Computer Village Part II

Voice Card  -  Volume 12  -  Paul Card Number 9  -  Thu, Jan 25, 1990 9:13 PM

Please *DO NOT* distribute this Voice Card outside of Archipelago.

Note 14.4 Possible Computer Integration of today's Society 4 of 12 MEMORY::SLATER 41 lines 9-MAR-1989 17:34

re .3 (Dave)

Hi, I found your .0 interesting and generally agreed with it. In my .1 I criticized a couple of aspects from my perspective and experience.

First, I agree that much of our infrastructure is antiquated and inefficient. I also believe that our social structures have much to be desired.

On the replacement of some of our physical infrastructure with a data infrastructure, I again agree. My criticisms were of a technical nature. I suggested that local storage was a greater factor than was explicitly mentioned. I used distance and speed of light limitations as well as bandwidth limitations to justify this.

On the computer village issue, my criticisms were of the corporate and geographical structure of this proposed computer village. I see no problems with linking employees of a particular corporation into sort of a meta-village, one that is tightly linked electronically, but not tightly linked geographically.

Society is a very complex animal. Individual members have multi-facited relations with the society at large. As technology increases we should expect productivity to increase. With this increase in productivity we will have a few choices. Individuals could put the same or more time into production and move the technological and productive level even higher, or we might want to back off and spend less time on direct production and more on aesthetic pursuits, maybe more education, or more freedom to choose what type of productive endeavor we wish to participate in.

I feel that there is a danger of becoming a slave to technology or the controllers of it. I am not one that thinks individual freedom is the end all and be all. I do have a collective spirit. But we will not prosper as a human beings if we do not empower not only the individuals, but a multi-facited social intercourse. In that sense, I think further imposing the corporate structure is a step backwards.


Note 14.5 Possible Computer Integration of today's Society 5 of 12 HPSCAD::DDOUCETTE "The Practical Technocrat" 52 lines 10-MAR-1989 15:40 (Exploring the possibilities of Technology)

Re: .4

If any of my responses appeared hot-winded (including this one! ;-), my apologies.

I think that the biggest problem with societies current infrastructure is that it lags development of society. It is rare to see an infrastructure which matches, or supports the existing demands of a society. The example I have referenced is the mobile transportation infrastructure. In the United States, we find ourselves socially addicted to the automobile. If you don't have an automobile, chances are you're a social outcast since you're constantly asking for a ride, or you can't visit your friends. The exception to this is if you live in a city with a reasonable public transportation system.

Unfortunately, it is the growth of peripheral cities to the older, large cities which took advantage, and now require the mobile transportation infrastructure. An example of this would be Boston and the surrounding Braintree, Norwood, Framingham, Natick, Westboro, Waltham, Bedford, Marlboro, etc., etc. The cost of maintenance and support of the current infrastructure is skyrocketing. Automobiles, insurance, highway upkeep and bridge repair costs are constantly in the news. We need to develop and build a data infrastructure which allows these spread-out population centers to communicate with the ease of talking to someone next door. It's just more cost effective to send data instead of sending a person.

I DON'T want to see everyone who works for Digital living in Computer Villages. That's not the point. By developing a few computer villages, where each one located in a different social and environmental location, we can explore what are the needs of a group. Working for a company is not the end all and be all of the Computer Village. The Computer Village is a prototype for the future of all society, where the global infrastructure supports tightly linked electronic communication irregardless of distance. Today, this is impossible on a Global scale, but it is well within our means to use this technology on a local scale.

The solution of being a slave to technology, or a slave to any situation, is to understand the issues involve and move beyond a reactive approach into an active, visionary strategy. In other words, you define your own path in life instead of letting your environment specify your life. If we wait and not explore this technology until the technology is already developed, then we have to live within the predefined limitations of this environment instead of exploring these limitations first-hand and defining these limitations. The greatest freedom is the freedom to explore the unknown frontiers. We all agree that the data infrastructure will be common in the future. The Computer Village is a means to explore the capabilities, issues, and technology of such on infrastructure on a small scale.


Note 14.6 Possible Computer Integration of today's Society 6 of 12 MEMORY::SLATER 60 lines 10-MAR-1989 16:46

re .5

Hi Dave,

I think we are in basic agreement on our desire to move into the future.

I have been giving this computer village thing some thought for some time. I haven't always called it a computer village but I think what I was and am considering would fit very well into this name.

First, I have been a computer *user* in various capacities for about 25 years. I have been programming for about 20 years and have been selecting and buying computers for about that same amount of time.

I ordered my first personal computer (an Altair 8800) in late 1974. I was designing an 8088 based computer and had some of the hardware up and running when IBM announced their PC. I was among the first to have my own IBM PC on Oct 15, 1981.

I have embraced the desktop and the home computer with a religious fervor. And I am all in favor of extending this to all the world.

Now back to the computer village. At one point I was geographically alone with a computer of any capability. None of my neighbors ever had anything beyond a small stand alone designed machine like Atari, Commadore, or Apple II.

Then people began to get PCs and MACs and quite often with modems. We began transferring files and started connecting to work or various services.

Now I live in a neighborhood where 2 or 3 families have someone working for DEC, there are maybe 25 or 30 houses on 2 acre lots on a U-shaped road with a circular spur attached. Maybe a mile or a little more of frontage.

I would guess that at least half of the homes have some relatively serious computer(s) in them. We are also about (within a year or two) install cable. In our neighborhood it will be underground in a shallow trench.

The head of the cable committee is in the neighborhood and works for DEC. I have been thinking of discussing the possibility of installing some sort of network with him and other neighbors. I am sure that some would be interested.

Also, our regional school system just got a VAX 3602 and they will be communicating with the regional schools. I have talked with some in marketing about encouraging such school systems and/or universities to make accounts available to the school populations or residents in general.

The possibilities of "computer villages" and schools tied in to central systems has lots of potential, as a market to Digital, and to the school systems and the broader communities.

The *only* question is resources.


Note 14.7 Possible Computer Integration of today's Society 7 of 12 HPSCAD::DDOUCETTE "The Practical Technocrat" 16 lines 13-MAR-1989 22:20 (Resources are managed by People)

Who's organization would this sort of development be under? Low-end systems? BOSE? High-end Systems? (If you can get salesmen to sell Computer Villages or "Village Technology" to business / government organizations, the price would be high.)

I would like to persue the development of a Computer Village within DEC as a side project (Why not? It'll keep me off the streets at night. ;-) I feel that the cost of development for a village will be low, and continue to drop over time. In other words, if we don't develop the idea ourselves, there is an increasing chance that someone else can and will develop this technology.

Any ideas? Groups? Names?


Note 14.8 Possible Computer Integration of today's Society 8 of 12 HPSCAD::DDOUCETTE "The Practical Technocrat" 19 lines 1-JUN-1989 13:56 (The writing is on the wall)

In USA Today - 5/31/89:


...The Stockholm Metropolitian Council has decided to charge motorists $45 a month to drive within the city limits beginning next year as part of a radical program to fight air pollution...


An interesting tidbit. The days of the automobile (as we know and love it today) are numbered. The computer, connected to a global network through high-speed lines and modems is starting to become a viable alternative to transportation since it is easier to move data electronically than people.

All that's needed now is software....


Note 14.9 Possible Computer Integration of today's Society 9 of 12 TOHOKU::TAYLOR 7 lines 7-JUN-1989 21:48 (TSN @ $1/minute does not cut it)

re: .8 All that's needed now is software....

The software is available, what is needed is an infrastructure to support high-bandwidth low-cost connections.


Note 14.10 Possible Computer Integration of today's Society 10 of 12 HPSCAD::DDOUCETTE "The Practical Technocrat" 32 lines 9-JUN-1989 23:00 (Hardware costs vs. REAL data requirements.)

Note 14.9 by TOHOKU::TAYLOR
TSN @ $1/minute does not cut it

"re: .8 All that's needed now is software....

"The software is available, what is needed is an infrastructure to support high-bandwidth low-cost connections.


* 2400 baud modems transmit data faster than you can comprehend it.

* 9600 Baud modems can transmit a page of data in seconds.

* FAXes can transmit a DIGITIZED version of a 9x11 piece of paper in 15 seconds almost anywhere in the world.

We're not even talking about compressing the data before you send it, or being "intelligent" about the data transmitted.

We do have medium-bandwidth connections already. Granted it's not like the 10Mb drop in your office, but not many people use the full bandwidth anyway. If the software was intelligent, it could handle data transfers at night when the costs drop to REAL cheap.

Granted, you'll have trouble moving data blocks in the range of 1MByte+, but if you have a 9600 baud modem you're talking about transmitting at speeds fast enough that a long-distance phone call would be cheaper than travelling by car. If you could AUTOMATE THE FILE TRANSFERS, then the user wouldn't even be involved in the transfer and be busy doing other work.


Note 14.11 Possible Computer Integration of today's Society 11 of 12 TOHOKU::TAYLOR 6 lines 12-JUN-1989 17:39 (If we have the hardware and the software ... )

Ok, if .10 is right, the bandwidth exists and if .9 is right, the software exists (async DECnet is available today) then what is holding up the show?


Note 14.12 Possible Computer Integration of today's Society 12 of 12 HPSCAD::DDOUCETTE "The Practical Technocrat" 42 lines 12-JUN-1989 22:56 (Just the basic elements so far)

Re: -1

"Ok, if .10 is right, the bandwidth exists and if .9 is right, the software exists (async DECnet is available today) then what is holding up the show?"

The software that is needed is applications that take advantage of async DECnet-type communication. The problem is that using this technology is a different way to think. How do you tell the computer that "I need file xx from Joe by tomorrow morning?" The software I am refering to is at an extremely high level. The more automated, the better. I.e., "Get a "STATUS" file from Joe, Mark, and John every Thursday night, append them with my STATUS file into a single file and send it to my boss Frank."

The actual flow of data in this example is very straight forward, and covers very reasonably-sized files. Unfortunately, to implement such a script requires at least an associates degree in software and experience using existing telecommunications packages.

To apply asychronous data transfer technology, we need to define files in regards to requests, availability, source, destination and time windows: where we can request a file at a given time. If we request it at the wrong time, we get an error. If we do not request the file during the window, the owner of the file detects an error! If the wrong person requests a file, that's an error too. But if the request and time is correct, data is transferred without the intervention of an operator. This is a very simple and basic operation which could be used as a building block for more advanced data manipulation and movement.

What people are doing is trying to use synchronous network technology in an asychronous environment. That's like trying to fit a round peg into a square hole. asychronous network technology does not require as high a bandwidth as sychronous since an operator is not involved.

Oh ya, the software to provide this solution has to be cheaper than the hardware. In other words, a $4,000 software solution which uses a $400 modem doesn't cut it. The market won't accept it.