What is faster 56k modem or WiFi

Do you remember back then when we ... came to the Internet via a 56k modem?

Yes there was! A time before smartphones, WiFi and Google, when we still had cell phones with buttons and listened to tapes. In our new nostalgia series we remember at BASIC thinking to those "old" times - sometimes with sadness, sometimes with relief that the technology has advanced. This time we look back at how we dialed into the Internet with a modem.

I come out straight away and say it: I'm old. In the sense that I'm not a digital native. As a child, the technological highlight of my toy collection was the battery-operated go-go dog.

When the Gameboy came out in adolescence, it felt like science fiction and I got my first cell phone (mind you, not a smartphone) when I was 18.

I still remember a time before the internet very well - and especially when we had our first internet connection in the house in the 1990s. Back then that meant: into the Internet via telephone line and dial-up modem.

Dial-in modem with unforgettable sound

So if I wanted to use the Internet, I had to make a conscious choice on the PC and then wait for the computer to connect to the telephone line via the modem.

This dial-up process via modem was slow, didn't always work so smoothly, but always came up with the classic dial-in sound. This sound was associated with a sense of achievement for me, because it meant that one was now "online". As I said, that didn't always work.

And there were a few other problems.

Internet as an exercise of patience

Especially at the beginning it was still the case in our house that we couldn't make phone calls and surf the Internet at the same time, which occasionally caused conflicts.

Since the Internet 1.0 was honestly not that exciting and you could have a nice cup of coffee between the loading of a website and the next, at least initially I was never on the Internet very often or for a long time.

For those who don't remember the slow modem times: The top speeds were theoretically around 56 kilobits per second, but in practice they were more between 40 and 50 kilobits per second.

Back then, the Internet was still an exercise in patience. For comparison: Today in Germany you surf at around 25 megabits per second - almost 450 times as fast.

And there was another problem besides the snail's pace: it was also relatively expensive! Of course, there weren't any high-speed flat rates for 20 euros per month back then.

You paid by the minute. I once noticed that very painfully, when my parents angrily presented me the phone bill and I had to pay off the amount from my pocket money for months.

It's hard to believe: these modems still exist

Nowadays, of course, nobody uses such a modem any more. Nobody? Not correct!

In the technologically advanced USA, of all places, the 56k modem is still running in millions of households. According to information from Statista, the dial-up modem was available in 0.6 percent of US households with Internet access in 2019.

The reason? Many of them cannot afford faster internet or there is simply no broadband infrastructure in rural areas.

Is the modem missing?

Do I miss the modem for dialing in? In nostalgic memory of how I discovered the then brand new Internet, yes. It also helps me put things into perspective when I get annoyed about slow internet these days.

Free LinkedIn guide!

Register now for our weekly BT compact newsletter. As a thank you we give you ours LinkedIn guide.


But for practical use? No!

In that regard, I'm really glad that we're no longer tied to cables or modems for Internet access, and that I can access more than three websites in an hour.

Also interesting: