What Were the Dial Up Internet Sounds?

Of all the noises that today’s kids will never understand, the internet dial-up sounds are by far the most confusing of all. It was a sound that a modem made when trying to connect with another by use of the repurposed telephone infrastructure.

For sure, technology has greatly changed, and dial-up connections have come a long way. Once upon a time, going on the internet was a long journey that you would make through sound. This is way before mobile phones ever had the opportunity to be online.


Before, the WI-FI connections in planes, libraries, houses, and coffee houses were not a common occurrence. 

What Were the Dial Up Internet Sounds?
Image Source: YouTube

This is in the late ’90s and connecting your computer online would necessitate you to listen to some familiar dial tones, which were followed by a series of mysterious bloops and bleeps

Finally, there would be a loud static crash sound that would almost sound like the radio was stuck between two stations – of course, you would have to be able to remember that sound as well, so you can understand what we are trying to describe. 


Currently, the internet is omnipresent and silent. You never even know the kind of communications that take place behind the scenes so you can get results on Google, or even be able to communicate on WhatsApp, and most people probably never will.

So What Was All The Noise?

Perhaps the modern internet is what should be a little bit mysterious for us because those modem noises would allow people to eavesdrop on how the process is done. These were the actual sounds of data being transferred from one computer to another.

If you were a computer user at the time, you learned to read the sounds and understand what they mean. 


Well, these sounds were something very simple. They represented your desktop computer literally trying to communicate with another computer using a phone line. 

The Modem

The word Modem stands for Modulator – demodulator. This is a device that is used to translate data to sound and back. In actual sense, a modem should transmit digital data over an old telephone line. 

Much of the noise was the modem trying to figure out which protocols it would use. Just like when two strangers in a foreign country meet and try to figure out which language they can speak. 

Once they have figured out the language to use – or internet protocol to use, they are now ready to talk amongst themselves and one modem would be able to tell the other one what it needs. 

Now, these conversations are not usually just limited by the capabilities of the modems but also by the phone lines and part of the training for modems is to try and figure out how well they are working and the frequencies they need to work well. 

What Is That Crash?

The crash, which is a wave of white noise and one that sounds terrifying is usually the signaling that the internet, plus all of its functions is finally about to arrive at your computer. This is the sound of big data coming in. 

The scronks and squeaks that usually precede this crash are usually carrying very little information and this is why sometimes it is comprehensible to your ears.

What Were the Dial Up Internet Sounds?
Image Source: Qz


When you listen to two modems talking, you are actually eavesdropping on their conversation in a language that you cannot speak. The first noises are usually the two modems trying to understand each other. 

So, if you ever happen to ear these noises, you are at a better place to explain to the others what they actually mean. Of course, it’s rare to hear them anymore, but you just never know.