I can’t even remember the last time I saw a dialup modem, much less used one. When was the last time you used one? Still use one?

Laugh all you want, but as of the end of September, AOL still had 3.5 million subscribers to its dialup Internet access service — a lot more than the number of people who pay for, say, Spotify. And the decline from last year — about 630,000 subs — was AOL’s smallest Q3 shrinkage yet. (AOL credits a “price rationalization program” last quarter that helped them convert 200,000 people to an AOL access subscription.) This time in 2006 and 2007, AOL was losing 5 million customers a year.


For you young’uns who have never experienced a modem, click pic to see and hear what dialing with a modem is like.



  1. ReadyKilowatt says:

    Don’t they re-compress images like Opera mobile? That and persistent cache might make often visited sites tolerable on dial-up.

    Heck, RSS readers might even be useful, if you don’t mind tying up the phone line all day.

  2. SiliconSpin says:

    That shows how many people in rural areas still can’t get broadband. Cable and dsl don’t reach very far from towns and satellite is dreadfully expensive for what you get.

    Correct me if I’m wrong, but didn’t the government give a lot of money to internet providers and telcos to get broadband into rural areas?

    • Toby says:

      Wrong.

    • msbpodcast says:

      Its was asurcharge that was tacked onto telephone bills for years.

      It wasn’t the government it was YOU that was paying for it, since the 80s.

      And every year the telcos were raking it in and delivering nothing.

      All of the fibre laid into the ground* was laid according to the amortization schedule which was even allowed to slip because of advances in the switching capacity of POTS on twisted wire pair.

      Basically, we all got screwed for decades while the telcos raked it in and delivered savings for themselves by replacing low-bandwidth, degradable, corrodible copper wire which costs money to replace with fiber optic cable which only breaks when some idiot with a back hoe digs in the wrong place.

      The history of broadband deployment on this continent is a tale of lousy oversight, cosy cronyism and total disregard for the customer.

      That is why South Korea has rural internet access service at speeds which puts even urban internet service to shame over here.

      We have been lied to for decades and paying telcos for nothing.

      *) Until the rush on the internet rush in the 1990s resulting in gross overcapacity and a, uh, fortuitous bankruptcy by the company which had laid all of the fiber … for the benefit of those who came after.

    • CrankyGeeksFan says:

      Remember all the plans for improving “the last mile” problem. Broadband over Power Line – that interfered with short wave radio reception; In Virginia, there was supposed to be a test of a new system but that technology causes interference with GPS devices; the “white space” in between television channels – are the devices out yet?

      In an interview from c. 2004, someone said that DSL and cable modems won’t come to rural areas because those deployments don’t meet the business models of the utilities.

  3. Toby says:

    A basic reason for diminishing stats in users is that there are fewer customers for them to lose.

  4. Burntfinger says:

    Not everyone lives in the big city, Boys and Girls, and if you live in a rural area which is wooded or mountainous you are damn lucky if you can even get dial up. My old house has dial up, the new house I’m building will get a satellite feed after I put up a 100 foot tower so I should be able to get what passes for high speed Internet and phone service. My current “phone service” is limited to text only and then only if the wind is blowing the right way, the moon is in the right phase and I get lucky.

    Hey, John, remember the old 300 baud modems?

    • msbpodcast says:

      Thanks for triggering my trip down memory lane.

      My first modem was a 110 baud unit that I’d cobbled together from parts from Radio Shack and had separate cups for placing on the handset.

      I quickly figured out how to hammer a cradle together out of pieces of wood sliced out of a 2 by 4.

      I also quickly figured out how to cobble together a connection and how to slice and splice lines out of a 25 ribbon cable to the unit from the RS-232 port of my Osborne 1*. (Remember lines 2 and 3 having to be crossed over to make a null-modem cable. :-) )

      The following year I bought a “Hayes” 300. Not having to dial and wait until I heard the “screech” was such a blessing.

      *) The Osborne 1 was second computer. My first was an Apple ][.

      I used that Osborne to learn how to program properly: Ada, BCPL, C, Lisp, Logo, Pascal, ProLog.

      I used an IBM 5100 that was laying around at my job at Steinberg’s/Miracle Mart to learn APL and the modem was to communicate with Concordia University to learn SetL.

      I used to be a real computer geek.

      I’d used the facilities at Dawson College to learn JCL and Fortran and taught myself Basic to land my first paying job.

      I then had to teach myself COBOL to land myself my next job.

  5. Knuckles says:

    I have a warehouse in Dayton NV that up until a year ago only used a modem for internet access. I kept waiting for cable or DSL and it just wasn’t available. I finally had them hooked up with satellite. We still use modems to transfer files to a few remote computers. Yeah, big city boys just don’t know how tough it is out in the middle of nowhere.

  6. George says:

    Older people also keep dialup if they don’t have kids that force them to upgrade.

    I pushed two of my aunts to finally go DSL. The salient selling point was that it would keep their phone line from being tied up while they were on the computer. I also believed that having an always-on connection would expand their internet horizons.

    Until one died 5 years ago, she was still only using AOL over DSL for emailing her friends, and the other who is still extant thinks the entire internet is Yahoo.

    They could have still been happy with dialup. I have given up trying to be a cheerleader of technology for the elderly.

  7. Animby says:

    I wonder ho w many of them are actually using dial-up. My idiot brother got DSL about three years ago in rural-ish N Carolina. He kept paying (!) AOL because he thought that was the only way to keep his email coming. Last time I visited, I figured out what was going on and raised a bit of hell. Now we’ve got him on gmail, notified everyone in his address book I even called AOL (now, THAT was an experience) and got them to agree to refund a paltry sum of money but now, four months later, he still hasn’t received anything from them. On the good side, they did forward his email to the gmail account for a couple of months.

  8. bumrocky says:

    AOL = Army of Losers!

  9. Chris B. says:

    We actually still have one at the office that we use to dial into the SMS exchanges in case there’s a problem with out uplink providers. Can’t send out mail if there’s no internet, so we send those notices out by text.

  10. Dallas says:

    Conservatives don’t like to fix something that ain’t broken.

    • pedro says:

      And you don’t like to shut your pie hole even if nobody wants to hear you

  11. thirdnormal says:

    At 3.5 million I guess this makes AOL dialup customers the other 1% .

  12. JimD says:

    AO-Hell ??? ***NEVER*** !!!

  13. Benjamin says:

    I have to wonder how many of them couldn’t cancel due to the AOL Cancellation Associates that try to persuade people from canceling AOL. I remember they had that story a few years ago.

  14. Mac Guy says:

    At work, we still have a couple of USB modems plugged into some Mac Minis that receive faxes for a couple of users.

  15. Lynn says:

    I’m getting a kick out of this because I use dial-up at home. I spend two thirds of my waking hours at work anyway, so I use the broadband here. BTW, there is no modem screech any more; I kind of miss it. Dial-up is also much better than it used to be at opening websites, etc, though I don’t even try YouTube.

    When we have power outages, I can still use my dial-up. Was able to submit an important proposal by doing it from home, once.

  16. Uncle Patso says:

    I have one I could put my hands on in about 15 seconds. The last time I actually _used_ it was about a year ago when I tested it and it still worked perfectly.

    My sister lives 6 miles from the nearest town (population 2751 at the last census) and has no broadband option at home other than satellite, which is much too expensive for her. Until recently, she maintained a $10/month NetZero account. I asked her then if she needed a backup modem, but she declined because she was dropping her NetZero account. Now she uses her iPhone for email and when she needs a broadband connection, to Skype with her son in Afghanistan, for instance, she takes her iPhone or laptop to the McDonald’s and uses the free WiFi.

    I tried to sell it on eBay, with no success, even with a 99 cent starting price and $5 shipping, partly because it has a serial connection (how many computers even have a serial port any more?) and partly because the few people who need one can get a brand new one, either internal or USB, for about the same money.

    I’m sure at least half the people reading this blog could put their hands on one if they can find the box it’s in, and there may even be a few reading this via dial-up. It’s really the only option for several million people in rural areas.

  17. The Pirate says:

    My home ADSL account comes with nationwide dialup access. Good for on the road in rural areas where Ma & Pop motels don’t provide broadband.

    An Lynn is right, performance is way better than back in the 80′s/90′s.

  18. WmDE says:

    I used a 3com router/dial-up modem networking three computers. The modem/router was connected to the only phone line through a Catch-a-Call box that broke the dial-up connection in case of an incoming call.

    We had been using AOL dial-up, but it did not work with the modem/router. Changed AOL to the networked mode for my wife and got a cheap dial-up service. AOL charged $9 for the network mode and the dial-up service was $5. It was cheaper than AOL dial-up. Plus it was possible to have more than one computer on-line.

    Comcast came to the area and was great for about 3 months. Then they became worst than the above dial-up system. Moved to DSL.

    Years ago I got my wife a gmail account, put Ubuntu on a netbook for her to use downstairs, canceled the paid version of AOL. Every day I still hear “You’ve got mail!” At least she now considers the gmail account as her primary address. I think.

  19. NewFormatSux says:

    Dialup at $10-$20 is a better deal than cable at $40-$50.

  20. justice gustine says:

    There were two solutions I used to not tie up the phone line – OLX by Mustang software would dial the BBS, send all mail & forum replies, download new messages and disconnect. Very cool since I lived in an area were most good BBSs were a toll call.

    There was also a similar off line reader for NVN (National Videotext Network) I used.

    get that fiber hub off of my lawn!

  21. NewFormatSux says:

    The surcharge on phone bills wasn’t to pay for broadband service. It was to pay for the Spanish American War. I am not kidding.

  22. John E. Quantum says:

    I had the chance to walk around in the AOL Headquarters building in Northern VA after it had been vacated. It brought back memories of how I used to not have to buy 1.44 M floppy disks since I got them free in the mail and elsewhere constantly.

    I still have a Hayes 300 Baud modem in the carrying case with my Bondwell 286. I still remember the thrill of my first 28.8 modem and how blazing fast it seemed at the time. Way faster than the 9600 unit it replaced.

  23. jpfitz says:

    Good old Compuserve and early netscape. I know a few AOL die hards also. I can’t get them to realize the internet is not AOL.

  24. The Watcher says:

    I use dialup (pcAnywhere) as a backup to GoToMyPC over the web, because the current versions of the latter don’t much like my client’s Win98 box…. The “universal viewer” does work, but I need file transfers…. Guess I should sort ‘Net access out in pcAnywhere, but it always was a little flaky.

    I still use AOL, too – the kid still uses it for her e-mail [grin]. It’s also useful when I need large file transfers from that same Win98 box. I can sign on to AOL at the remote end (using a web connection to AOL) and transfer the files to my AOL account while connected to the client’s machine via pcAnywhere.

    Guess it’s time to sell ‘em DropBox [grin], but the kid is using AOL and….

  25. Peppeddu says:

    For those of you who wonder, the “open in a new window” feature of Windows came out with Windows 95 right when AOL was rocking the world, and guess what? AOL had everything opening up in a new window.

    Old specs do live forever.

  26. LBalsam says:

    When I used dial up modems my birds used to imitate the noises they made. It was something they heard often and they got so good at imitating it you could not tell it from the real thing.

  27. CrankyGeeksFan says:

    Uncle Dave –
    I gave my V.90 56k U.S. Robotics external modem with serial port to a friend’s mother about 5 years ago since she still uses dial-up. Those modems were still expensive in 2005 – about the cost of a 6-month introductory DSL offer; so I switched.

    My last modem story: Her computer’s internal modem couldn’t go off hook to get a dial tone. I connected a touch-tone phone to the jack on the internal modem card marked “Phone”; the other jack being connected to the “Wall”. (Also, my last time in that setup.) I lifted up the handset, waited for the dial tone then dialed her ISP’s phone number. It worked. I could hear both modems on the phone, and the computer was on the internet. The only problem was that I couldn’t hang up the phone and had to cover the phone’s mouthpiece.

  28. denacron says:

    My worst memory of them was in a doctors waiting room. Whomever it was that set them up must have had a grudge over a bill. You could change the volume or turn off the annoying squawk, but that office had them at max volume. The personnel were constantly connecting then reconnecting. Five machines if I recall correctly. Why they felt the need to log off for 20 seconds then spend dead time reconnecting was and is beyond me. Good riddance last millennium!

  29. Bob Maelo says:

    Hey guyzz!!! i came across with an amazing accelerated dial up internet service at affordable rate. Along with free monthly charges.. Have a look at it!!!

    http://www.freedialupservice.com