Tags: communications

7

sparkline

Monday, January 23rd, 2023

One morning in the future

I had a video call this morning with someone who was in India. The call went great, except for a few moments when the video stalled.

“Sorry about that”, said the person I was talking to. “It’s the monkeys. They like messing with the cable.”

There’s something charming about an intercontinental internet-enabled meeting being slightly disrupted by some fellow primates being unruly.

It also made me stop and think about how amazing it was that we were having the call in the first place. I remembered Arthur C. Clarke’s predictions from 1964:

I’m thinking of the incredible breakthrough which has been possible by developments in communications, particularly the transistor and, above all, the communications satellite.

These things will make possible a world in which we can be in instant contact with each other wherever we may be, where we can contact our friends anywhere on Earth even if we don’t know their actual physical location.

It will be possible in that age—perhaps only 50 years from now—for a man to conduct his business from Tahiti or Bali just as well as he could from London.

The casual sexism of assuming that it would be a “man” conducting business hasn’t aged well. And it’s not the communications satellite that enabled my video call, but old-fashioned undersea cables, many in the same locations as their telegraphic antecedents. But still; not bad, Arthur.

After my call, I caught up on some email. There was a new newsletter from Ariel who’s currently in Antarctica.

Just thinking about the fact that I know someone who’s in Antarctica—who sent me a postcard from Antarctica—gave me another rush of feeling like I was living in the future. As I started to read the contents of the latest newsletter, that feeling became even more specific. Doesn’t this sound exactly like something straight out of a late ’80s/early ’90s cyberpunk novel?

Four of my teammates head off hiking towards the mountains to dig holes in the soil in hopes of finding microscopic animals contained within them. I hang back near the survival bags with the remaining teammate and begin unfolding my drone to get a closer look at the glaciers. After filming the textures of the land and ice from multiple angles for 90 minutes, my batteries are spent, my hands are cold and my stomach is growling. I land the drone, fold it up into my bright yellow Pelican case, and pull out an expired granola bar to keep my hunger pangs at bay.

Wednesday, November 16th, 2022

Age of Invention: The Beacons are Lit!

Or, Why wasn’t the Telegraph Invented Earlier?

A wonderful deep-dive into optical telegraphy through the ages.

Saturday, December 26th, 2020

How Claude Shannon’s Information Theory Invented the Future | Quanta Magazine

Shannon is not exactly a household name. He never won a Nobel Prize, and he wasn’t a celebrity like Albert Einstein or Richard Feynman, either before or after his death in 2001. But more than 70 years ago, in a single groundbreaking paper, he laid the foundation for the entire communication infrastructure underlying the modern information age.

Tuesday, July 31st, 2018

General Magic

A forthcoming documentary about the company spun out of Apple to create a handheld communication device …in 1990.

From mobile computing, social media, downloadable apps and e-commerce to touchscreens, emoji and USB, the products and services that now dominate the tech industry and our day-to-day lives were born at General Magic.

Tuesday, June 14th, 2016

Brief History of the Internet - Internet Timeline | Internet Society

From twenty years ago, a look back at the origins of the internet, written by its creators.

Wednesday, July 16th, 2014

Urban Giants on Vimeo

A look at the architectural history of the network hubs of New York: 32 Avenue of the Americas and 60 Hudson Street. Directed by Davina Pardo and written by her husband Andrew Blum, author of Tubes: A Journey to the Centre of the Internet.

These buildings were always used as network hubs. It’s just that the old networks were used to house the infrastructure of telephone networks (these were the long line buildings).

In a way, the big server hotel of New York—111 Eight Avenue—was also always used to route packets …it’s just that the packets used to be physical.

Friday, July 3rd, 2009

Inflatable Tower Promises Easy Access to Outer Space: Discovery News

An alternative to the space elevator, an inflatable tower nine miles tall and tethered to a mountain top, could be made of commercially available materials.