Wednesday 16 September 2015
The year is 1999, and I am having an argument with my girlfriend. She has some justification that I have spent the last 3 hours on the phone … online. Playing a game. And thus, her mum was not able to get through on the phone to speak to her like she normally did on a Sunday afternoon.
Me? I was estatic because I’d picked up a 56K modem, a considerable upgrade on my 28.K one which I’d had up until the day previously, so I thought a good test of seeing if I really could get 5Kb/sec down instead of 2Km was to do some major online surfing (using Netscape Navigator) and download some stuff at almost twice the rate that I was able to before.
This was an exception though as I was addicted to a particular online game at the time – logging onto your internet provider for many hours was one way of racking up a large phone bill. When Windows 95 came out it was all about being online and connected, which for me seemed strange because you had to tediously ‘dial-up’ any time you wanted to do something seemed a long way away – I certainly didn’t envisage that time when you would have an ‘always on’ internet connection.
That did arrive for me though in 2002, when I moved flat and signed up with a cable TV service (then called Telewest) and they provided you with an internet connection that was ‘Ten Times!’ the speed of dial-up. i.e. at the time, the fastest speed you could get out of a 56K modem, was .. well, 5Kb/sec, and the standard broadband speed package then was for 512Kb/s, which would let you download stuff at 50 Kilobytes per second. And it was glorious, as these were the days of Napster and Audiogalaxy too, meaning that some judicious downloading of music did take place – this was in the days before iTunes!
And then things got faster, as they upgraded their service. I moved house again and had a brand new install – this times Telewest had turned into NTL, and their internet service NTL : Home doubled my speed to 1Mb, which should have been 100 Kilobytes per second, but I can recall it making out at 93Kb/sec.
A year later (it’s now 2004) and they upgraded the service again – this time it maxed out at 3Mb/sec and the amusing part here is that by now I had a laptop with WiFi, but the 802.11b router that I had could not deliver the full speed that NTL were pumping down the coaxial cable to me because it couldn’t keep up – I only got the full 3Mb per second when plugged in using a wired ethernet connection.
In 2006 I moved to the USA, to find that the cable company their were called Comcast, and their minimum default speed was now 8 Megabits per second, which seemed outrageously fast – I remember thinking “Surely it’ll never go faster than this, and I can’t see a need for it either”, but this was before widescreen and HD movies and television had taken off and file sizes were smaller.
Which is why it was a shock to the system when in 2009, when I moved house in America again – my new place had the blazingly fast speed of 24 Megabits per second, which just seemed stupidly fast.
And thus it stayed… from 2009 right up until 2014 when even when returning to the UK, Virgin Media had now taken over all the cable companies in the UK, and I was getting 25 Megabits per second (Actually, before I signed up with them I had broadband via my copper phone wires, and I was lucky enough to be close enough to the telephone exchange to get 17Mb/sec down, which for a phone line is very good).
And then we’re up to today – to 2015, when I moved yet again – and I took my cable service from Virgin Media with me, and bizarrely they offered me a ‘New Customer’ install package, and a deal which mean that if I took their higher speed internet, it would actually work out cheaper … so strange.
So the men in their van turned up, plugged in the coaxial, gave me a nice shiny new Super Hub 2, and left me to it. The first thing I did was a speed check, to find a mind-boggling 117 Megabytes per second down (and even 7Mb/sec upload speed too!) which left me astounded. (And i’m only meant to get 100, and 6MB/s up, but often I get up to 10MB/s up)
When I went from a dial-up modem to my first broadband experience, it increased my speeds tenfold. Now it’s gone by over ten that to be the 100MB/sec rated connection that I have today.
Which can only leave me to consider – how much faster can it go? What is the top rated speed that you can get out of coaxial, or better still – if you had a fibre connection right to your home, or even straight into the back of your computer? How fast will our internet connection speeds in another 25 years time? Stick around, i’ll see if I can remember to blog about it.