Whats so special, compared to my 56k?


Mar 16, 2001 (Updated Mar 19, 2001)


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I'd confidently expect most people to have a 56k, with an exception of a few older PC owners who have a 28k, or the very old 14k. These modems are all fine, and I was convinced not long ago, that my 56k was as fats as I needed. How wrong I was.
What’s all that 28k or 56k, what is k?
Well I should really take note that not all people no the complex knowledge of modems, if you do you can skip out on this part if you want. The speed of a modem varies, but the most common, would be a 56k, these allow a maximum rate of 56 kilobits of data to be sent within on second. But it rarely reaches its quoted speed. I found with my old 56k, it performed well up to a decent 5k, at times it reached 20k, or 10k, but these were very rare, and only due to a little slow down, or coffee break of the millions of interneters.
The reason it runs slower than the 56k or 56 kilobites per second rated on the modem is because the rate it downloads is given in bytes, so when I reach 5K which is 5 kilobytes, that is the same as 40 bites per second. So in practice the maximum speed a 56k modem will run is 7k thats 7 kilobytes which equals 56k or 56 kilobits.
If you're still confused about the kilobytes and kilobits thing here goes.

byte = 8 bits
k = kilobits
K = kilobytes
Mb = megabytes
Gb = gigabytes
Gigabyte = 1000 Megabytes
Megabyte = 1000 kilobytes
kilobytes = 1000 bytes

How fast is a Cable modem?
Well I think that the rated speed for a cable modem is around 512k, that's 512 kilobits per second and 64K or 64 kilobytes per second. But I have found references leading to a range of 1.5Mb to 3Mb per second with some cable modems. And I have found that when downloading through an equal speeded line, or someone else who has a cable modem, you can get up to speeds of 100k and at times up to 120k. Testing out on the so called Napster, shows when hooked to a genuine cable modem owner the speed varies from 50-90K, and really varies on the amount of people on the net. If in the UK like me, try early hours, as most of the US is in bed, and your likely to find loading web pages is a little quicker.
Connections?
My cable modem is connection through a 'Coaxial' line, its like a TV cable, but I have one which is separate from the cable TV. It costs me £25 a month, and is connected the whole time. You're likely to need a separate connection, and you will find home networking easier from a single modem.
Back to my story
As I said I had a regular 56k modem, and was fine, until I decided to try a cable modem. The first MP3 I downloaded shocked me beyond belief. Unlike the usual 4.56k/s, which would take 10-15 minutes to download a 5 Mb song, it was a whopping 70-80K/s! That would take a mere one minute to download a 6 Mb song! By the way the modem I have is rented for £25 a month.

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