Saturday, April 12, 2008

Now that you have broadband and're obsolete, Lester!

Ponder this breathless prose from The London Times:

"The internet could soon be made obsolete. The scientists who pioneered it have now built a lightning-fast replacement capable of downloading entire feature films within seconds. At speeds about 10,000 times faster than a typical broadband connection, 'the grid' will be able to send the entire Rolling Stones back catalogue from Britain to Japan in less than two seconds."

No, you can't call up Verizon or Bellsouth today and get "the grid," but comparisons are inevitable between this new technology and how the internet that we know and love developed a mere dozen years ago. And if it is truly as spectacular as this article in The Times says it is, you just know everybody will have to have it.

What makes this thing so spectacular? "...the internet has evolved by linking together a hotchpotch (sic) of cables and routing equipment, much of which was originally designed for telephone calls and therefore lacks the capacity for high-speed data transmission.

"By contrast, the grid has been built with dedicated fibre optic cables and modern routing centres, meaning there are no outdated components to slow the deluge of data. The 55,000 servers already installed are expected to rise to 200,000 within the next two years."

But do we really need that kind of access speed to look at email and buy stuff off eBay? No, but get ready for what you will be able to do.

"Ian Bird, project leader for Cern’s high-speed computing project, said grid technology could make the internet so fast that people would stop using desktop computers to store information and entrust it all to the internet."

Hmmmmm. Or how about:

"Although the grid itself is unlikely to be directly available to domestic internet users, many telecoms providers and businesses are already introducing its pioneering technologies. One of the most potent is so-called dynamic switching, which creates a dedicated channel for internet users trying to download large volumes of data such as films. In theory this would give a standard desktop computer the ability to download a movie in five seconds rather than the current three hours or so."

There's the thing. If this system becomes a better way to deliver entertainment, it will become ubiquitous. This week, the National Association of Broadcasters are meeting for their annual convention in Las Vegas. Would you assume that digital broadcasting and high-definition TV (and even radio) are the main topics, considering analog TV disappears next February?

Wrong! That is so 1998!

The emphasis this year is on 3-D TV. Yes, 3-D. And there's talk of holographic content, where the American idols perform right there in the middle of your den. (Pretty disconcerting for guys like me who just now invested in a HDTV set!)

Can traditional, tower-on-the-mountain RF telecasting handle such bandwidth? Maybe. Or is everything going to have to be delivered through something like "the grid?"

Well, as they say, "Stay tuned."

Don N4KC
(Thanks to my friend Wayne Long for the link to the article cited.)

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