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Communications Hardware Hacking Networking Build

45-Year-Old Modem Used To Surf the Web 622

EdIII writes with this awesome snippet from Hack a Day: "'[phreakmonkey] got his hands on a great piece of old tech. It's a 1964 Livermore Data Systems Model A Acoustic Coupler Modem. He recieved it in 1989 and recently decided to see if it would actually work. It took some digging to find a proper D25 adapter and even then the original serial adapter wasn't working because the oscillator depends on the serial voltage. He dials in and connects at 300baud. Then logs into a remote system and fires up lynx to load Wikipedia. Lucky for [phreakmonkey] they managed to decide on a modulation standard in 1962. It's still amazing to see this machine working 45 years later.' Although impractical for surfing the Internet today, there is something truly cool about getting a 45-year old modem to work with modern technology. The question I have, is what is the oldest working piece of equipment fellow Slashdotters have out there? I'm afraid as far back as I can go is a Number Nine Imagine 128 Series 2 Graphics card on a server still in use at my house which only puts me at about 14 years."
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45-Year-Old Modem Used To Surf the Web

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  • <meme>My name is Junis [slashdot.org], I am posting this from a Commodore64 and my 1964 Livermore Data Systems Model A Acoustic Coupler Modem in Afghanistan after years of oppression underneath the Taliban ...</meme>

    And I suppose the instant I show any signs of lag in World of Warcraft I'll have to listen to my guildmates crack jokes about me using a 1964 Livermore Data Systems Model A Acoustic Coupler Modem ruining the raid.
  • is just as old as I am... I just needed a long time to know how to work it.
  • Oldest Working? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by mgbastard ( 612419 ) on Thursday May 28, 2009 @02:39PM (#28127415)
    I don't really use it anymore, but I have a TRS-80 Model IV and it works. I haven't used the modem in a long time. That's only about 26 years old though. The PowerBook 165c also works, and that's from 1993, making it 16 years old. Bonus for the SCSI ethernet adapter.
  • My hammer. (Score:5, Funny)

    by Polarina ( 1389203 ) on Thursday May 28, 2009 @02:39PM (#28127425) Homepage
    My hammer was made in 1876.
    • Re:My hammer. (Score:4, Insightful)

      by The Archon V2.0 ( 782634 ) on Thursday May 28, 2009 @02:42PM (#28127485)

      My hammer was made in 1876.

      But your grandfather replaced the handle and your father replaced the head, right?:)

      • Re:My hammer. (Score:5, Informative)

        by Anonymous Coward on Thursday May 28, 2009 @02:55PM (#28127777)

        For those not familiar, the parent is referencing the Ship of Theseus paradox [wikipedia.org] which is an interesting read.

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by Intron ( 870560 )

          I would read it, but I haven't felt the same since my brain transplant.

          I recently read about some Buddhists who were turned down on historical status for their temple which has been torn down and rebuilt several times. They claimed that the materials that make the structure of the temple may be transient, but that the space enclosed is the important element and is therefore very old.

      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        Dude, dont post about your incestuous family affairs,
        whatever turns your crank, just don't post it here...mmmK! O_O

      • Re:My hammer. (Score:5, Insightful)

        by Abreu ( 173023 ) on Thursday May 28, 2009 @03:15PM (#28128197)

        "This, milord, is my family's axe. We have owned it for almost nine hundred years, see. Of course, sometimes it needed a new blade. And sometimes it has required a new handle, new designs on the metalwork, a little refreshing of the ornamentation . . . but is this not the nine hundred-year-old axe of my family? And because it has changed gently over time, it is still a pretty good axe, y'know. Pretty good."- Low King Rhys Rhysson

        The Fifth Elephant, by Terry Pratchett

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by Rude Turnip ( 49495 )

          A shallow materialist will laugh at the "900" year old axe. Meanwhile, the deeper meaning is that someone has a connection to 900 years of family history and tradition.

    • by interkin3tic ( 1469267 ) on Thursday May 28, 2009 @02:47PM (#28127607)

      Unimpressive, all of you. Most of the atoms in my computer are like, billions of years old.

    • Re:My hammer. (Score:4, Interesting)

      by __aaclcg7560 ( 824291 ) on Thursday May 28, 2009 @02:47PM (#28127609)
      I got iron padlock with key that was made in the 1860s.
    • whoever was in charge of quality control at the various businesses back in the late eighteen hundreds seems to have done a good job--either that or there was just a bubble of really bad work ethic on either side of that part century. I have seen countless museums with period material--very few shortly thereafter or before. I can understand the before part--Civil War left a lot destroyed even where there weren't battles. The after part is a bit harder for me to catch
      • Re:My hammer. (Score:5, Interesting)

        by eln ( 21727 ) on Thursday May 28, 2009 @03:11PM (#28128137)

        I think a lot of things in those days were built without a really good understanding of engineering, so things were typically over-engineered. Things were built far stronger than they needed to be because people didn't have a good understanding of the strengths of the materials they were using or of the physics being employed in their designs. Likewise, without a lot of advanced chemical and metallurgical expertise, they weren't able to create materials specifically to meet the demands of the job like we can today.

        The result is they had things that were much stronger, but took a lot longer and cost a lot more to make. Now, we have things that are designed specifically to try and hit the sweet spot between durability and cost, and that can be efficiently mass produced. As a result, our stuff doesn't last as long, but we can afford to buy a whole lot more stuff.

        • by bitt3n ( 941736 ) on Thursday May 28, 2009 @03:41PM (#28128799)

          Now, we have things that are designed specifically to try and hit the sweet spot between durability and cost

          by that definition, my walmart deck lounger is the most precisely engineered piece of equipment in the history of mankind. Whenever I sit down, I feel like it's half a hamburger away from catastrophic failure. (that's one croissant in metric units)

      • Re:My hammer. (Score:4, Insightful)

        by jandrese ( 485 ) <kensama@vt.edu> on Thursday May 28, 2009 @04:12PM (#28129353) Homepage Journal
        Are you sure it wasn't just the especially overengineered stuff that tended to survive and the other 99% of the stuff broke down and was thrown away over the years, just like today? I'll maybe grant you that back in the day people tended to overengineer more because they were very close to the finished product and wanted it to have that little something extra, but my guess is that most of the stuff from back then is just as crappy as most of the stuff is today.
    • Re:My hammer. (Score:5, Insightful)

      by risk one ( 1013529 ) on Thursday May 28, 2009 @03:26PM (#28128465)

      And I bet it still interfaces flawlessly with your modern computer. Today's engineers could learn from that.

  • Model M Keyboard (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Bai jie ( 653604 ) on Thursday May 28, 2009 @02:39PM (#28127433)
    I still use my old 1984 IBM Model M Keyboard. I will weep when/if that keyboard ever dies.
    • I happen to have 2, yes 2, Model M keyboards if you, or anyone else, wants to purchase them from me. The date on the back of both is 06OCT86.

      No, I'm not going to gouge for the price. Something reasonable. You pay actual shipping costs.

      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        by spydabyte ( 1032538 )
        I'll pay $5, as that's what Google says [google.com] a keyboard is worth. Hell, I'll throw on an extra $5 just for the loud sound effects it makes, just to annoy my coworkers around me.
        Drag it behind a donkey, it'll survive the trip about as well as Indiana Jones surviving a nuclear blast in a refrigerator.
        • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday May 28, 2009 @03:13PM (#28128159)

          I'll pay $5, as that's what Google says [google.com] a keyboard is worth.

          Google is old hat - everyone who is anyone uses Wolfram Alpha. Alpha-ing "cost of keyboard" [wolframalpha.com] gives a price of $47.87 - although if it has a "market cap" (is that anything like caps lock?) the price skyrockets to $21.2 billion.

          Just be glad you're looking at the cost of a keyboard instead of the actual value [wolframalpha.com] - according to Wolfram Alpha, the value of a keyboard is U+2328. Although I'm not sure what that is in US dollars, because "convert U+2328 to US dollars" [wolframalpha.com] doesn't seem to give anything helpful.

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      Ignore my post. Jumped the gun. While I do have 2 keyboards, they are for IBM terminals and not adaptable for PC use.

      *mumbles something about Alzheimer's creeping in*

      • Re:Model M Keyboard (Score:5, Informative)

        by hairyfeet ( 841228 ) <bassbeast1968@@@gmail...com> on Thursday May 28, 2009 @04:07PM (#28129267) Journal

        If anybody wants an old "clacky" keyboard, there really is a really cheap and easy way to get one-Go to your local mom&pop shop. We always have stuff like that around, because we are packrats and never throw anything working out. When I ran low on "claky" keyboards I just went to the other shop down the street and he let me rummage through his keyboard box. I got an old IBM and the Compaq I'm typing this on now for a whole $7.50 for the pair.

        So go and visit your local mom&pop repair shop, it is like old PC junk heaven. Hell I even have some old S3 Virge cards sitting in the drawer here somewhere. Hey, you never know when they may come in handy! But any mom&pop repair shop that has been around for any length of time quickly becomes a "Sanford&Son" junk shop for anything tech related. We just don't have the heart to throw working gear out. Some come on down! It'll be an adventure! Don't suppose I can interest you in some S3 Virge and Matrox PCI cards?

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by XNormal ( 8617 )

        Ignore my post. Jumped the gun. While I do have 2 keyboards, they are for IBM terminals and not adaptable for PC use.

        I assume you mean they cannot be directly plugged in. This is not the same as "adaptable". Depending on the amount of effort you are willing to spend, almost anything/a. is adaptable for use as a PC keboard. [multipledigression.com]

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by WMD_88 ( 843388 )
      IBM copyrighted the design in 1984, but no keyboards are actually that old. Also on the label, you will find a date of manufacture. IBM was including the 1984 copyright on new keyboards well into the 90s.
  • by wowbagger ( 69688 ) on Thursday May 28, 2009 @02:40PM (#28127451) Homepage Journal

    I've often wanted to dig up 2 acoustic coupled modems, 4 tin cans, and 2 strings, and see if I could get the modems to work over that.

  • Atari Baby (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Astroturtle ( 588703 ) on Thursday May 28, 2009 @02:40PM (#28127457) Homepage
    I have an Atari 400 I still drag out from time to time when I get an itch to play the "definitive" (to me at least!) versions of Pac-Man, Donkey Kong and Defender. Bought as a Xmas present when I was 9 which puts it at 28 years old. :) I also still have my old Apple ][ bought 4 years later with the "CP/M card" and a 300 baud modem. Hmm... I think I'm going to have to some surfing tonight! ;) astroturtle
  • by slaker ( 53818 ) on Thursday May 28, 2009 @02:40PM (#28127459)

    I keep a Hewlitt-Packard oscilloscope out in my car that was manufactured sometime in the mid-50s.
    It still works, but I've only had to use it about three times in my professional life.

  • Commadore Amiga 500 (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Pvt_Ryan ( 1102363 ) on Thursday May 28, 2009 @02:41PM (#28127473)
    :D and I still love starting it up.. Nothing like the grinding of a floppy drive in the morning..
  • Well my Sinclair ZX81 still works, just about, around 25 years after we got it. Sadly the 16Kb RAM pack is toast, so there's not much you can do with it.
  • Back then (Score:4, Insightful)

    by rodrigoandrade ( 713371 ) on Thursday May 28, 2009 @02:41PM (#28127483)
    Most electronic equipment was built to last, hence this guy got his modem to work.

    I doubt anyone will be able to run a GTX 280 in 45 years.
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by digitac ( 24581 )

      Hell, I can't get my 8800GTX from 2 years ago to work because EVGA won't honor their "Lifetime* Warranty".

      *apparently NOT lifetime

  • PowerMac 5400 (Score:4, Interesting)

    by XxtraLarGe ( 551297 ) on Thursday May 28, 2009 @02:42PM (#28127487) Journal
    My stepson currently has a PowerMac 5400 in his room, with a video in card. That came out in 1996, so it's about 13 years old. Until recently, he'd use it for watching VHS movies & playing his XBox.
  • Maybe there are some ancient government computer backdoors out there that work with ancient modems. - Ferris Bueller
    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by MagicM ( 85041 )

      I'm pretty sure you're thinking of Wargames. Ferris Bueller never hacked into any goverment computers.

  • I have a three-some of working Commodore PETs (2001, 4032, SuperPET) with associated disk & tape drives. All still work though some of the floppies get read errors now. I had a term package and modem for the SuperPET... I should set it all up again sometime and try the same feat for fun. The 2001 puts me back bordering 30 years... sigh. Thanks, now I feel old. :)
  • by commodoresloat ( 172735 ) * on Thursday May 28, 2009 @02:42PM (#28127509)

    The question I have, is what is the oldest working piece of equipment fellow Slashdotters have out there?

    Well as far as modem technology goes I've still got a classic 1200 baud Hayes modem; must be from the early 80s I would guess (perhaps older?); it was working fine when I stopped using it around 1993 or so (upgraded to 2400 baud FTW!!)* ... I'm sure it would still work if I plugged it in today but I'm not hunting down an RS-232 adapter to find out. If we want to talk audio gear I've got some much older items, including a pair of AR speakers from the 60s that still sound pretty damn good... Now get the hell off my lawn!

    * (and back then FTW still meant Fuck the World!!)

  • by starglider29a ( 719559 ) on Thursday May 28, 2009 @02:43PM (#28127517)
    A young Obi Wan Kenobi flies with an Astrodroid, which is then used by his apprentice when he has grown old. The driod can still connect.

    Pick a small set of standards that will work "well enough" and let them become the Legacy Standard. I'm so sick of going to garage sales and seeing good equipment, such as printers and scanners, that won't connect to any computer that I own. I have a drawer full of PS/2 keyboards.

    I hope that someday, someone posts a /. article entitled "100 year old hardware used to connect to DNFNet"

    The grandson of Hemos connected to the DukeNukemForeverNet* using a computer with USB, DVI, a drive that SPINS, and only 64GB of RAM, after all, 64GB should be enough RAM for anybody.

    *DNFNEt is a networking protocol that uses baling wire and bubble gum... and I'm all out of bubble gum.

  • by bzzfzz ( 1542813 ) on Thursday May 28, 2009 @02:43PM (#28127519)

    Most of the acoustic couplers back in the day were fairly picky about the telephone handset used.

    I make it a point to get rid of old digital gear, but I do have a telephone from the 1920s. It's still hooked up, and is one of the few reasons I still have a landline. It has the rayon-covered cord and everything.

  • by NotQuiteReal ( 608241 ) on Thursday May 28, 2009 @02:43PM (#28127525) Journal
    I mean the phone instrument itself, perhaps with a dial? You know, the heavy duty ones that say property of Bell on the bottom?

    Heh, you might check your parents or grandma... they have probably paid thousands of dollars for that phone over the years.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by schmiddy ( 599730 )

      Heh, you might check your parents or grandma... they have probably paid thousands of dollars for that phone over the years.

      The more things change, the more they stay the same. I take it you don't even look at your cell phone bill? Hint: It would be hard not to pay "thousands of dollars ... over the years" with just about any contract. $50/month + taxes + bogus fees adds up fast.

    • ...from a company that was spun off of AT&T back in 1984. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Consumer_Phone_Services [wikipedia.org] ...and yes, I still have one in my basement!
  • by Cassini2 ( 956052 ) on Thursday May 28, 2009 @02:43PM (#28127531)

    The CNC industry is still using NC machines built to work with paper tape. 30 years old and still going strong ...

  • I've still got a working Apple 2c and a custom-modified dot matrix printer to use with it.

    And a rock. I've got a rock. I bet it would still do the same job some caveman would have used it for if he found out the chief was shagging his cave-mate, though I just use it as a doorstop.

  • by cmholm ( 69081 ) * <cmholm@@@mauiholm...org> on Thursday May 28, 2009 @02:46PM (#28127593) Homepage Journal

    If we're gonna get into a how-old-is-my-crap thread: my oldest working gear is a 1989 Mac ][ci running NetBSD that I periodically haul out of the closet to use as a testbed within my private network. Used to be my dad's photoshop box, then handed down to my wife, and finally into my grubby paws. Its small, easy to store, boxy shape has saved it from her annual pogroms against old gear.

  • Not that old, really, but...

    Mac Plus (1986)
    Atari 400 plus peripherals, including an ATR8000, which is a Z80 box that doubled as a CPM machine and an Atari peripherals controller (1983)
    Sinclair ZX80 computer (1981) (I can't swear that this still works)

  • I have a Tandy Model 100 laptop. It has a 4 line LCD screen, 3k of memory, and it runs 20 hours on 4 AA batteries. I also have an old Macintosh with a DOS compatibility card. It has both Mac OS7 and Windows 3.1
  • How about oldest piece of equipment in regular use?

    I use a 1991 IBM Model M at my main workstation, which puts me at 18 years. They just don't make them like this anymore (well actually Unicomp [pckeyboard.com] does)

  • I own two Apple IIes that work perfectly (one complete with the boxes it came in!). Nothing like playing Oregon Trail the way God intended it...

    I also have the original Compaq portable [wikipedia.org], which was arguably the first laptop computer. Sadly, one of my students smoked the power supply a couple years back, so it no longer works. I know that eliminates it from the category of "still working", but it did work for 26 years, which is fairly impressive. And its still fun to show people the design.

  • The oldest I have in service is a Cyrix 6x86 system running Windows 98 SE. I need it for the ISA slots so that I can run my *Needhams PB-10 EPROM burner.

    * Since www.needhams.com doesn't come up anymore, I wonder if they are even still in business. :-(

  • The matter inside of me is just reconstituted material dating back ~20 Billion years. Beat that!
  • My older brother got a Sega Master system for his fifth Christmas, which puts me at three years old. So, the system is twenty years old.

    We still have Afterburner, Hang On!/Safari Hunt, and Wonder Boy, and a light gun controller. All of these still function when I last checked about a year ago, although to use it now it and all of its cables must be recovered from the electronics graveyard (my dad's garage).

  • Still works, but I haven't tried out the floppy drive (which is ENORMOUS BTW). I still have fond memories of programming in Basic on it. This was way before I even knew there was a such thing as a job for programmers!
  • Old (Score:5, Funny)

    by Quiet_Desperation ( 858215 ) on Thursday May 28, 2009 @03:02PM (#28127911)

    what is the oldest working piece of equipment fellow Slashdotters have out there?

    There's this rock I use as a paperweight next to my computer. I figure it's anywhere between 100 million and 2 billion years old.

  • by sootman ( 158191 ) on Thursday May 28, 2009 @03:11PM (#28128125) Homepage Journal

    He recieved it in 1989 and recently decided to see if it would actually work.

    Wow. And I thought I was bad about putting things off.

  • I got this... (Score:3, Informative)

    by gEvil (beta) ( 945888 ) on Thursday May 28, 2009 @03:23PM (#28128401)
    I got this abacus here that's at least a couple hundred years old. Amazingly, it still calculates just as well as it did when it was first made....
  • Old equipment. (Score:3, Interesting)

    by LoyalOpposition ( 168041 ) on Thursday May 28, 2009 @03:32PM (#28128617)

    One of my friends came up with a Western Union teletype that still had some paper with their name along one edge. The paper was yellowed with age. The teletype used a 5-bit baudot code, which wikipedia says Western Union stopped using in 1950. We hacked a printer port into an Atari 800, and started putting out the baudot. We had plans to write things like "JAPAN BOMBS PEARL HARBOR!" or "DEWEY DEFEATS TRUMAN!" which would have looked wicked on the yellow Western Union paper, but we settled for writing things like "The quick brown fox jumped over the lazy dog." and "All good men come to the aid of their country."


  • by jfruhlinger ( 470035 ) on Thursday May 28, 2009 @03:32PM (#28128631) Homepage

    It's not ludicrously old, but: my DSL modem died a few months ago (my own fault -- if it has air vents in it, they may actually be there for a reason, not just to look cool and futuristic). I went into a bit of a panic, because, really, where does one get a DSL modem, especially if one suddenly has no Internet access? I feared calling Verizon would result in long delays, pricey expenditures, and/or bafflement.

    Fortunately, a friend of mine up the street who I knew to be a bit of a tech hoarder still had his, even though he had switched to line-of-site wireless years ago. The modem was nearly 10 years old, and twice as big as the one I'd been using, but sure enough I just plugged it into my phone line and worked great -- same speeds I was getting with the old modem (2.8M down, 600K up). I was sort of shocked that something that old could just plug in to my current set up with no changes, but I suppose there haven't exactly been great strides in DSL technologies over the past decade or so.

  • by roskakori ( 447739 ) on Thursday May 28, 2009 @03:35PM (#28128675)

    I still have an Amiga 2000 standing around from 1989 with a 8 Mhz 68000 CPU and 7 MB RAM. Funny thing about it is that it can run the relatively modern AmigaOS 3.1, for which reasonably well working graphical web browsers exist. Occasionally I fire it for fun just to demonstrate that 80's hardware can show web pages in a semi decent way. Configure it to run on a 640x400 screen with 8 shades of grey and it still shows most of the modern web sites that have some sort of accessibility fall back. It can do tables and basic CSS, so in some cases the results are almost indistinguishable from what you see on a modern browser. Of course it is awfully slow and needs several seconds to render a medium sized PNG image.

    It's particular cool to show it too kids that think you need GHz's and GB's to surf the web.

  • Oldest Working? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Telecommando ( 513768 ) on Thursday May 28, 2009 @04:16PM (#28129409)

    Computer related? ASR33 teletype (1965). I occasionally fire it up to show off my AIM-65 (1976).

    Audio equipment? 1958 Harmon Kardon Stereo Festival TA230. I play MP3's through it on a pair of Klipsch KG2s (1982). Still sounds great.

  • by swschrad ( 312009 ) on Thursday May 28, 2009 @04:16PM (#28129411) Homepage Journal

    still working sporadically on a 1920s Kellogg oak wall phone, which still needs a network. got some working 00A, 01A, and D5A tubes, too.

    no really fusty computer hardware left, except a core board from an old posting/billing workstation by NCR from about 1964. 2K, no expansion possible.

  • Amiga (Score:3, Informative)

    by bryan1945 ( 301828 ) on Thursday May 28, 2009 @04:16PM (#28129425) Journal

    A couple of years ago I fired up my old Amiga 1000. What's that, circa '84, '85? Nifty machine. Still have my Apple II+, but that's been in storage forever. Also have an original Macintosh, but no peripherals (was someone's paperweight). I powered it up, sounded like it was working, but no screen. Haven't got around to cracking it open to play with the innards. Oh, forgot the old Okidata dot matrix printer for the II+. Wonder if I could get that to work? I'll have to find it. Come to think of it, I don't think I've ever thrown out any computer equipment. Well, at least they eBay now!

  • PDP-11 (Score:4, Interesting)

    by LatencyKills ( 1213908 ) on Thursday May 28, 2009 @04:24PM (#28129561)
    I programmed a PDP-11 in graduate school to pull data from my vapor deposition rig. Circa 1975 or so. Gotta love those 8" floppy disks. I don't know about today, but four or five years ago I went back to my graduate lab for a visit, and there it was still chugging my code along. Why replace it if it ain't broke?
  • Netronics Elf II (Score:3, Interesting)

    by inicom ( 81356 ) <aem@@@inicom...com> on Thursday May 28, 2009 @08:51PM (#28133003) Homepage

    I still have my Netronics Elf II computer - the first one I owned. RCA 1802 processor, Hex keypad, 2 7-digit LED display!

    I no longer have the OSI C2P that was my second computer, or the thermal printer/terminal with APL keyboard and integral 300 baud acoustic modem I used throughout college. I even had a beautiful ADM3A terminal for while.

Where it is a duty to worship the sun it is pretty sure to be a crime to examine the laws of heat. -- Christopher Morley