The Internet was first introduced in the 1960’s where it was used across many science labs in the United States, United Kingdom, and France with the idea of sharing scientific research with each other. These computers and networks connected to each other through dial-up telephone lines.
Dial-up Internet through telephone lines was a technology used up until the 1990s and where it become more commonplace in the home. Dial Up Internet at that time could reach a maximum speed of 56kb per second due to the limits on the existing telephone lines. In order to connect a computer would need a Modem to connect using a telephone cable. The Internet provider would have a number which your computer will call and then access was allowed until you hung up the connection.
Dial Up Internet is known for the sounds it made when connecting to the Internet which was a sort of dial tone. Internet packages at this time were measured in cost per minute much like a telephone package would cost. Some broadband providers, however, offered one monthly fee for unlimited access. The access could not be used in conjunction with the telephone and so often people only connected to the Internet when required such as to check emails or do some research. Who remembers the AOL chime of “You have mail!” every time you dialed up?
The Internet was not as commonplace as it is today, and according to this BBC article, In 1995 just 2.5% of UK households had access to the internet, rising to 13% in 1999. Therefore, having and Internet connection was a real luxury.
Internet usage at that time was limited due to the maximum speeds of 56kb per second, and if large files downloads were needed it would take hours or even days to complete. However, large files were not as common as they are today and applications generally had lower file sizes due to the capabilities of the Internet. If you required larger programs or software for your computer, it was still the norm to go to your local Dixons to purchase a CD to install.
Some of the above may seem alien to a lot of our younger readers, but it is something I have lived through and makes you appreciate the advances that have been made in technology over the past decade or two.
Dial Up Internet was only superseded by ADSL Broadband from 2000 onwards, and at that time ADSL Broadband was a large expense for a household. Many will remember ADSL broadband as the “always-on” Internet connection. This was a marketing term used by many ISP’s to describe how broadband worked compared to its predecessor Dial Up.
The very first broadband connection in the UK was Goldsmith Road in Gillingham, Kent. Telewest was the first company to roll out ADSL. The initial uptake of ADSL broadband was slow due to the slow upgrades and high costs involved. Initial speeds for ADSL broadband were up to 512Kbps, which sounds extremely slow compared to the speeds on offer today but compared to the maximum speeds of 56kbps for Dial Up, this was a huge leap forward. Instead of it taking 2 minutes to download a song it took just 10 seconds.
This increase in speed allowed for new services and applications to be developed and improve the uses of the Internet.
In 2005, two megabit download speeds were available, and during the next six years the speed increased up to 50mb per second with Virgin Media. Throughout this time many of the web’s largest sites opened, including Youtube, Facebook, and Twitter, with Spotify and Twitter towards the end of this period.
The 2000’s is seen as the growth of the Internet and fast download speeds allowed for greater capabilities for web applications and saw the boom of software that used the Internet to function.
Nowadays, a lot of computers and mobile usage is via the Internet. You will be hard pressed to find an application on your phone or computer that doesn’t have some kind of Internet access. Also, it is now possible to download pretty much every application. A CD drive is hard to find on modern computers due to everything being Internet-enabled and Google themselves have web books that can only work by accessing the Internet to use applications such as Google Docs and Google Mail.
Currently home broadband and mobile broadband are two separate entities, and you can either connect to one or the other. Home broadband is better in many ways due to the high speeds and better security via routers. However, the versatility of mobile broadband is an obvious benefit to many.
The main drawbacks to mobile broadband are the maximum speeds it can offer and the availability of signal. Another problem is the cost of using mobile broadband, currently there is no unlimited mobile data plan and the costs of using a lot of data are much higher than the equivalent in home broadband.
Despite that, it is quite possible that in the next decade we could see increased usage of mobile broadband with increased capabilities. With the rollout of 5G, it is quite possible that we could see speeds equivalent to home fibre broadband or even faster. If mobile networks can roll this out across the whole of the UK and look at ways to get the costs in line with home broadband, we could see mobile broadband becoming the most popular way to access the Internet and to the point that a landline is no longer required.