If you are reading this online, undoubtedly you're already connected to the Internet. And if you're lucky, you have a high-speed DSL, cable or wireless connection. For those still tangling with older technology, we offer this admittedly dated information first written in 1996!
To go online your computer must be equipped with a modem,a device that translates the digital signals from your computer into analog signals that travel over a standard phone line. Those are the scratchy sounds you hear from a modem's speaker. Believe it or not, there is actually meaning in all that noise. A modem on the other end of the line understands it and converts the sounds back into digital information.
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. Almost all modems today are at least 56 Kbps.
Faster is Better
Why does speed matter? On the Internet, you are constantly exchanging data with other computers. Some of these digital files can be quite large, especially for audio and video clips. As you will soon discover, you want this exchange to happen as quickly as possible.
Modems come in different speeds and can be installed inside your computer (internal), or connected to your computer's serial port (external). These days all new computers come equipped with an internal modem. But if you need to buy a modem for an older computer, consider purchasing an external one for two reasons. First, they are much easier to install. Second, occasionally your modem will freeze and needs to be reset. If your modem is external you can simply turn it off and on again. If it's internal, the only way to reset it is to turn off your computer and reboot, which can take several minutes.
To connect an external modem to your computer, you'll need a serial modem cable. Most likely, your computer will have a connector on the back labeled serial, or with the IOIOIO icon. This connector comes in two varieties: 9-pin (male) or 25-pin (female). If you only have one of these ports, it will probably be COM1. If you have two, one will be COM1, and the other will be COM2. After you plug in your modem, you can sign up for Internet service.
Usually your setup program will try and find your modem and its COM port. If it can't, it will ask you which COM port yourmodem is attached to. If you don't know, the easiest thing to do is try them all. Even if you only have two serial ports, you may be able to select one of four COMports. Also, there are some other devices that use the COM ports. In somecomputers,the mouse is plugged into a serial port. This is known as a serialmouse. If you've got a serial mouse plugged into COM1, then just plug the modeminto COM2. If you don't have a second COM port, you can purchase a cardthat goes inside your computer that will give you a second COM port. Ifthis is necessary, you should check with the manufacturer of your computer.
Your modem will likely have a connector on the back with space for 25pins. You need to make sure that the serial modem cable you purchase has theright number of pins on either side and is the correct “gender.” The bestthing to do is to look at the back of your computer and list the various connectors,the number of pins, and the gender. When you go to purchase your modem,find the cable that matches the connector.
Lastly, you'll need a standard phone cable to connect the modem to yourphone line. The standard connector on a telephone cable is called an RJ-11. On the back of your modem, you'll probably havetwo RJ-11 jacks. One is for connecting the modem to a wall jack, andthe other is for connecting the modem to a telephone.