Rupert Goodwins' Diary

Friday 11/11/2005Back in the days of the Homebrew Computer Club, data comms were difficult. The only way to get online from home was over the phone, and that was limited by immutable laws of physics to glacially slow rates.

Friday 11/11/2005

Back in the days of the Homebrew Computer Club, data comms were difficult. The only way to get online from home was over the phone, and that was limited by immutable laws of physics to glacially slow rates. Then, the Data Fairy turned up and waved her magic wand, Claude Shannon found himself in a sequined ballgown and we had megabits down the line. "Aw, that was nothing" said the Fairy — and as if by magic the phone line was joined by the cable TV, electricity supply and the airwaves as conduits that could carry more data in a second than a tribe of monkeys could type in a lifetime.

But now it's getting silly. I mean, the gas main? Apparently so — details are scarce and the company concerned hasn't done much more but say they think it's possible, but by squirting Ultrawideband radio signals down copper gas pipes you can deliver the Internet alongside the therms. The good bit is that because the stuff is underground you can use a lot more power without breaking the rules — although how you stop the interference leaking out of the gas cooker is a bit beyond me. It also makes one wonder if you can heat up the milk on a token ring, whether the pilot project runs a risk of being blown out if the window gets left open and whether flame wars will ever be entirely safe again.

And if the gas system can be used for data, what does that leave untapped? Sewerage? No, people have got there already — there are proposals to get fibre to the home by running it through existing pipes, thus avoiding the expense of digging up the streets all over again. And which pipes are the safest and easiest to use? That's right. Gigabits to the bowl. It even turns out that the system is called Sh… well, it rhymes with Hitnet, within the industry.

They don't really send the data, of course. They just go through the motions…

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