I just got a Verizon MiFi that runs on 4G LTE. It has been working great, dare I say magical, but instead of just diving into a review of it, I thought it would be interesting to go through the history of wireless data to better appreciate the technology we have today.
Back in the Dark Ages, I had a PCjr. But it had a 300 baud modem. OK that was not wireless, but it was the magic we had at the time. I remember getting some terminal software, looking up some BBS numbers in a bookstore and voila – I was online. It wasn’t the Internet yet, but it was a way to connect with other people electronically. That’s really what we most of us do online if we’re honest about it. You’re reading this now to find out a little more about technology from me. I’m writing this to share my experiences. We use Twitter and Facebook to share and see what other people are doing.
Just connecting to other computers wasn’t enough for me. I somehow convinced my parents (or was it my grandma) to get a second phone line and then I set up a BBS of my own using FIDO. Running a BBS off of a <5Mhz processor, 128K of RAM, and 360K of floppy space was an early lesson in working with limited resources. We have a lot more computing power in our phones nowadays, yet we still have to program for efficiency. Running a BBS back then was like having your own website today, except instead of typing in a web address, you dialed a number which connected your modem to someone else’s modem. Data was traveling, although it was only through copper wires at this point.
300 baud was great – you could read the text as it came to your computer. But it was bad for transferring files. So 1200 baud came along, which seemed fast. Then 2400 baud. Then 9600. Then 19.2k, then 28.8k and finally 56k modems. One annoying but distinctive thing about modems is that you listened to them do their work to see if you connected properly or not. There’s actually a site where you can relive those 56k modem sounds. So now with those faster speeds, you could transfer files along with text, including images or even this new thing called HTML. The Internet had arrived. Meanwhile, a billionaire was getting ready to free us and our data from copper wires.
Next up: Wireless Modems.