Throwback Thursday: Video Over Dial-Up
For most people today, streaming video over the Internet is easy. There are dozens of apps and websites where you can watch anything from college courses to music videos. You can watch your favorite movie on your smartphone, pause it, then watch the rest later on your TV. The proliferation of broadband, faster processors, and HD TVs have given us picture quality undreamed of in the early days of the Internet.
But what was it like watch to video over the Internet before YouTube, Daily Motion, or Vimeo? What was it like to watch video over dial-up?
Back then, streaming video was in its infancy. The technology of the time severely limited its possibilities. A modern broadband connection can transmit 5 million bytes per second, whereas the fastest dial-up connection could only transmit 56,000 bytes per second. This usually prevented a smooth flow of images; instead, it often resembled a slide show. If you wanted to watch a video in its original form, your only choice was to download it to your hard drive.
Given the low speed of a dial-up Internet connection, how long would it take to download a video file? It was not uncommon to leave the computer on all night to download a four-minute video. The video file would be grainy with a resolution the size of a postage stamp.
Now, with broadband and a browser extension, you can download a four-minute video in less than a minute. You can even download entire movies in HD in a relatively short amount of time – and you can watch them without being tethered to a phone line.