The frequencies of the modem’s sounds represent parameters for further communication. In the early going, for example, the modem that’s been dialed up will play a note that says, “I can go this fast.” As a wonderful old 1997 website explained, “Depending on the speed the modem is trying to talk at, this tone will have a different pitch.”
That is to say, the sounds weren’t a sign that data was being transferred: they were the data being transferred. This noise was the analog world being bridged by the digital. If you are old enough to remember it, you still knew a world that was analog-first.
Cool as hell.
If only Alexis Madrigal wasn’t straight, and if only I wasn’t straight, and if only he wasn’t getting married to a neat lady, and if only we lived in a country where gay people could get married, well, then I’d ask Alexis Madrigal to marry me. Because everything he writes is what I wish I’d written, or thought of writing. So good.
Have thought about this a lot. The SYN/ACK of an acoustic coupler is like a tattoo that got written on the inside of my head, sometime in the 80s. For me the greatest transition over these 20 years hasn’t been to broadband connectivity, but to persistent connectivity, without that little handshake to say hello, are you with me?