Archive for April, 2009

Over the decade plus I have been involved in different aspects of providing broadband service, plus the many years prior spent experimenting with modems, one constant have never left me – we aren’t going fast enough. Oh sure, the fact that I could get online and retrieve settings for a 20 megabyte hard drive in less time than it took me to call tech support, remain on hold, chat with the engineer, then write down the information before I actually could get any “real” work done was an improvement, but still took too long.

The equivalent today might be waiting the 17 minutes required to download the latest ISO of whatever open source variant I wish to experiment with because just like every other impatient 53 year old child, I want it and I want it now.

Along the way, the argument was at one time framed as defining the “good enough” network, which to my way of thinking was the functional equivalent of building a house just big enough to live in with all of my possessions while providing no accommodation for what I would buy and bring home tomorrow.

Well, what will we bring home tomorrow? It seems that this would certainly be dependent on how much room we have to spare.

The history of mankind has been one where we continually add to this storeroom of innovation, at times pausing for various reasons along the way, but in the longer term the body of knowledge increases as we move forward.

Great, now I need a bigger house – again.

We make the assumption that communications began with hand gestures, perhaps punctuated by the odd sound which might have also included crude pictures drawn in dirt to get our thoughts across. From there we moved to cave art and a somewhat more involved set of sounds, cuneiform, papyrus, with the Gutenberg Press, radio and television coming sometime later. And this entire process was to facilitate getting an idea from one to another mind or in many cases one to many minds. In each graduation, from one technological stage to the next, the previous iteration always appeared to be crude as it was obsoleted.

Certainly there is nothing new under the sun with this latest communications platform, the Internet. Sure the underlying technology is all bright and shiny, even though the modem banks have all been sent to the scrap heaps, but the motivation remains the same, the ability to convey information from one to one or one to many.

But isn’t it curious that every one of these technologies have one inherent drawback, we communicate in a two dimensional manner while living in a three dimensional reality. And that is about to change.

Let me direct you to this link, which includes an interesting technological wrinkle known as the Open Source 3D Printer.

Image courtesy of Fab@Home

Image courtesy of Fab@Home

While this device is still in the experimental stage, the potential seems pretty clear. The day is not far off where we should be able to see a time when each home will have one of these devices and where hard goods will be delivered as a stream of bits that this printer will translate into a tangible object.

But the progression along this path isn’t likely to stop or even slow here, if anything this device will lead to even more interesting devices, one that stretch our imaginations even further.

So what happens when we take this crude 3D printer and push its limits by employing the capability of a polymerase chain reaction (PCR) device? What is a PDR device you ask? I’ll let this next link explain that to you.

Image courtesy of Medgadget
Image courtesy of Medgadget

A vivid imagination immediately jumps at the possibility to “print out” DNA which could then be conceivably engineered into food, possibly pets, or (be still my beating heart) even replacement parts for some of us aging folks. If this could be possible, what happens when we expand on the idea and suggest that a high speed printer might possibly be built that could print out an entire human being instantaneously. Combine that with the ability to transmit all the necessary data that makes up this human being and I’ll let you all draw your own conclusions from there.

But none of this is possible without a network that can lift this load.

We pride ourselves in developing higher and higher resolution graphics while leaving aside that a 3D representation exponentially increases that amount of information. In a relatively short period of time data has gone from being measured in bytes, to kilobytes, then megabytes, now the commonly accepted gigabytes, with terabyte becoming the new yardstick and petabyte being recognized on the horizon.

All while our networks proudly measure themselves in megabits per second.
Occasionally, the roadblocks need to be pointed out to us before they become obvious.