Dial up Modems

Dial up modems utilize traditional copper phone lines to transmit analog signals. Out of all the types of Internet service, dial-up connections offer the lowest cost, but also the slowest transmission speeds.

To go online the computer must be equipped with a modem, a device that translates the digital signals from the computer into analog signals that travel over a standard phone line. A modem on the other end of the line understands it and converts the sounds back into digital information.

Modems came into existence in the 1960s as a way to allow terminals to connect to computers over the phone lines. Modems have seen lots of changes since the 1960's when 300 bps (bits per second) was the norm. In 1998 the standard for modems was 56 Kbps (kilobits per second).

Modems come in different speeds and are measured in bps or bits per second. A 28.8 Kbps modem transmits data at speeds up to 28,800 bits per second. A 56 Kbps modem is twice as fast, sending and receiving data at a rate of up to 56,000 bits per second. Most modems today are 56 Kbps.

Why does speed matter? On the Internet, users are constantly exchanging data with other computers. Some of these digital files can be quite large, especially for audio and video clips. Users want this exchange to happen as quickly as possible. When purchasing a modem, buy the fastest one available.

Hardware required for a dial up connection is a modem attached to one computer, or a router attached to a local-area network (LAN), allowing multiple users to access the Internet.

A software browser, such as Netscape Navigator or Microsoft Internet Explorer is needed for a dial up connection to the Internet. These are programs that link users to websites on the Internet.

A 56 Kbps modem is a good starting point for Internet access and lower end applications, especially those businesses on a modest budget. This technology is a dial-up service. Each user needs his own modem and phone line to dial up and be connected to the Internet. There must be a jack with a phone line located near the computer. Remember that the modem ties up the phone line so the phone and computer cannot be used at the same time.

Questions to ask your Dial up Modem Internet Provider
  • Will there be long distance charges or toll charges in excess of the local service charges on the phone bill because of the Internet connection? (Depending on the numbers chosen, location and calling plan this could happen with some providers.)
  • Is there a technical support fee?
  • Is the customer responsible for any telephone charges during down times?
  • Are there any hourly usage limitations?
  • Are e-mails limited in size?
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