The Squeal of Data
My favorite sound in computing is one that I haven’t actually had to use on a computer in nearly 20 years. The modem was a connection to a world outside of my own, and to get that connection required hearing the sounds of a loud, abrasive handshake that could easily be mistaken for Lou Reed’s Metal Machine Music. I’d like to compare it to another kind of sound for a little bit—the noise of a “straight key” used for a telegraph. Both technologies, despite more than a century in age difference, seemingly turned data into sound, then into electrical pulses, and back into sound again. It’s no wonder, then, that you can actually trace the roots of the modem back to the telegraph, and later the teletype machine. Data and wires, simply put, go way back. And it’s not the only example of the telegraph’s quiet influence on modern computing. Today’s Tedium draws a line between the modern computer and the pulses that inspired it.