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Column: The Big Fat Pipe

Taylor made - by Roy Taylor

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Suppose I was to tell you that you could get something really wonderful that could change the way that you use your PC forever. Furthermore, you could get this wonderful thing for about £150 and pick it up from your local PC store. Once home you could get it up and running in 10 minutes. Interested? I was – and still am. A technology is available, now, that can give you a big fat pipe into your PC. This big, fat pipe will throw a whopping great 8MegaBytes of data per second into your home. Just think about that. 8 Mbytes! That’s fast enough to allow MPEG video direct and live, it’s enough data to allow simultaneous TV, video, radio, download and browsing. World breaking news will suddenly be able to be watched live on the PC at work, home or anywhere a PC has that kind of connection. It’s called ADSL. It will work plugged into your standard telephone socket. No ISDN terminal, no expensive installation, no complication. Just buy the ‘modem’ (ASDL terminal) from your local PC store and plug it into the wall. Here’s how it works (and then I will tell you why you haven’t heard much about it before now). Back when old Alex G. Bell invented the phone he discovered that his voice wave band went from 300 – 3300Hz. This was sufficient to cover most (any) voice pattern and has remained with us since. Now the good bit. Those copper wires coming into your house are actually capable of a much, much wider bandwidth that 3000Hz. The fact that they don’t give a wider bandwidth is because your telecom provider puts filters on the line, otherwise all kinds of bad things would happen. But if your interest was only in getting digital data into the house then all you have to do is to get your telephone company to remove the filters and give you the bandwidth! Here’s some more maths on the subject to prove the point. The frequency range from 0Hz to 4KHz can produce up to 64kbits of data per second. However, from 10MHz to 100MHz this frequency can give 1.3Gbits of data per second. Put it into perspective – 8Mbps can give you 150 channels of TV per channel – wow! So why don’t you know about it? Well you will – believe me! British Telecom here in Blighty is terrified about DSL (ADSL is only one type) as it will kill off ISDN and the delivery issues for it have been complex, until recently. After calling 152, the business enquiry line, I was eventually given the number of a manager to speak to who confirmed that BT is looking at a trial in West London but that they didn’t quite know how to charge for the service. In the USA and elsewhere, however, ADSL is creating quite a stir. I should point out that the upstream data rate for ADSL is ‘only’ 640Kbps so its not as good as a T1/E1 connection for businesses. Having said that our business would be more than happy to be able to upload our web sites at 640Kbps! The last big really big thing to happen to the PC was Windows 3.0. Wouldn’t it be just fantastic if the world wide wait turned into the world wide ‘oh-my-goodness-that’s the-dogs-gonads-quick-Sheila-grab-the-cheque-book’ wonder! Imagine being able to listen to a whole CD on line for 25p a time, or download it in under a couple of minutes for £5. In fact, the more I think about it the more exciting it gets. For more information call your telephone provider and badger whoever answers for more information. It would be unfair to give the name of the manager I spoke to British Telecom but your telco will have information. Roy Taylor is joint managing director of Vanguard Microelectronics in the UK.

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