Where a user
uses a voice phone line
along with a modem
to dial into a online system
. There is typically a speaker on or used by this modem for aural feedback that the connection is actually occurring.
In this day and age I've come to the conclusion that dial-up is evil. Purely evil for those that have to suffer with it, a mixed back of benefits and evils for those that don't, and evil, but in a corrective and humbling way for web and game architects.
For the victims:
- It's slow. This causes lost productivity due to waiting for web pages to load when compared to one with a faster connection. This is the primary evil of dialup, and causes many people that would download a cool new application, game, or utility for their computer not do so. Another reason this slowness stuff is the recent prevalence of ads on the Internet. Many sites now require that you load an ad page before you get to the actual news or media content. This is extremely frustrating, especially if one is using a browser that doesn't load web pages in a smart way and thus unable to click the "skip" link. For more of the effects of this slowness, see the pain of dialup node.
- Massive ping times. This makes online gaming nearly unbearable in many cases, despite advances in client prediction technology.
- It requires a second phone line if you also want to be able to make and receive calls. In an age of cell phones useable almost as often as a landline, this isn't too much of an issue anymore, however, it is still quite annoying. If you don't live alone, there's also always someone that will accidentally pick up the phone at the wrong moment. This brings me to my next point.
- Disconnections. Not all ftp servers support resuming file transfers, and if you are downloading a file from one of these and you're 80% complete from a 3 hour download this can be extremely frustrating. Another example is when I was competing in Topcoder and got disconnected. It took me a good 5 minutes to get reconnected and reload the app to continue my coding. This can be very counterproductive to one's score in the match, and thus cash that would have possibly been earned by the coder is denied.
- CPU resources. This isn't the case with more expensive modems, but with win modems CPU time is eaten up by the processing that the modem should be doing. Network cards tend to not have as much of a problem with this. (Though, it isn't always the case)
+ It allows connection to local BBS’s. However, many of these now have a way to telnet into them anyway so the point is somewhat moot.
For other users:
- Gaming tends to get bogged down by these users. This is particularly true in obnoxious games that insist that each player get all the packets. Those that want a fair game and have broadband tend to avoid these slower users to prevent lag in their own games. They also tend to (probably rightfully) whine about their connection, or (wrongly) whine about how speedy other people's connections are.
+ However, if the person with broadband likes unfair matches they can use their low latency, high bandwidth connection and generally wipe the floor with them. This usually leads to the aforementioned whining, however.
- Users can't download apps that their friends want them to check out. "Hey, you should really check out Trillian." "You really need to hear this new group I found on the Internet." "I coded this up and think it's really cool, you should check it out." Things like this are many times replied to by the dialup user by saying, "I'll check it out later, my connection's too slow and I'm using all my bandwidth for browsing the web." This is extraordinarily frustrating when I've coded a new game and want a friend with dialup to check it out; or if someone digitized their karaoke dabblings and won't send it to you because they have dialup. (Low up-bandwidth versions cable and DSL occasionally also have this problem, however, especially if they are using their up-bandwidth for acknowledgement packets during downloads.)
+ It leaves more bandwidth for the rest of the users. As the dialup people can't download as fast, the servers are free to let the broadband people download faster.
For web and game architects:
- For games: Significant amounts of development time are required to fine-tune modem code in order to get it to a playable level. This is especially true for twitch games where in addition to modified network code client prediction is needed for the game to be playable. That is, unless you grew up on Quake 1 and have an intuitive input correction. (Also called human side prediction) This cost in development time could be spent refining other areas of the game and would be seldom missed if all had high bandwidth connections.
+ This development helps broadband games run even more smoothly
+ The web developer's creativity often outmatches the tolerance of even a broadband user. Having to create for dialup ensures that a simple html version is likely to still exist. Many broadband users much prefer simple html to glitzy Flash and animations.
+ Bandwidth Savings. This planning for dialup users creates savings in bandwidth needed to run the site, thus saving the developers money. However, it's probably better that instead of planning for dialup, these developers plan for Lynx users; as it would have basically the same effect, but also open up access to a still existing (but limited) number of users.
- Inferiror screen shots. Due to decreased the decreased bandwidth of dialup, web author’s often use inferior images. When demonstrating a product, this is generally a bad thing.
Overall, I hope that dial-up wilts away and dies; but as I'm stuck with it until my broadband in my new place is installed, I suppose it's better than the true horror of horrors, Internet deprivation. It would require that a number of backbones get upgraded if everyone will to switch to broadband, but I assume that's going to happen anyway.