A traditional hardware modem really is two major parts: the
modulator/demodulator (hence "modem") which translates the buzzes
and hisses to bits and vice versa, and the "personality": the
hardware and software that lets you type AT commands, does error
correction and so on.
A "winmodem" moves one or both of those parts to Windows (or
Linux, of course) software. The advantages can be size and cost,
and of course it's trivial to add new features or fix bugs. The
disadvantage is that a modem has to do quite a bit of work, which a
winmodem hands off to your CPU.
Key words to look for: HSP (Host Signal Processor),
"Controllerless", and of course "Windows Only" (though Linux may
still support it regardless).
Although it is certainly true that modern CPU's spend more time
loafing than anything else, I think I still prefer a hardware modem
- not that I have much use for modems at all anymore.
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