While 1958 saw the invention of the integrated circuit, it was also the year that saw the invention of the technology that powers a device used by millions around the world every day and one we can no longer live without – the modem.
The modem was original developed by AT&T or its subsidary Bell Telephone Laboratories in 1958 but it wasn’t until 1962 that the first commercial modem – the Bell 103 – was introduced into the market.
At that time, it was used to transmit data between two points at the speed of 300 bits of information per second and had full-duplex operation, which meant it could send data in both directions at the same time. Modems were initially used to send telegrams and were also used by the US Defense Forces to send what was at the time large amounts of data with comparative speed.
The computer modem wouldn’t be invented until 1977 when Dennis Hayes first created the device that is a direct relation to the dial-up and broadband modems we use today.
UPDATE: Some sites claim that AT&T began leasing modems to business as early as 1958 and that the modems used were Bell 103s. While there’s not much evidence available to suggest the correct date either way, AT&T unfortunately doesn’t have much information about its own history on its website, limiting itself to a simple one-line “1958 – AT&T introduces the first commercial modem” entry.
Regardless of the correct date, its said that telephone technicans thought the 103 was so rugged and tough, it would transmit its data over barbed wire.
The actual date of AT&T’s release of its first modem might be unknown but as you’re chasing your tail around the internet, spare a thought for the fact that the technology that makes it happen celebrates its 50th this year.
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