The No Hype 56k Modem Page

1998: According to the hype, v.90 (a.k.a. 56k) modems are the greatest thing since Zip drives. In some respects, they are. They’re ideal for surfing the World Wide Web, but perhaps less than ideal for other uses.

The problem began with competing standards. There were two independent and mutually exclusive 56k protocols: X2 from US Robotics and K56flex from Lucent, Rockwell, and others. X2 modems and K56flex modems can’t talk to each other faster than 33.6 kbps – yet. With the new v.90 standard finalized and most 56k modems upgradeable to the new standard, a better day is coming.

Don’t even think about buying either type of 56k modem until you know which protocol your ISP supports. If possible, hold out until your ISP supports the v.90 standard. If you can’t wait, make sure you buy a modem that can be readily upgraded to v.90 (you want a software upgradeable modem, one that uses flash ROM). maintains a list of companies offering free upgrades to the final standard.

And be sure to consider newer, faster alternatives: cable modems, various types of DSL (digital subscriber line), even satellite dish and radio wave. Although not available in all areas, these may be viable options for you.

The 56k FAQ

  1. Not all phone lines support 56k modems.
  2. FCC restrictions limit you to 53 kbps.
  3. Real world connection speeds are under 56 kbps (but often better than 33.6 kbps).
  4. 56k speed is for downloads only; uploads are limited to 33.6 kbps.
  5. Upload speed is inversely proportional to download speed.
  6. 56k modems don’t talk to each other at 56 kbps (or 53 kbps for that matter).
  7. 56k may be impractical for remote access.
  8. Latency – why some aspects of 56k are no faster than with your current modem.
  9. Data buffering and compression – two more factors to slow things down.
  10. Serial port speed makes a difference.
  11. What about faster internet connections?
  12. Good things about 56k modems.
  13. Conclusions.

Other 56k Modem Information

More resources


  • Setting Up a Personal Firewall, Michel Munger, iBasics, 2001.07.11. Protecting your Mac from snoops and vandals on the Internet.
  • DSL Diary, Dan Knight, No Hype 56k Modem Page, 2001.07.09. Initial impressions of DSL service and SMC Barrier router.


  • Apple Modem Updater 2.0 improves stability, performance, MacCentral, 10/17. The update applies to iMac, PowerBook G3, blue Power Mac G3, and Power Mac G4. MacFixIt reports that this updates the iBook and Cube as well.
  • AT&T proposes extortion, Dan Knight, Mac Musings, 10/11. AT&T proposal to charge online retailers for visits and purchases over AT&T Internet Services is nothing less than extortion.
  • AT&T mulls Web charges, CNNfn, 10/9. AT&T wants to charge online retailers every time an AT&T customer places an order – or even visits the retailer’s site. Time to ditch AT&T @Home cable.
  • Is a 2400 bps modem worth keeping?, Manuel Mejia Jr, 10/3. In the age of the Web, is there any reason not to replace an old, slow modem?
  • EarthLink issues $30,000 bill to Halo fan, Inside Mac Games, 9/29. Popularity can kill your bank account; “excessive bandwidth usage” leads to $30k in ISP fees.
  • DSL users can’t get no satisfaction, Dennis Sellers, MacCentral, 9/18. “Telecommunications industry estimates of the percentage of phone lines that are technically fit for DSL range from 30 to 60.”
  • High-speed Web access goes rural (no longer online), Des Moines Register, 9/7. Slower than AirPort, but with a 6- to 8-mile range, wireless Internet access looks like a winner.
  • A free board for surfing the Internet, Where Mac users can get free Web access, free email, and other free Internet services.
  • Which broadband connection is right for you?, Greg Holden, Cnet, 9/5. An overview of cable vs. DSL Internet access.
  • Turn off your modem’s sound, MacInstruct. If you hate the screeeeeching as much as I do, read this article.
  • IBM, Dell trail Apple in wireless laptop push, Joe Wilcox, Cnet, 9/7. So nice of the Wintel world to give Apple a one-year head start with WiFi.
  • Can you escape ‘DSL Hell’?, ZDNet, 9/5. We’ve had ours on order for, well, it seems like forever.
  • Macintosh vs. PC: The DSL wars (no longer online), Josh Munce, MacInterpreter. Macs have been ready for ethernet, therefor DSL, for almost a decade. Windows computers? That’s another story.
  • I hate modems (no longer online), Trevor Harrison,, 8/17.
  • DSL line sales increase 59% in 2nd quarter, MacCentral, 8/14. Sick and tired of AT&T @Home cable internet “service,” I have mine on order. dk
  • Free ISP in Spain, Cyber CDP, No Hype 56k Modem Page, 7/24. If you live in Spain or might go there, this could come in handy.
  • Cable modem problem diagnosis (no longer online), Gene Steinberg, Mac Night Owl.
  • Mac Network email list. Our latest email list deals with everything related to Mac networking: LocalTalk, Ethernet, AirPort, Remote Access, modems, and lots more.
  • Cable modem implicated in system slowdown (no longer online), Gene Steinberg, Mac Night Owl.
  • AOL Instant Messenger 4.0 available
  • AOL blocking Pac Bell email in effort to thwart spammers (no longer online), SF Gate, 4/21. “…the glitch could further anger Pac Bell customers. The company’s email system has been plagued by glitches in recent months.”
  • Why DSL will win the broadband-access battle (no longer online), ZDNet/Yahoo, 4/19. Dedicated bandwidth will propel DSL past cable.
  • UK Cable company launches broadband Internet service – with no Mac support, MacUser (UK), 4/17. “‘Apple Macintosh computers are not suitable for this service at the moment.” Huh?
  • iCab 2.0, the alternative web browser, John Norton, Mac Militia, 4/17. Latest preview version ready for download, JavaScript support still incomplete.
  • AirPort base station antennas (no longer online), MacInTouch Reader Report. How to extend the reach of AirPort with antennas – possibly to 10 miles!
  • The SDSL Homebrew Home Page, how to “roll your own” SDSL service using “alarm circuit” wiring [Slashdot].
  • Apple AirPort base station can be upgraded to 128-bit RC4 [MacSurfer]. Lots of other good info – AirPort base has Lucent WaveLAN card inside.
  • Earthlink confirms extra charge for shared access (no longer online), Mac Night Owl. $1 per hour surcharge applies to multiple simultaneous users on one account or connection.
  • Setting up a cable or DSL router, Dan Knight, Online Tech Journal, 3/22. The documentation was Windows only, but I figured it out.
  • A need for high-speed internet, David Norton, MacMilita. Good article, but better yet, we’re getting cable modem service on Saturday!
  • DSL lines and Cupertino Apples, Eric DeStefano, Mac Metamorphosis, 3/9. Eric gets DSL, networks his computers, and makes a pilgrimage to Apple HQ – I’m jealous!
  • AirPort Works!, Rodney O. Lain, Things Macintosh, 3/8. “I’d like to take back every nasty thing that I’d ever said about Apple during the last few weeks.”
  • @Home cable modem service,, 3/3. I’ve put in for AT&T @Home and hope it goes as well as this.
  • How easy it was to create a home network using DSL (no longer online), The iMac, 2/16. Just over an hour to share DSL between two Macs.
  • Cable expands wireless links (no longer online), Broadband Week, 2/14. “A new generation of wireless-broadband systems now entering the production stream may finally mean that the tools are at hand to make over-the-air connectivity a viable alternative….”
  • Setting up a Mac web server, Charlie Ruggiero, Mac Daniel, 2/11. Practically any Mac can serve up web pages.
  • Security aspect: Macs and cable modems, SecureMac, 2/10. “Cable modem users are generally the first people to be targeted by those who scan networks….”
  • Archive of earlier news and articles.

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