in Featured, Hardware

Making a dial-up modem sing before its displayed on a bookshelf

Although I’ve never had much interest in knick-knacks or collectibles, I recently sought out three specific pieces of 1990s retro technology as decor for an empty bookshelf in my home office.

Sim City

In past musings on this site I’ve mentioned that my first computer was a hand-me-down IBM 5150. My dad purchased it second-hand from his colleague for me back in 1992 when I was a sophomore in high school. The first gameerrsoftware application I purchased for this international business machine was Sim City. I bought it from a store named Electronics Boutique in the Quakerbridge Mall, which I believe was later rebranded to EB Games, and then again to GameStop.

The Internet Yellow Pages

The premier activity for my high school buddies and me, if there were no good movies or party invitations, was to spend a Friday or Saturday night prowling the Quakerbridge Mall. We’d easily waste fifteen minutes browsing each store like Suncoast Video, Natural Wonders, Sam Goody, and Waldenbooks while we rehearsed our favorite SNL impressions. It was there in Waldenbooks I’d often flip through The Internet Yellow Pages to learn more about this epic world called cyberspace.

Dial-up Modem

In 1993 I spent $3,000 of my saved paper route money for a brand-new 486DX2 computer. The most-used peripheral on that new machine was the internal 14.4k modem, which in a few years time was upgraded to a 28.8k modem, and then a 56.6k modem, and then eventually replaced by a DSL and cable modem.

Because an internal dial-up modem card isn’t much to look at on a bookshelf, I decided I’d buy an external modem for a little more pop of color and visual interest. Regrettably I couldn’t find a 14.4k or 28.8k model. I settled on the 33.6k model.

That got my thinking … could I make this telephone modem sing before it comes to rest on a shelf as office decor? Yes, but it took a little bit of effort.

I thoroughly enjoyed experimenting with this weekend project. Hear some of the results in the video below.

How to make a legacy dial-up serial modem sing in 2023