Thomson SpeedTouch 585 v5
2. First Steps: Dial-up, the LAN & ISDN2
It started with a dial-up modem. In January 1994 a 28.8 kbps modem enabled connection to CompuServe for the first time. Various modem upgrades culminated in a V.90 56 kbps model. Well, it seemed fast at the time...
The Internet.In 1995 connection to the new Microsoft Network (MSN) was required as part of the Windows 95 Beta programme. This quickly evolved into normal internet access as we know it today, but CompuServe was kept too until dropped in 1997.
Next came the home LAN. The first part of the home LAN was installed in early 1996 for trials of the Galacticomm Worldgroup bulletin board system (BBS). Worldgroup proved to be superb software and the trial itself was successful, but the world had moved on and it was clear the future lay with world wide web technology.
The LAN comprised just a single segment of 10BASE2 coaxial cable threaded through the roof space to connect two PCs in adjacent rooms. This segment, installed 13 years ago, is still in use today, but all the other LAN segments and patch cables use the now normal twisted pair.
ISDN2 was a giant step forward. Frustration with the slow and unreliable PSTN dial-up service grew with the level of internet use. An ISDN2e line was installed in May 1998. The service was later upgraded to BT Home Highway - the same basic technology, but cheaper line rental.
A NetGear RT328 router was purchased for ISDN2 internet access. This model was well reviewed in PC Magazine and at £292 was less than half the price of the more well known Cisco equivalent.
The throughput over an ISDN digital circuit at 64 kbps was significantly better than that from a 56 kbps dial-up modem, in fact noticeably better than would be expected just from the increase in bit rate. Internet connection was seamless for the first time and very nearly as reliable as the LAN.