Our Broadband Future

13 08 2010

Some people think that the governments plan to have an internet that goes at 1GB is insane, but I feel they’re wrong and here’s why.

A lot of people are fairly new to the internet, it’s got a cool factor now, but it didn’t always, the internet was once the domain of nerds who only ever chatted about their computers and their favourite science fiction programs (I’m being cheeky here) I first got online with my Amiga, a 16-bit computer from the 90’s, and my dialup speed was 14.4kb. I gradually worked up from 28k to 33kb and finally 56kb.

Back then, the internet was too slow for most things, downloading a single mp3 could take hours, the same for a video, even a large image file could take up to five minutes to get. so often I’d choose what I wanted to download and go and make a cuppa, walk the dog, take in a tv show as the hamsters in the modem turned their wheel as fast as their little legs could move.

People who have recently joined us have known nothing else but broadband, so many of you don’t know the pains and lengths of time it took to do anything.

When I was new to the internet, we had e-mail and IRC chat. About the fanciest thing we had were MUDs which were a kind of online computer game/chatroom. No graphics or sound, just text, but as primitive as it was, people seemed to enjoy it.

Now things are a lot fancier, and generally work better. The latest internet speed I have is about half a meg per second, which, to me, is quite amazing as I can easily download a ten megabyte file in a minute or so.
however, as my upload speed is just 256kb, then uploading a YouTube video has taken eight hours.

People who don’t see the point of a 1gb internet, have little foresight. I cringed at the remark about dishwashers by Senator Conroy, to me that just seems silly, though Conroy isn’t the brightest bulb. On one hand, this man has listened to the techies and taken some of it in, which is great, but his own bizarre obsessions still have him drooling for a filtered internet. I’ve watched him choking down his anger when anyone challenges him about it, and I wonder what’s really going on in his head.

I think the NBN, unfiltered of course, will be great, but what might all that extra bandwidth be used for? there’s got to be more point to it than simply downloading torrent files faster than ever, right?

Well, coming to hospitals very soon will be high-definition cat scanners, which will produce the most amazing 3D graphics that we’ve ever seen of the inside of a living body, as far as diagnosis goes, these will be essential for saving lives.

However, the files produced from these (and even from todays cat scanners) are so large, that if a doctor has to send the files to another doctor, they have to resort to a courier or snail mail, todays internet can barely handle such large files and when lives are in danger, every minute counts.

When we think of computers, we think of something on a desk, but one day that will change… remember, we didn’t always have small mobile devices such as the iphone and ipad, just as radios were once huge, heavy things that lived in the loungeroom, computers will eventually become so small that we’ll barely know they’re there.

There will come a day soon where computers won’t need a keyboard, mouse and monitor, we have to get away from the situation where we’re tied down to a desk, our great grandkids will find it amusing that our generation actually had to carry something with us, they will live in a world where computers are “invisible”… they might be in their clothes, jewelery or their glasses, they just won’t have to remember to take a gadget with them like we do now.

At the moment, when we do a video chat with someone, we see a passable, but blurry image on our screens, but once the NBN rolls out, we can put a lot more data through the pipes, making video chats as clear as digital television pictures are now.

Remember the glasses I mentioned?

You have a friend in japan who calls you, and when you answer, what you see is something like a hologram of your friend standing in front of you, and likewise, they see you too. you can now sit at either end of the kitchen table and it will seem so realistic that you may forget that your friend is actually so far away, it won’t feel like you’re hunched over a computer as we do today, there will be a natural fluidity about it, distance really won’t matter quite so much.

Anyone who walks into your house or your friend’s house, will see both of you chatting and can join in if they have a set of glasses too, you could even sit outside together.

I can see kids of tomorrow chatting with both their real friends and virtual friends in a circle, all seeing each other live and not caring that half their friends are thousands of miles away, to them it will seem perfectly natural.

As I said, I use Secondlife a lot, My avatar is a big orange coloured werewolf with a blue mohawk, why couldn’t he bust free of his virtual world and come out into the real world using the same method that I’ve just described?

In fact there is a YouTube video of this exact thing, where a secondlife avatar is standing inside someones office and looks as tall as a normal human, They call this Augmented Reality.

People think we’re really advanced, but we have a long way to go, computers are still in their infant stages yet. perhaps you’ve seen pictures of the early days of radio, like this

Girl listening to the radio

That’s us, with computers, right now, or perhaps it was, computers were a lot larger once… I’m writing this on a MacBook.

If you told that girl that radio would get so small that we could put it in our pocket and take it anywhere, and that FM radio would allow us to hear our music in stereo, or that we could download a podcast of our favourite radio program and listen to it in our free time, then I wonder what she’d think?

I would bet that if you told a lot of people back then, many would be excited, but quite a lot of people would shrug their shoulders andsay that mono AM radio is good enough for them, and they can’t see a reason for FM anyway, and that nobody would go out into the street wearing headphones, they’d look silly.

This is what we’re up against.

If our politicians are lacking any vision at this upcoming election, maybe we’d better have a good look at ourselves too… either things stay more or less the same, or we start doing things in a much better way… if you’ve got a flat screen TV in your home, would you be happy to go back to a tubed set?

It’s unlikely that you’d say yes.





8 responses

13 08 2010
Kim aka Frogpondsrock

We need the NBN.

13 08 2010
Gumby Roffo

Wonderful read Wolfie,
The last closing comments are very true. I like your self started on the BBS area sending “mail ” out to friends that sat at the ISP till it was cheap enough to send in the early hours of the morning. Then I would retrieve the collection and look to see if I had a response on the news group. Today I start up a IM program like Skype and not only can I type live but also get good real time video and close to phone voice ( if not better) live chats with friends , not only in Australia but all over the globe.
As more folks become engaged with the internet , and I mean of all ages ( My mum just recently) more bandwidth will be required to move that data traffic about Australia and hopefully overseas as we expand our horizons. From social clubs in your local town to state groups that hold similar interests to finally the global ” tiddle wink forum” or what ever group/hobby/discussion takes your interest.
Becoming interested in the interwebs , not only makes it easier to glean information on a rage of topics but can inform you about the current world standing (as well as mis-inform you).
I love where the internet has taken me from those days of BBS to making my first web page ( complete with flashing GIF files to where we are now).
As I grew up I, similar to Wolfie loved, the things that we might do. He likes the HUD glasses, I used to watch Dick Tracey and wondered if we would ever get wrist phones that had video. We have them now, but technology like this requires something to make it work or develop. That is the “backbone” you are currently hearing about in the press.
So shall we make it a back bone that suit our current needs or one that we can do and sets Australia up as a leader in the current internet development and roll out. Just like the Snowy river scheme did many years ago.
Its up to you Australia to think of our future.
Thanks for reading.
Pete ( Gumby Roffo in Secondlife)

13 08 2010
Dilbert Zabelin

Well written Wolfie.

I like the picture of the radio 🙂

14 08 2010
Mark Hurd

I agree the NBN is the way to go, but what do we do about the filter? How can we vote for the NBN but against the filter?

I’m hoping there’s a single issue Senate candidate in SA against the filter or at least has that as a very prominent policy point and I can lead with them, then the Australian Dems (because I still want whatever I can of Stott Despoja 🙂 ) then the Greens then Labor then Liberal.

14 08 2010
Wolfie Rankin

Hi Mark.

The strategy if you want the NBN, but not the filter, is to vote for either the Greens or the Australian Sex Party, who should block the filter in the senate, but vote in favour of the NBN, and if you look at this list, you’ll see that other groups are against it too: http://spreadsheets.google.com/pub?key=0AgwGFHFd0TUIdExCbkNZWllUaVRsRG9yZXVVTXhUN0E&hl=en&output=html This might be useful if there’s no local green or sex party member in your area.

15 08 2010
Dan Buzzard

I think the NBN is bullshit. Not because we don’t need faster broadband but because Labor is offering it as bait to try and win back the voters. Having used the Highspeed Broadband in mainland China I am happy to say ‘no thanks’ to Labor’s NBN proposal. While I had a fast connection in China the level of Censorship made it more or less worthless.

Yes, Australia needs faster Internet but I believe there are better ways to achieve it. One of the reasons Conroy wants the ability to censor at the ISP level is because content providers, including Australian Citizens and Businesses often place their websites on United States based servers in order to avoid take down notices from Australian Authorities.

I believe the key to upgrading our infrastructure is to encourage more companies to set-up their data centres over here. The only way to do this is to abolish the regime of censorship that our nanny-state of a country has embraced for so long. (We don’t even have R18 for games.) Nobody is going to place servers in Australia if they think there is even the slightest change of being ordered to shut it down. I’m not talking about the proposed ISP level censor here but rather the existing censorship that comes from ACMA in the form of take-down notices and $11,000 per day fines. ISP level censorship will simply finish us off.

Labor will chase any would be investors away with even more draconian Censorship. To move forward we need to become a safe haven for freedom of speech and freedom of information. That combined with our own investments into the infrastructure will provide an incentive for overseas and Australian companies to run servers in Australian data centres which ultimately means they will be investing in Australia’s communication infrastructure and economy.

Thanks for the article Wolfie.

16 08 2010

Excellent read. I remember the radio but not the shoes we either had none to wear daily and the Sunday shoes always had metal taps on heel and toe to slow down wear and tear and so that they could be passed down to next child. Was the photo taken here or overseas?
thanks again,

16 08 2010
Wolfie Rankin

Hi Gwen, I found the photo online somewhere and have no idea of where it originated, but I know that we had similar large radios here.
When I went to primary school, very early on, we had a “radio gram” (a large piece of furniture, containing a record player and radio).
and I wanted one… my parents managed to get me one, I was younger than ten, and already very much into music.

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