Perhaps not actually ‘sexy’, but there was a time when modems were pretty goddam exciting. I had seen WarGames and fallen in love with the idea of computers talking to each other. David Lightman had that modem where you actually put the phone handset into a little dock. Now that was sexy. But a part of me thought that was just stuff in the movies. I never really thought I’d get something similar in my own home.

And then, in April 1987, I got the latest issue of my favourite computer magazine, Your Sinclair. I’ve been documenting the old issues of its predecessor, Your Spectrum, in these blog posts recently, but I couldn’t help skipping ahead quickly as I just happened to dig out this issue of Your Sinclair and came across this article that hugely excited me back in the day. It was where I first learned what a modem was, what baud rate was and what RS232 meant.

Here’s an excerpt…

“Using the bulletin boards (BB’s), you can put up notices to be read by lots of other computer users, and these can be on any topic! There are Gay BBs and Closed User Groups (CUG’s), Lonely Hearts clubs, and X-rated BBs of every leaning and persuasion. You can order goods and services via Teleshopping, stash your cash with an on-line building society, do electronic banking, look up a number in the electronic Yellow Pages, find out times of trains and flights, order tickets for the cinema and theatre, send Telexes and Telemessages anywhere in the world and generally have access to useful information about almost anything!”

I love how that quote sounds extremely modern and up to date, saying you can do electronic banking and buy tickets etc, and then the final comment mentions sending Telexes to ‘anywhere in the world’. I love reading old magazines like this to see how new technology was being reported in the past. Check out the full scans (from at the bottom of this post if you want to read the full article.

The article showed me a glimpse of the exciting world of Bulletin Boards and MUD dungeons and who the ‘Gnome at Home’ was. I cannot tell you how much this all intrigued me. But, sadly we didn’t actually get a modem until many years later, during the days of the early World Wide Web and AOL and Freeserve etc. And once that happened, instead of exploring Bulletins Boards etc I delved into the more up to date world of HTML website building and GIF creation. 

Obviously, ever since the days of Matthew Broderick trying to hack into Protovision to play games, it was always a desire of everyone to play games with other people online. The first actual gaming over the internet that I personally did was probably Quake III in 2000, but even then it was often extremely unreliable and frustrating. I just had never had a good experience with it. But people had been doing it regularly back in the 80s with the MUD dungeons and other text adventure games.

Nowadays obviously online gaming is the main form of gaming for many people. It’s crazy how much it has come on, since the level of online communications discussed in this article. From the massive success of World of Warcraft, Call of Duty, Counter-Strike, League of Legends, Minecraft and hundreds of others, including of course now Fortnite, it is almost unrecognisable to the very early days of online gaming. Today you often need a high end gaming PC (check out some of these crazy PC gaming setups) and many also look into getting a VPN for gaming (here’s a good list of gaming VPNs if you need help with that). Online gaming today is normally a smooth, high quality, immersive experience, which is a far cry from the days of the little modem boxes mentioned in the Your Sinclair article. Plus you don’t have to keep your mum off the phone while you’re online anymore either!

To be honest, online gaming is an area I don’t really know much about and don’t have a huge amount of experience with. A part of me still harks back to when online gaming looked like this…

Here is the full article from Your Sinclair…