Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Cool Technology of the Week

This week's cool technology is truly for the nerdy - it's about bandwidth and fiberoptics now available in our homes, made possible by new products from Corning. Infrastructure in the walls is often ignored because it's not sexy. To me it's necessary and deserving of a cool technology highlight.

The kinds of technologies that are enabling fiber to be run to houses, apartments and dorm rooms is illustrated here. The streaming video is worth watching. Gone are the days of fragile glass fibers that were instantly destroyed when bent or stepped on. These new fiber products empower HDTV, support high fidelity voice over IP and turn our homes into data centers. The future of nearly limitless, low cost bandwidth is arriving.

When I first began software development at the age of 12, I used a dial up acoustic coupler at 110 baud. In college, I was first in my dorm with a CP/M computer that included a 300 baud modem. When I did research at Lawrence Livermore Labs as a Sophomore, I was given a state of the art 9600 baud connection to the Arpanet, the Internet predecessor. In medical school, I had my own 1200 baud dial up, then 14.4K as a post doctoral fellow. In my early days as CIO I had 28.8K then 56K. I was Media One's (predecessor to Comcast) third customer for Broadband in the home at 1 Megabit speeds.

Today, I use Verizon FIOS, which includes a complete fiberoptic infrastructure in my basement. I average 20 Megabit download speeds and 5 megabit upload speeds. My home has 802.11g in every room. My sofa has nearly the same bandwidth as my office as work.

All this connectivity has enabled me to work wherever my laptop is located. Home video teleconferencing is no problem. Skype works well for world wide voice over IP calling. My family is completely connected with me via our home infrastructure regardless of where I am in the world.

Of course, there is a dark side to all this bandwidth - the digital divide. I live in Wellesley - one of the 'W' towns in Massachusetts (including Weston and Wayland ) that havehigh median household incomes. Verizon FIOS is not yet available to all towns, especially less populated rural locations. I hope that the future brings high bandwidth wireless technologies such as free community Wifi and WiMax that enable anyone with a computing device, including the $188 One Laptop per Child device, to experience all the benefits of connectivity to knowledge resources, personal healthcare applications, and social networks that are available today to those living in higher income locations.


Unknown said...

I remember my 14.4k modem days, downloading huge files overnight, and hoping the line didn't hicup and bump me off line.

It truly is sad how other countries have a fiber infrastructure already ahead of us, especially after our Government gave so many breaks to the big Tel-Cos for their proposed fiber to every curb by 2006. (at least i think that's what the plan was)

I'm from a small town in Louisiana, a mill town with lower income levels. It took forever to get broadband, we had 2 choices of DSL and cable, and the cable company stopped offering because of no market. I'm on the DSL, and within an hour's time it goes out at least 3 times in 5 minute increments.

We joke that Louisiana is generally 2 to 4 years behind everywhere else when it comes to technology. We further joke that Bogalusa (the town I'm from) is even 10 years behind that. With all the rebuilding from Katrina in our areas its sad that they don't go ahead and place infrastructure to support that kind of stuff, especially in New Orleans and the North Shore area.

Anonymous said...


Is it that much better, for the casual user, than cable service?

Vicky Lindo de Kemish said...

I certainly understand the need for some professionals to be super-connected but I think that your enthusiasm for high levels of connectivity for the masses flys in the face of your post regarding getting rid of clutter and simplifying one's life.
Too much time spent on the interned IS clutter (for the mind) and, like television, feeds the desire to consume.
What most of us need is to be more connected to ourselves, the self that we can hardly hear over the din of increasingly ludicrous technological age.