What Is a Modem? - Definition & Explanation

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  • 0:00 What Is a Modem?
  • 1:05 Data Representation
  • 1:47 Rapid Communication
  • 3:00 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Alisa Perry

Alisa has taught college Computer Technology and has a master's degree in Computer Science.

Continuous developments in computer technology allow us to stay connected to the world using a modem. A modem is a device that allows the user to send and receive data. This lesson will give you a basic understanding of a modem.

What Is a Modem?

We have all wondered how it is possible to send an email from one computer to another in seconds. We marvel at how our computer lets us video chat from our bedroom with a friend in another house on the other side of the world. The way we can access the internet and view endless possibilities of information is amazing. Our modem is the gateway to our exploration of the internet. It makes telecommunications possible.

The name modem means modulator demodulator. A modem connects our computer to a standard phone line or to our cable, which allows us to send data or receive data. A modem is a conversion device that converts signals from one device into signals another device can read. For example, a modem may covert the digital data of a computer into an analog signal that can be read and carried by a telephone line. The modulator part of the modem converts digital signals to analog signals, and the demodulator part converts analog signals to digital signals.

Data Representation

Data can be images, text, numbers, sound, or video. In order for our computer to interpret what we put into it, the computer must decipher the data first. To the computer, data is represented by 0s and 1s. Either the signal is a 1 for 'On' or a 0 for 'Off.' A 0 or 1 is called a bit or binary digit. Eight bits make a byte. The computer uses ASCII code to represent all character data. ASCII stands for the American Standard Code for Information Interchange.

The computer sees the following when we press a key on our keyboard:

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