Featured image of post Recording the Dial Up Sound

Recording the Dial Up Sound

I'll never do anything better than this I guess 🤷‍♀️

Making History

It was November 2008, and the leaves had fallen off the trees in my suburban Pennsylvania town. The temperature was dropping, and I didn’t have any neighborhood friends within walking distance. Whenever I wanted to see a friend, I needed to get a ride. So, I spent a lot of time online, talking with friends. The isolation I felt then, as a teenager in suburbia, was something I wouldn’t feel again until the COVID-19 pandemic.

Back then, my ISP was Verizon DSL. Being the geek I was, I found this internet speed too fast. I had an iMac G3 with a built-in modem. I’m not sure why, but I decided to try out NetZero just for fun.

For those who don’t know, NetZero was (and I think still is) a service that offers limited free dial-up internet access. So, being a 15-year-old with an iMac G3 and a NetZero number, I dialed in. The modem sound filled my room, bringing excitement. It was a sound that, even in 2008, was already nostalgic to me, having had broadband since 2000.

As a kid, I had this weird habit of archiving things, a habit I still have. So, I decided to make a recording. I could’ve just used my MacBook’s built-in microphone, but that wasn’t good enough for me. The modem sound played through the iMac’s built-in speakers and could also play through external speakers. So, I connected an aux cable from the iMac’s audio out to my MacBook’s audio in.

My iMac in 2009 in all its glory

I recorded the audio and used iMovie HD to add some clip art and make a video to upload. RIP iMovie HD; what Apple did to you in 2009 was not cool. But anyway, I uploaded the video, and it’s still viewable here. I also stuffed the tags with the word for ‘dial-up’ in multiple languages. Younger me kinda knew what SEO was without actually knowing it. Getting views on my uploads was thrilling enough for me.

The Time Dial-Up Saved My Social Life

Time passed, but in January, my lifeline to the world went down. Verizon had a pretty bad DSL outage in my area that lasted several days. Luckily, I still had my iMac G3. I did something so stupid that it was brilliant. I connected to freedialup.org’s dial-up service using my iMac. I’m not sure how I found this service or got the number during the outage; maybe I had it saved on the iMac.

But that wasn’t enough. I wanted Wi-Fi. So, I bridged my iMac’s ethernet to my LAN via internet connection sharing, made some tweaks on my dd-wrt router, and boom – Wi-Fi dial-up.

The outage continued off and on from January to February 2011. In my own words: “Had to fall back to Dial-Up again. WHAT THE HELL, VERIZON! Your service has been stable for over 4 years, even when the power went out, your DSL still worked!” 😑

The Dial-Up Lives On

What I didn’t know was that on December 16, 2010, a Wikipedia user uploaded my recording under creative commons and credited me. In 2012, a really skilled Finnish computer geek, Oona Räisänen, turned my recording into a poster.

Oona Räisänens Poster

I found out about this after listening to a podcast I used to listen to called “Security Now.” Later, in 2014, the season finale of AMC’s “Halt and Catch Fire” (S1 E10, “1984”) used my audio too. To this day, I still hear my audio in other people’s YouTube videos. And all I think to myself is… I’m doing my part.


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