I sense the "huh, what is he talking about" from the assembled multitude.
No, I am not talking about the weight of all the VoIP equipment in use. I am referring to the weight of all the electrons needed to support the electrical charges on chip capacitor components necessary to carry all the VoIP conversations in the world within a specific length of time.
In case you are wondering from what recesses of my brain emerged this metric, I thought this through after reading "How Much Does The Internet Weigh," a brilliant cyberspace-to-the-scale article by Stephen Cass in the just released, June 2007 issue of Discover magazine.
There were slightly less than 110 billion VoIP minutes accumulated in 2006. Those numbers will form the basics of our admittedly back-of-the-envelope calculus.
First, though, a couple of principles from the article. Cass explains in part:
Inside a typical computer's memory, the thing that remembers if a given bit should be a 1 or an 0 is a capacitor. This is a component on a chip (typically) that is capable of holding a small amount of electric charge.
Charge up a cell's capacitor and it represents a '1.' Uncharged, it represents a '0.'
The memory's capacitors are so small that they each require only about 40,000 electrons to charge up.
Cass' theory states in effect that the electrons used for a binary transmission as well as their combined weight, should only count in the receiving, or stored end. So in other words, if I send an email with a 50 KB Microsoft Word + attached file to you, 50Kx8 bits in a byte x 1,024 bytes in a kilobyte would mean the the email would be 409,600 bits. He notes that on average, half of the bits will be 1s and zeros, so the total number of 1s that would need to be stored would be 204,800.
"One electron weighs 2x to the minus 30 per pound, so a 50-kilobyte email weighs about two ten-thousands of a quadrillionth of an ounce," computes Cass.
OK, here's where I take over, and apply those principles to VoIP.
Let's follow this computational path and see where is takes us:
The average person speaks around 125 words a minute.
125 words a minute 6 bytes a word=750 bytes a minute.
750 bytes a minute=at 8 bits in a byt= 3 kilobits per minute in VoIP conversations. 110 billion minutes worldwide in VoIP conversations during 2006.
110 billion minutes x 3 kilobits a minute equals around 3.30 petabytes of VoIP conversation in 2006.
Dividing in half per charged 1's as opposed to non-charged 0's, we'd come up with a need for electrons to support 1.65 petabytes of VoIP conversation in 2006.
I am now going to jump forward to cite Cass' computations for the weight of all the electronics able to support the 40 petabytes of data estimated as traveling across the Internet in Cliff Holliday's Internet Growth 2006 as about 0.2 millionth of an ounce.
Since 1.65 petabytes of VoIP traffic is quite close to 4% of the 40 petabytes calculated by Holliday, we're not too far off in claiming "the weight" of VoIP in 2006 was about 0.008 millionth of an ounce.