Long before high-speed cable modems, dial-up modems ruled the Earth. Because baud rates and bits-per-second (BPS) rate were the same in early modems, many people began using the terms interchangeably even though technically they mean two different things. Although I’ve read about 110 bps modems, the first one I owned was a 300 bps modem. That meant it was able to transfer 300 bits-per-second across a phone line — and with 8 bits to a byte, that’s 37.5 bytes per second, and 2,250 bytes (2.2kb) per minute. Yes, it was slow. Most people can read faster than 300 can display text.
300 baud gave way to 1200 baud, then 2400 baud, then 9600 baud, then 14,400 baud. 14,400 bits-per-second is also 14.4 kilobytes-per-second, and these new “high speed” modems were referred to as 14.4k modems. The one in this picture (which I found out in my garage) is a 28.8k modem made by Hayes. Hayes was one of the first and one of the biggest manufacturers of modems. In the early days of computing, my Dad used to joke that there were only two kinds of modems: Hayes, and Hayes-compatible. This particular modem was external and connected to your computer via a serial cable, but internal modems were just as common.
Following 28.8k modems there were also 33.6k modems and 56k modems before traditional dial-up modems were replaced by high-speed cable modems. While modems were originally rated in bits-per-second and later kilobytes-per-second, modern modems are measured in megabits and megabytes. Think about that the next time you are complaining about your current internet speeds. At 300 baud, this article wouldn’t have even finished loading yet.