Ah, the good ol’ days of slow Internet

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By Chuck Woodbury
I came across this letter from reader Bob Hoffman while going through old issues of this newsletter. I published it on February 2, 2012. Bob had responded to an essay I had written about my early days on the road when I carried a portable darkroom and typed on a manual typewriter. Here is what he wrote:

Dear Chuck,
“Your story about using a typewriter reminded me of my first RV computer experience back in 1984. On that first RV trip, I carried along a VT-100 computer terminal, a 300-baud acoustic coupler, a 100 foot extension cord, and a 100 foot phone line. I’d stop at a pay phone, dial the 800 number of the computer I accessed in Huntsville, Alabama, then put the phone on the acoustic coupler and run back to the RV to access it from my terminal.

“At the time, I thought it was the height of technology. Though 300 baud was slow, it was much faster than the 110 baud that I’d been using back in Huntsville in the ’70s on a teletype machine.

“You can imagine the strange looks that I got from passers-by, wondering if I was doing something illegal or just plain crazy. Sitting there with my generator running and strange wires running 100 feet from my RV to the phone booth certainly raised a few curious looks. But, it got the job done and I was able to continue making a few bucks while traveling, which was and is always my intent.”

Do you have a similar story? Please leave a comment.

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Wolfe
11 months ago

For people unfamiliar with baud, 110 bits-audio/second is 15 bytes or characters, or 3 “standard” editorial “words” — much slower than the 5-10 words per second you probably read, and pictures were inconceivable. Direct wired (non acoustic) modems maxed out at 56000 bits (7KByte)/sec.

Current 4G cell data is commonly 50,000,000 bits, and 5G will be massively faster again.