Here is a fun video that shows a guy getting on the Internet via his modern laptop from home via a 1964 wooden boxed 300 baud acoustic coupled modem.
Students at my high school were using acoustic coupled modems in 1977. The modems were connected to terminals that I believe were connected to a large computer at University of Chicago.
When I say dumb terminal, I mean pretty dumb, because they didn’t have video displays. They were essentially electric typewriters hooked to a large computer that could support multiple users at once.
You would type a command, which would be printed on the fan-folded computer paper in front of you. The command would be sent ‘quickly’ over a 300 baud modem, and the textual response would be printed on the same green bar computer paper for you to read and act on.
Sadly, I never got to use these terminals, as they were for older students. I was in 9th grade at the time.
Here’s a video of one of these old DEC computer terminals in use with an old DEC minicomputer.
I wonder what advanced technology students at my high school are using today. I have little doubt they have access to supercomputers and exceptionally fast Internet connections. I’ve only used an exceptionally fast Internet connection for a few days, and it was like being on a local network. I downloaded a 500 megabyte file from 6,000 miles away in less than a minute. This connection was at a Dutch military college in The Hague, Netherlands, where I was staying during the ConTeXt conference in 2009. We had to plug our laptops in to jacks as there was no Wi-Fi available due to security precautions.
I understand residents in Hong Kong have similarly fast Internet connections for a low price. We should have these connections in the United States — why don’t we?
Below is a picture of a DECwriter III terminal like I remember from high school.
My mother Martha Warnock used to use at work a DEC PDP/11 minicomputer, but with a video terminal. I used to program on a DEC VT320 video monitor hooked to a DEC VAX minicomputer cluster. My brother Andrew Warnock used to help my mother program her DEC, and I remember to play video games on the DEC he needed a way to press the Enter key rapidly to make the game easier to play and more fun. He took apart the keyboard and soldered wires to the Enter key connections. Then, he made a motorized switch with rotating contacts that would make and break connection with each revolution of the motor. He attached this switch to the wires from the keyboard he had installed and now he could press Enter as fast as required by his game. This might sound rediculous to my readers, but this was in about 1979 or 1980, when the Commodore VIC 20 was considered a hot computer. My brother had one of those, but getting to use a DEC PDP/11 that cost tens of thousands of dollars I suspect was more exciting than using the VIC 20.