1988 vs. 2008: A tech retrospective

Think the iPhone is pricey? The cool cell phone of 1988 cost $4382 in today's dollars. A 150MB hard drive? $8755. Take a trip with us down memory lane, and you'll never whine about the price of a gadget again.

Modems

1988: Hayes V-Series SmartModem 2400

Price: $399 ($699 adjusted for inflation)

Speed: 2400 baud

Interface: serial

Standard supported: v.22bis

2008: Motorola SurfBoard S5101 Cable Modem

Price: $60

Speed: 38 mbps down/30 mbps up

Interface: ethernet and USB

Standards supported: DOCSIS 1.1 and 2.0

In 1988, one of the first questions you'd ask a new computing friend was, "How fast is your modem?"

If the person said 300 baud, you'd nod sympathetically; 1200 or 2400 baud got them a friendly smile; and 4800 or 9600 turned you green with envy.

By 1988, the price of the industry-standard 2400-baud Hayes V-Series SmartModem had plummeted from its original $1000 to $400, and clones could be found for $100 — a pittance compared to the $6 to $12 per hour you had to pay for online fees.

You'd also have to invest $50 in terminal software like Smartcom, which sent dialing commands to the modem.

Today, few broadband users even know the brand of their modem, much less its model number or speed. You might be able to say whether you have 6- or 12-mbps service, but the modem itself has been reduced to a fungible commodity, often provided for free by your ISP.

The Motorola SurfBoard is a common carrier-supplied cable modem that supports up to 38 mbps, though most users won't achieve that speed due to various limitations in the service they pay for.

The next frontier for modems and connection speeds will likely involve a new pipe to your house, such as fiber-optic or high-speed wireless service. Verizon is building FIOS as fast as it can, and consumers are snapping it up. Wireless will be the answer in rural areas where stringing new cable is too expensive.

Join the newsletter!

Error: Please check your email address.
Rocket to Success - Your 10 Tips for Smarter ERP System Selection
Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

Becky Waring

PC World
Show Comments

Cool Tech

SanDisk MicroSDXC™ for Nintendo® Switch™

Learn more >

Breitling Superocean Heritage Chronographe 44

Learn more >

Toys for Boys

Family Friendly

Panasonic 4K UHD Blu-Ray Player and Full HD Recorder with Netflix - UBT1GL-K

Learn more >

Stocking Stuffer

Razer DeathAdder Expert Ergonomic Gaming Mouse

Learn more >

Christmas Gift Guide

Click for more ›

Most Popular Reviews

Latest Articles

Resources

PCW Evaluation Team

Edwina Hargreaves

WD My Cloud Home

I would recommend this device for families and small businesses who want one safe place to store all their important digital content and a way to easily share it with friends, family, business partners, or customers.

Walid Mikhael

Brother QL-820NWB Professional Label Printer

It’s easy to set up, it’s compact and quiet when printing and to top if off, the print quality is excellent. This is hands down the best printer I’ve used for printing labels.

Ben Ramsden

Sharp PN-40TC1 Huddle Board

Brainstorming, innovation, problem solving, and negotiation have all become much more productive and valuable if people can easily collaborate in real time with minimal friction.

Sarah Ieroianni

Brother QL-820NWB Professional Label Printer

The print quality also does not disappoint, it’s clear, bold, doesn’t smudge and the text is perfectly sized.

Ratchada Dunn

Sharp PN-40TC1 Huddle Board

The Huddle Board’s built in program; Sharp Touch Viewing software allows us to easily manipulate and edit our documents (jpegs and PDFs) all at the same time on the dashboard.

George Khoury

Sharp PN-40TC1 Huddle Board

The biggest perks for me would be that it comes with easy to use and comprehensive programs that make the collaboration process a whole lot more intuitive and organic

Featured Content

Product Launch Showcase

Latest Jobs

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?