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Page history last edited by PBworks 16 years, 1 month ago

Ian McCall




An audio/video piece about memory, nostalgia and modem handshakes.


**I would like ****YOU to record two vocal imitations of the sounds made by dialup modems during the 'handshake' between the users computer and the ISP's server. The first recording should be done cold, from memory, while the second will be made with the you listening to the recording and mimicing what you hear. I only need the two different versions from each person, but if you do different takes please send all of them, the more the better! Lo-Fi is okay, using your computer's built-in mic is fine!

This project is about your subjective perception and memory; there is no right or wrong way to do it.


Play this recording on headphones while making your 'listening' recording:

powered by ODEO


Direct link to Dialup Sample.mp3 (if flash player does not load correctly

In accordance with the CC attribution condition this sample is authored by 'Jlew' and hosted at:




To Record:

Download Audacity http://audacity.sourceforge.net/ a good, free audio editor, or use an audio program of your choice.

Record yourself, save the files as WAVs mp3s or AIFFs and then email the files to metaphorever@gmail.com


Name your files "Name-Memory" and "Name-Listen"



Here are some of the recordings made by others, please record your own before listening so that your recollection is not colored by what you hear others doing.


If you have trouble loading or using the flash player, or if you would like to see all of the recordings that have been made you can view the mp3 files directly at:





I have been listening to the recordings I have collected so far and I am amazed at how beautifully musical some of them are, I am definitely going to take these samples into garageband or some other sample based composition program and see what kind of music it can make.

I am interested in the sounds, but not in terms of machine language. Rather I am interested in the way people perceive>remember>reproduce these sounds which are so removed from our natural range of sound reproduction. I want to record interviews with various people recreating the handshake. Relating to semantics, again I am interested in the call/response relationship of the sounds, but not in terms of machines. I would be very interested in having two people performing the handshake together trying to recreate the call/response system of the host/client. I am unsure about whether I want to keep the piece strictly audio or have video elements (showing the participants faces, people shaking hands) and whether I should keep it just the handshake noises or incorporate other interview elements like asking people to talk about their first internet experiences and other internet nostalgia things.



















The audio from this piece will be played through modem speakers for maximum authenticity. I was lucky enough to find out about a going-out-of-business sale at Globaleyes, the DSL ISP in Murphysboro. I aquired a box of 25 33.6k modems.



The speaker is fairly easy to get hooked up to an external line in. The main challenges will be amplification and trying to get the LEDs which are integrated onto the board to light up. My dream is to feed all the audio through the RJ11, but that may take experimentation beyond the time remaining, so my goal now is to focus on getting a clean looking audio line in and hopefully getting an amplification circuit (either battery powered or powered from the 9v AC adaptor for the modem)



4/30/08 - Rosey - During your crit I pictured the modems installed in a tall plexi-glass tower that opened in different directions, so each modem would be in its own room speaking into space, with all the wires showing. I think the viewer would feel like a giant next to a really strange-talkin skyscraper in that scenario, however, I thought there was going to be a focus on absurdity. I don't know what made me think that you were going to create a conversation between the natural voice and the modem sound. Your angle on this is very positive---I get the feeling that you actually have nostalgia for the modem sound---Which I do too---there's something about that sound that reminds me of space travel, which interestingly correlates to exploring the www for the 1st time, that feeling is/was exciting and expansive. It was like the promise of endless information and entertainment. I think the tower might be the exact opposite of what you are going for, but I thought I would share. I think contrast of volume, or placement of the sounds could really stir some humor, or carry your tune**. Another idea I have for installation is putting a modem in a big plastic cube with a hole in it. Cover the hole with something plush---like those giant foam hands for sports things... or something--- and let the participant press their ear up to it to hear the modem. I don't know if that's your solution---I'm just throwing it out there in efforts to brainstorm. I really enjoy this work and there is plenty more to say.


4/30/08 - Ian - On you plexitower idea, I think it would be interesting to have the modems housed in a way which would naturally amplify and focus their sound using parabolic plexi for example, if the sound was more focused I think it would add to the 'talking to eachother' effect that you mentioned which I think is a very strong conept to work with. It would also allow for the modems to be placed in a form that had a future/space aesthetic to contrast the outdated tech look of the modems. Anyway thanks for the presentation comments, those are always what I need the most since I have a way of burning out on creation and then not following through on convincing presentation. Thanks for the comments, instead of repeating what you have said, I'm just going to bold some of what you said that I think is really spot on.


5/3/08 - Rosey - I also really liked the idea that came up in crit to put them in some sort of desk-like environment.  I kind of like the idea of a soft sculpture desk, because I think it could be in line with playful, approachable art.  I picture bright fuzzy fabric (I bet fleece is on sale right now).  Maybe a night sky could be installed over, or clouds.  Again, just throwing stuff out there.  Recycled material is also in abundance, right?  Desks made out of soda boxes or something could be fun and identifiable.  I'm sure you already thought to anthropromorphize some soft sculpture computers, and rigidize the modem wires with extra wire so that they can be positioned as though they are frolicking, skipping, and twirling.  What's more nostalgic than watching a couple of good pals frozen in play?  This may be too popular audience friendly or something.  Is the voice volume essential to the presentation?  What about the combination of humans whispering and the actual modem sound softened up or exaggerated?  I gotta say I love how Colleen brought up professionals.  A crisp live performance would last in the memory for  sure, I mean that could even be the piece, am I wrong?  Ok, one last one: it would be funny to have to press one's ear up to a computer monitor to hear it's memory, especially if it was reminicing on it's ol pal, the modem. The computer monitor, which people kind of identify with as a face, has grown so smart that it has 'translated' the modem talk into human talk... in it's memory because it is so, so very nostalgic and confused.  One more: They could orbit like the planets to create a convesation.

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