The Hayes command set (also known as the AT command set) is a specific command language originally developed by Dennis Hayes for the Hayes Smartmodem 300 baud modem in 1981.
The command set consists of a series of short text strings which can be combined to produce commands for operations such as dialing, hanging up, and changing the parameters of the connection. The vast majority of dial-up modems use the Hayes command set in numerous variations.
The command set covered only those operations supported by the earliest 300 bit/s modems. When new commands were required to control additional functionality in higher speed modems, a variety of one-off standards emerged from each of the major vendors. These continued to share the basic command structure and syntax, but added any number of new commands using some sort of prefix character – & for Hayes and USR, and \ for Microcom, for instance. Many of these were re-standardized on the Hayes extensions after the introduction of the SupraFAXModem 14400 and the market consolidation that followed.
Prior to the introduction of the Bulletin Board System (BBS), modems typically operated on direct-dial telephone lines that always began and ended with a known modem at each end. The modems operated in either "originate" or "answer" modes, manually switching between two sets of frequencies for data transfer. Generally, the user placing the call would switch their modem to "originate" and then dial the number by hand. When the remote modem answered, already set to "answer" mode, the telephone handset was switched off and communications continued until the caller manually disconnected.