Thursday, 10 September 2009

SA pigeon 'faster than broadband'

The BBC has a report on a 11 month old carrier pigeon that carried 4GB of data on a memory stick to demonstrate that it could move data quicker than the fastest available ADSL provider. While this makes a fun headline, it's really kind of bogus on many levels. How about repeating the experiment by transferring data from the UK to Australia, or sending just 1K Email message?

Any right minded computer science student will recall the Andrew Tanenbaum quote "Never underestimate the bandwidth of a station wagon full of tapes" in his definitive networking tome "Computer Networks". It's not just bandwidth we are looking at - it's connectivity, latency, reliability and distance that matters. So while it's kind of fun to make pigeon post comparisons, it is totally bogus for a like for like comparison.

Mind you this is not new, RFC1149 (Standard for transmission of IP datagrams on avia) has been around since 1990 and has a follow up RFC2549 (including fun ASCII art avian images) in 1999.

So this news story is not entirely based on an new technology :-) In fact, a ping has been successfully sent via pigeon thanks to the help of the Veste Brevdueforening carrier pigeon club, so we know it's a viable technical solution, just not the kind of one I would like to be using when using the Web or downloading my Email :-)

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