough that we had several dozen ISDN users on our service, and it was far less expensive for business versus T1, T3, or fractional of either.

Good point re: service area.  For businesses, it certainly was more affordable - but I think I only knew a total of two residential ISDN customers in the L.A. area during the time that I lived there.  From my perspective it seemed as though it was a technology that, for the average end user of the time, answered a question that hadn't been asked - yet.

 

Before the era of all-you-can-eat dialup Internet access (and even somewhat past that point), it had a clear advantage in point-to-point speed, but when you're accessing online services that might top out at 9600bps or 14.4Kbit if you're lucky, it's difficult to justify the cost.  Couple that to ever-increasing modem speeds and broadband picking up steam starting in the late '90s, ISDN was going to remain a very niche technology at the consumer end of things, at least in North America.

 

Having said that, I do think it's a very interesting technology and one that had quite a bit of influence on subsequent ones.  Had the ILECs been interested in moving away from traditional twisted-pair infrastructure in the 1980s it could have had a much larger rate of adoption, but (IMHO) they just didn't see the business case for it.  In the long term, this may have been the right choice since it led to xDSL, but in the mid-term it left few options for both consumers and business.

10 hours ago, OLD CS1 said:

In 2004, one of my customers went with a frac-T1 split between voice and data (rather neat setup,) but they definitely needed it and could definitely afford it.

Oh, I have a couple of past clients who, to this day, can only get bonded T1s with fractional for voice.  They, unfortunately, are in Windstream territory (may that company rot in hell), but both of our electric utilities are doing a bang-up job of running rural fibre.  Both of them should be able to have FTTP by about this time next year, which for them will be like going from a 1971 Dodge Dart firing on 4.7 cylinders to being strapped to an F-22 - 4.5Mbps on a good day to 1Gbit each direction.  It'll be quite the leap.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

During the v.90 era, most of the customers we had on ISDN were gamers.  Only about a handful were general users, then the rest were businesses.

 

Have to admit, they have made some pretty neat innovations with copper pair technology.  Though a few were kind-of stutter steps.  Like the PairGain devices they started implementing to increase local POTS capacity.  The first time I ran into one was around 1997 when I had my first apartment.  I had two phone lines, one for voice and one for my modem, and they used a PairGain.  It operated like an ISDN TA (and might actually had been,) with digital signaling on the back-end down one pair while supplying two voice lines.  The unit on my apartment would reset itself after a call ended, which would knock the modem off-line when I hung up a voice call and vice versa.  It would then take about a minute to reset.  I finally convinced Sprint to take it off and give me two straight lines.

 

During my time at the ISP, I saw many places around town had been "PairGain"ed so Sprint did not have to run new trunks.  Those areas posed a problem for us as PairGains were down-stream from the DSLAMs, meaning the digital back-end would have to carry ADSL which I believe was not possible, and the PG devices certainly could not pass ADSL signal.  I think if the PG and DSLAM were in the same cabinet, ADSL could be offered on the down-stream POTS line.  Not really sure.  Notwithstanding, by this time the PGs had become much better dealing with phone modems, and our customers behind the PGs were able to get on-line at 56k.  (While the Wikipedia article on pair gains has a few inaccuracies, it does have some good fundamental information.)

 

While anathema to ADSL, PairGains were a benefit for our 56k customers as the signal went digital much earlier in the line than most.  Whereas most people a good distance from the CO would have to go through a long copper line, maybe with a bridge tap or two, a load coil, &c., resulting and a degradation of signal, the PGs were generally within a few hundred feet of the dmarc if not on the same wall.

  • Like 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

That is a perfectly reasonable and understandable response when discussing That Company.

  • Haha 2

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Join the conversation

You can post now and register later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.
Note: Your post will require moderator approval before it will be visible.

Guest
Reply to this topic...

×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.

Loading...

  • Recently Browsing   0 members

    No registered users viewing this page.

×
×
  • Create New...