Slodem

By Phil Plait | June 30, 2011 11:00 am

I’ve had a cable modem for quite some time, but for many years before that I had to get onto the internet using a dial-up modem (and I remember having to bite the bullet to buy a second phone line so we could get calls while online). And I also remember how slllloooooowwwwww the bitrate was.

The connection itself didn’t take long, and made that weird wheeeecccchhhh woooooccchhhhhh noise. But what if the connection had been as slow as your downloads? What would those weird noises sound like slowed by a factor of 7?

Why, they’d sound like this:

I have no reason to post this other than I thought it was cool. As it happens I just watched "Quatermass and the Pit" (for about the hundredth time) the other day, and was reminiscing about old scifi movies. Doesn’t this sound like it could be in one of those old soundtracks?

Tip o’ the modulator to reddit.

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Cool stuff, Miscellaneous
MORE ABOUT: modem

Comments (52)

  1. Sounds almost like a transporter noise.

  2. KC

    I was at an automated parking deck machine not too long ago and when I put my credit card in, the dam thing started screaming “wheeeecccchhhh woooooccchhhhhh!”. Wow what a stroll down memory lane (or internet tube)! I couldn’t believe the damn thing still had a dial-up modem in it!!

  3. dan

    Just as an FYI, the tool that created this actually adds a bunch of harmonics in addition to stretching the sound. That’s why it sounds so neat!

  4. elgarak

    The rumbling bass sound at around 1:50 remind me of the Blaster Beam used in the score for “Star Trek The Motion Picture” (the first, slow one).

  5. Jim

    This reminds me a lot of the backgrounds to some of the ambient music tracks I listen to, especially the first 30 seconds or so after the dial tone. I wonder if it’s purely coincidental or if the artists really took modem sounds and slowed them down in this same way.

  6. Checkmate1

    Outstanding! Would make an interesting ring-tone on a mobile.
    What tool(s) were actually used to do this? ( I know squat about computer sound.)

  7. Red

    I think I heard this song on a Radiohead album.

  8. AHHHH. Thats music to my ears. Not very creepy to me.

  9. JimTKirk

    This reminds me of some of the “tonalities” in the old “Forbidden Planet” movie! Now I’ve got to go back and watch it again!

  10. Steve Ulven

    Like #5, this does sound like a lot of the ambient tracks I have heard in the past. Not only that, but also sounds like many of the effects I have tried on my DigiTech guitar processor.

  11. Keith Bowden
  12. Gus Snarp

    Please tell me you didn’t listen to all 2:24 of that.

  13. Dr.Sid

    Boring indeed. They slowed it down by ‘window repetition’ method .. and the window was wider then the individual bits. So it adds no detail to the sound .. there are also tons of echo to smooth the sound. So the effect is totally artificial, and very much same effect would be achieved using any noise at similar spectrum. It for sure us not how ‘modem would sound 700 times slower’ .. that would change the frequency in the first place.

  14. War of the World’s + Cloverfield

    Sure it’s pretty contrived and not truly ‘slower’, but still kind of cool.

    @Red: Awesome.

  15. John Eddison

    Sounds like Death Cube K’s music. Cool stuff!

  16. Ksessoking

    Cool and creepy at the same time. Love the low bass at 1 min, 50 sec … Very cool! I was, however, waiting for an alien creature to pop up from behind the couch!

  17. guyinsfca

    thanks … i love this … i also got stuck in the google loop because of this listening to other stuff slowed way down … lady gaga is also 800% (better) slowed down too

  18. Dutch Railroader

    Thanks! This is wonderful! Of course, the art of foley typically involves taking everyday noises and mucking around with them in various ways to get something new…

  19. David

    When I was a kid we had an old Grundig console stereo that could receive AM/FM as well as several shortwave bands. Late at night I used to flip around the shortwave bands looking for broadcasts and once in a while I would find some strange signals that sounded like humming or buzzing of various pitches overlaid on each other and producing an other worldly sound. Later I discovered that these were telemetry either from satellites or other devices.

    Phil, did you watch the BBC TV series or the 1967 movie? In the US the movie was called “5 Million Years to Earth”.

  20. Pete Jackson

    Wow, Quatermass and the Pit. I recall that as the most viscerally chilling movie I ever saw. It seemed to combine all the one’s primeval fears into one. Anybody who hasn’t seen this must make it a priority to do so.

    Thanks for the trips down memory lane!

  21. Anchor

    Hah! I’m so rural I have been hearing it until only this past March, after our back road FINALLY got the fast connection fiber optic line laid in last Fall. I’m sure there are plenty of others out in boondocks still struggling with the dial-up.

  22. K

    SRB re-entry noises are FAR FAR creepier!

  23. Ganzy

    Set this funky modem music playing, whilst at the same time panning slowly across the embiggened panorama of the of the majestic lunar landscape in the previous entry.

    It fits nicely.

  24. DrFlimmer

    Yeah, that sound is… creepy.

    And also: yeah, it reminds me of those sci-fi movies from the 1950s. My example is “Forbidden Planet”.

    @ #23 Ganzy

    Ha! I did exactly the same thing! :)

  25. James H. (south of Dallas)

    Sounds like elements of the music from “Alien” and “Blade Runner”.

  26. Zach

    Sounds like a Waterphone.

  27. sparks

    ‘Quatermass And The Pit’….BBC series is the best! I roll that one myself about once or twice a year………….yes, it’s that good. Val Guest produced, I believe. Other credits include ‘The Day The Earth Caught Fire’ which is a wonderful thought provoking end of the world film.

  28. SonOfSLJ

    While listening to this, David Lynch got his next movie idea.

  29. Dr. Sid is spot on – here’s an actual unprocessed modem dialup sound at approx. 1/7th normal speed (click my name for link). I muck about with sounds all the time – in fact, I’ve saved plenty of interesting noises from Bad Astronomy over the years! Maybe I should change my username to Gerald McBoing-Boing…

  30. Messier Tidy Upper

    Neat. :-)

    That sure *does* sound pretty awesome and eerie.

    Even if I do need to agree with (#13. ) Dr.Sid that it’s a bit artificial in the sense that it’s been altered to sound cooler and probably not quite the actual slowed modem sound.

  31. Messier Tidy Upper

    @22. K : SRB re-entry noises are FAR FAR creepier!

    Agreed entirely. :-)

    See here :

    http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/badastronomy/2011/03/04/ride-an-srb-video-into-space/

    for instance.

    @1. Chris Swanson : Sounds almost like a transporter noise.

    For comparison see :

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fX8aIpLl-Wk

    &

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wNC5iLNguRQ

    which gives a few ideas on to achieve it thrown in. :-)

  32. Messier Tidy Upper

    @1. Chris Swanson (again) :

    Of course, when a modem goes wrong or is just very slow it may sound like that and not allow you to access the net. But when a transporter goes wrong you get; dum, dum, dahhh :

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Z7OFNZ6EM3A

    Horrible transporter accidents! :-o

    Or worse yet this :

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=m6vYKJerstg

    unfortunate transporter incident! ;-)

    Thinking of what the sound reminds folks of movies~wise, how about this :

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OYM1fJZ6i8s&playnext=1&list=PL59CB28DDD4C8DBA4

    movie – and also the Doctor Who theme music too? :-)

  33. Sharku

    @Elwood Herring: and now I know where (japa)noise artists get their ideas. :)

  34. Bernard

    The will to survive is an odd phenomenon. Roney, if we found out our own world was doomed, say by climatic changes, what would we do about it?

    Nothing, just go on squabbling like usual.

  35. Dragonchild

    @Dr.Sid -
    Changing the tempo (vs. just slowing it down) isn’t necessarily a disingenuous way to alter a sound sample. If they decided, for example, to speed it up by a factor of 700 or so, the frequency could very well be ultrasonic — and there’d be nothing for a human to hear. In some ways, it’s more helpful to keep the frequency the same.

    That said, to verify your observations I did increase the tempo by a factor of 7 using Audacity. Audacity’s filters aren’t the greatest and speeding it up (and having been told about the source) I could tell it was a dial-up sequence, but the quality is badly degraded. The file was definitely mucked with.

    This isn’t just a slowed-down sample; it’s more like a “Dial-up Remix”. Still sounds kinda cool, like some horror game soundtrack.

  36. Jeffersonian

    I just used a modem that kicked off during incoming phone calls. Didn’t require a second phone line but obviously wouldn’t have been fun on a high-traffic line. Was nice when DSL became available.

  37. Monkey

    Sigur Ros-esque, anyone?

    I run my marathons to songs like these – zone out and go!

  38. GK4

    Interesting.

    It also syncs reasonably well with the opening scene of _Blade Runner_ (including the scrolling text).

  39. Old Rockin' Dave

    It makes me think of some of the Soviet telemetry recorded at Torre Bert.

  40. Harry

    Hey Phil!

    Up yours!

    Sincerely,
    Australia’s Horrible Internet.

  41. JB of Brisbane

    You know what this reminds me of? Remember the closing credits of the Gerry & Sylvia Anderson show, “UFO”?
    @Harry #40 – you make me SOOOIIEEE proud to be Astrayan!

  42. ‘Quatermass & the Pit’ was shown on the BBC one Christmas day when I was around ten years old – successfully traumatised me for the entire holiday and about three weeks afterward…

  43. Stan9fromouterspace

    Quatermass & the Pit! where did you get your copy? An ancient VHS? I’ve had it on my standby list on Netflix forever, still no go.
    And Dragonchild, the actual software used is called Paulstretch, do a search. It’s fairly specialized, as the algorithms in Audacity and other audio editors start to break down after long time stretching, resulting in artifacts and distortion. Paulstretch is tons of fun, and you won’t believe how good a Justin Bieber song sounds if you slow it down until it’s unrecognizable. (it was all the rage on tha intertoobz a few months ago, as the YouTube link alludes to.)

  44. Marionette

    Quatermass and the Pit is readily available on Amazon UK in a variety of formats, including a pre-order for the Blu-ray edition. Not Val Guest, though. According to IMDB he worked on Quatermass and Quatermass 2 but not & the Pit.

  45. Man, where’s William Hartnell when you need him?

  46. Chris Winter

    Both #9 and #24 hit it — this sound does resemble the “electronic tonalities” produced by Rene and Bebe Baron for Forbidden Planet.

    It also reminded me somewhat of the telemetry from the Pioneer probe (I think it was, could have been Voyager) recorded as sound by Dr. Donald Gurnett at the U of IA.

  47. Chris Winter

    Ah, Five Million Years to Earth — a most excellent science fiction movie.

  48. Steve

    I, too, was reminded of Forbidden Planet — which I have seen at least a hundred times, given that I watch it about twice a month! Another great old sci-fi flick with cool sound effects is Them!, which I also watch frequently. (I admit it…I’m a geek).

  49. CR

    A few years ago, I think I posted a comment about liking 5 Million Years to Earth (the American titled version of Quatermass & the Pit), and likely metioned then that I’d like to see that film again soon, since I hadn’t seen it in over two decades.
    Well, I STILL haven’t seen it since writing that!

    As for this dial-up noise, it is very cool! (I also looked the Tycho cental peak pic while listening to it.)

    As for creepy, I remember the radio noise from Saturn sounding really eerie the first time I heard a clip of it. It would make a great spooky sound effect for Halloween, to creep out trick-or-treaters.

  50. Hedgie

    Sounds a little like that video from a while back, where they recorded the electromagnetic vibrations of Jupiter.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=e3fqE01YYWs < that one

  51. Mike

    That is fantastic!

  52. Commander Jameso, Lave

    Bad video. Sound effects are added. You would hear crisp low tones. It’s just ones and zeroes that are transmitted, not some experimental vague synthesizer music with echoes. A computer could not decode this into data.

NEW ON DISCOVER
OPEN
CITIZEN SCIENCE
ADVERTISEMENT

Discover's Newsletter

Sign up to get the latest science news delivered weekly right to your inbox!

ADVERTISEMENT

See More

ADVERTISEMENT
Collapse bottom bar
+

Login to your Account

X
E-mail address:
Password:
Remember me
Forgot your password?
No problem. Click here to have it e-mailed to you.

Not Registered Yet?

Register now for FREE. Registration only takes a few minutes to complete. Register now »