Welcome to Reviews OnLine: Communications Basics - Modem Description
Communications Basics
by Rick Smith (August 1993)

In business, we not only need to communicate with people, but with computers as well. In order to accomplish this, a modem is needed.

But what is a modem? It's short for MOdulator / DEModulator and it allows you to connect your computer to the phone line and communicate.

With other technical terms like baud rates, error correction and transfer protocols, terminal emulation, interrupt numbers and COM port assignments, there is no wonder why many of us might not want to venture into this foreboding world of computer communications. In this article, I'll try to try to simplify this process.

To communicate from one computer to another (be it a friend, a bulletin board or an on-line service) you will need a computer, a modem and communications software. I'll assume you have the computer and it is a PC compatible system.

Speed, fax support and configuration (internal/external) are the major decisions to make when choosing a modem.

Speed is expressed as baud rate or bps (bits per second). The larger the number the faster the modem. It's that simple. I would suggest a 2400 baud modem as the absolute minimum. A quick modem would be a 14400 baud modem.

Fax support
No matter what speed modem is chosen, I would recommend one with 9600 baud send/receive fax support. You can then communicate with any standard fax machine. This fax modem should be a Class 1 or Class 2 send/receive.

If you already have a serial port installed (sometimes called a COM port) on your computer, you might want to use an external modem. These cost a little more but are easier to connect (don't have to open the computer), to use (lights give you excellent status information) and to share between computers (attached by a cable like a printer). Simply plug the cable that comes with the modem into the COM port connector, connect the phone line, power up the modem and you're ready to go. With an internal modem, you will have to open the computer case, check for other COM ports, resolve conflicts and connect the modem to the phone line.

Our final decision is the choice of communication software. In upcoming issues, I'll be looking at some interesting communications software for both DOS and Windows. I'll be looking at Hot Fax, Procomm Plus, Qmodem Pro and Smarterm 340 for DOS and Crosstalk, Procomm Plus, QuickLink Gold and Smartcom for Windows.

Copyright 1993 Rick Smith All rights reserved.

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