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100 Years Ago, No Free Broadband Pneumatic Tubes 293

Posted by kdawson
from the when-brooklyn-was-a-considerable-city dept.
TheSync writes "The Division of Labour blog spotlights a report written 100 years ago by a commission appointed by the Postmaster General, that came to the conclusion: 'That it is not feasible and desirable at the present time for the Government to purchase, to install, or to operate pneumatic tubes.' Here is a scan of the original NYTimes article. If only we had gotten the free government Intertubes in 1908!"
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100 Years Ago, No Free Broadband Pneumatic Tubes

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  • Snarky article (Score:5, Insightful)

    by SatanicPuppy (611928) * <.moc.liamg. .ta. .yppupcinataS.> on Tuesday December 16, 2008 @03:40PM (#26136307) Journal

    The reason the government wasn't into buying the pneumatic tube system is because there was no real standard and no guarantee the system would be worth installing anywhere else. I can't see how anyone who researched it at the time would come to any conclusion but that the last thing the government needed was to be saddled with an expensive, hard to maintain, experimental system...Especially given that they already had the postal service.

    The modern situation is a bit different. Government owned local data infrastructure is actually a pretty good idea. Small towns who can't interest the big telecoms in investing have bought bonds and done it themselves with good results, and it really opens the door to local competition since the competition is based around providing actual service...not around providing infrastructure. The technology is also standardized, and much more mature.

    Telecoms are getting too uppity these days. Some kind of smackdown is required.

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by theaveng (1243528)

      >>>Government owned local data infrastructure is actually a pretty good idea.

      I'm sorry: What? I was always under the impression that "monopolies are bad", at least that's what we learned in 10th grade social studies, and yet here you are saying a monopoly is a good idea. I have to disagree. The U.S. Mail monopoly is a bad idea, and so too is a U.S. Data monopoly.

      What we need are MORE choices at the home, not whittled down to just one.

      • Re:Snarky article (Score:5, Insightful)

        by corsec67 (627446) on Tuesday December 16, 2008 @03:55PM (#26136551) Homepage Journal

        The last mile is going to be a monopoly, whether it be water, sewer, cable, electricity, phone, or fiber.
        You aren't going to have people running a cable to your house in case you might want to use it. If there is already a cable TV connection to a house, the value of adding a second one is very low.

        What shouldn't be a monopoly at all is the service provider. The last mile is going to be a monopoly, but the service provider doesn't have to be. Let any company hook up their DSL/phone equipment to the cable going to your house.

        • Re:Snarky article (Score:5, Interesting)

          by thrillseeker (518224) on Tuesday December 16, 2008 @04:06PM (#26136695)
          then the last mile should belong to the homeowner.
          • Re:Snarky article (Score:5, Insightful)

            by TheSpoom (715771) * <slashdot@@@uberm00...net> on Tuesday December 16, 2008 @04:18PM (#26136833) Homepage Journal

            IMHO, the last mile should belong to the municipality. That way, you avoid arguments as to who is responsible for issues that happen to cables outside anyone's ownership, or in communal ownership.

            • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

              by theaveng (1243528)

              When I lived in the country, the last mile literally did belong to me (well, actually my parents). The phone company was required by PA law to provide electricity to the curb, but the final mile into our home was paid by my parents. So yes a similar solution could work for internet.

          • Re:Snarky article (Score:5, Informative)

            by ensignyu (417022) on Tuesday December 16, 2008 @04:24PM (#26136909)

            Most people only own the land up to their driveway. From there on, it's usually owned by the city.

            That's why if the water pipes break (due to an earthquake or something) in the middle of the street, it's not your responsibility to fix it. You'd have a hard time dividing up the bill, in any case.

            And for obvious reasons, a company can't just dig up a road and install new pipes or cables. They need a permit, and the city doesn't want the road being dug up every other week so they grant exclusive rights for ONE group to do it once.

            Now arguably since it's public land, the network connections ought to be owned and controlled by the city and leased out to any ISP that wants to hook you up, but that's much different from the homeowner owning the last mile.

            • Most people only own the land up to their driveway. From there on, it's usually owned by the city.

              Just to clarify, you may own the property up to the sidewalk, but you may still have what is called an easement [wikipedia.org] on your property that gives government and/or utility access to your property. In this case, last mile infrastructure typically have access to your property to perform maintenance and public works such as water, sewer, electrical and telecommunications.

          • by berashith (222128)

            Doesn't that just move the last mile a mile away ?

          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            by prgrmr (568806)
            Most homeowners don't want to own the wiring inside their homes, let alone the wiring outside of it.
          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            by TheLink (130905)
            Then having to pay taxes to pay for it isn't that bad. Since you kind of own it in a way[1].

            Some people might not like paying for an internet connection for someone in a farm miles away from everyone else.
            But:
            1) you're living in a society and you need farmers/ranchers etc. If it helps them do their part (instead of going to the city to look for a job), a subsidized internet connection is quite cheap in comparison.
            2) the value of the _your_ network increases as you add more participants.

            [1] In a Democracy, i
        • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

          by homer_s (799572)
          The last mile is going to be a monopoly,

          Why? Just because you cannot think of a way?
          • Re:Snarky article (Score:5, Informative)

            by spun (1352) <loverevolutionary@@@yahoo...com> on Tuesday December 16, 2008 @04:32PM (#26137029) Journal

            The last mile is going to be a monopoly,

            Why? Just because you cannot think of a way?

            No, because the last mile is a natural monopoly. [wikipedia.org]

            • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

              by ivan256 (17499)

              No it isn't.

              For it to be a natural monopoly, you would have to make assumptions:

              • The "desired output" is largely identical for all customers
              • There aren't enough customers to provide economies of scale on more than one network.

              I would assert that neither of these assumptions are true.

              People want different things from their last mile connections. Some people merely want voice or voice+video service. Some people want on-demand content. Some people want hagh transmission capacity. Some people only want data... Et

            • by Belial6 (794905) on Tuesday December 16, 2008 @08:32PM (#26140009)
              No, it isn't a natural monopoly. It only seems that way because of lack of planning on cities part. The last mile should be a PIPE. No, not an internet connection that is called a pipe, but an honest to goodness hole through the ground pipe. The system should look a lot like a storm drain or sewer system. If you want to buy a service from Joe's home movie cable company, you should be able to have Joe's just pull a wire through the existing pipe to the larger main pipe, and all the way to their office where the video source comes from. Heck, if the city had data tubes, I could literally be on a neighborhood by having a line run from my house to my neighbors across the street. Of course, this would create MASSIVE competition, as the barrier of entry for a new cable company, phone provider or ISP would plummet.

              No, the last mile is definitely not a natural monopoly.
              • by MindStalker (22827) <`moc.liamg' `ta' `reklatsdnim'> on Wednesday December 17, 2008 @01:19AM (#26142063) Journal

                Are you insane. You can't run several mile long cable to each and every house the main access pipes would physically be full after just a few hundred houses. Then what do you do?
                Well Joe's home movie office could install routers at all major intersections, but after a few dozen companies move in the routers would fill up the intersections..
                Well Joe and a few others could share...
                Then others want to share and then one day a cable breaks and everyone is pointing fingers at everyone else to fix it so they decide everyone should pay Joe a greater monthly access fee and let Joe fix it. Soon Joe has quit his business and runs Joe's telecom.

                • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

                  by Belial6 (794905)
                  This isn't 1980 anymore. We have 40 Gigabit Ethernet that runs up to 10km and IEEE is working to standardize 100 Gigabit over 40km. So, no, you wouldn't need routers at every major intersection. We don't have them now with our phone or cable, why would having competition suddenly changes the physics of transmitting data?

                  And, your scenrio of Joe becoming a telecom would be great. You would end up with ATT, MCI, Comcast, Verizon, Joe's, and maybe a couple of other locals. You could count on getting be
        • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

          by theaveng (1243528)

          >>>The last mile is going to be a monopoly, whether it be water, sewer, cable, electricity, phone, or fiber.

          Actually I have choice for my electricity and my phone and my natural gas. Likewise the internet is NOT a monopoly where I live. In my home I have multiple options:
          (1) Dialup
          (2) Comcast cable
          (3) Suburban cable (they were first, Comcast arrived later and ran in parallel)
          (4) Dish
          (5) DirecTV
          (6) HughesNet
          (7) WildBlue
          (8) DSL
          (9) Verizon FiOS

          Please stop saying internet is a monopoly, when evidence

          • by corsec67 (627446)

            How many options do you have for phone, or power *cables* going to your house?

            The service doesn't have to be a monopoly, and shouldn't.
            If you abstract that service into "internet access", then it very much can have competition.

            Where did I say that "internet is a monopoly"? I didn't even mention "internet" in my original post at all.
            Note that I also said that choice is good, but I am also realistic. The service can easily be competitive, so it should be.

            Companies should be barred from owning the service prov

            • by theaveng (1243528)

              Well that's fine. You do sound more open-minded than most "government is the only answer" persons. In the case of the internet though, I simply don't see why it's necessary. It has multiple ways of reaching you:

              - cable
              - phone/DSL
              - fiber
              - satellite
              - cellular/wireless
              - whitespace (coming soon)

              There are almost as many internet companies as car companies. It's competitive. There's no need to have an "Uncle Sam Internet" just as there's no nee to have an "Uncle Sam Car Company".

              • by corsec67 (627446)

                Not everyone has all of those options or even most of them.

                Personally I have: DSL, dial-up, or fixed wireless, and currently use the fixed wireless as the DSL maxes out at 256KBps up/down. Satellite isn't the same, due to the high ping, and if people live on the north side of a hill that also might not be an option.

                If people only have DSL and cable as options for high-speed internet, and the cable and DSL provider both decide to charge $100/month, what options do you have?

                "Uncle Sam internet" would be a ver

            • by jonbryce (703250)

              I have options for two different phone cables going to my house - BT and Virgin Media. I use the BT cable, but I don't actually pay any money to BT. My telephone service is supplied by Southern Electric, and my internet service is supplied by Eclipse.

          • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

            by dgatwood (11270)

            It is exceptionally rare to have a choice for electrical providers. Ditto for gas and cable. Probably 99% of the U.S. population is served by one or fewer telephone companies, one or fewer cable company, and one or fewer natural gas providers.

            Also, your argument that DSL competes with FiOS is somewhat of a misnomer. Once you get FiOS, they cut your twisted pair. It is no longer possible to get DSL service at that location after that. And unless you have at least one CLEC providing DSL service in your a

          • by Chris Burke (6130)

            Actually I have choice for my electricity and my phone and my natural gas.

            Could you explain how that works? I'm honestly curious. Are their multiple gas pipes and electric cables running to your house?

        • The last mile is going to be a monopoly, whether it be water, sewer, cable, electricity, phone, or fiber.

          It is? Why?

          Look at data. Most people living in urban areas in the US have a choice of two "last mile" data providers: the phone company and the cable company. The fact that they use two different technologies is completely irrelevant in this day and age. You can get phone service from the cable company and internet service from the phone company. Now the phone company is laying fiber in many places which offers as much performance as cable, and they're certainly not restricting this to areas where the cable

          • by znu (31198)

            The fact that there are two providers is just a historical artifact, a result of the fact that these providers used to provide different services which required different infrastructure. As such, it does absolutely nothing to demonstrate that last-mile infrastructure isn't a natural monopoly.

          • by tepples (727027) <tepples&gmail,com> on Tuesday December 16, 2008 @06:57PM (#26138933) Homepage Journal

            You need people running cable to your house on demand, when you order the service. This clearly works, since it has been done. If you refute the idea, ensure that your refutation is compatible with the reality of the telephone/cable duopoly found in virtually every US city.

            You said "city". Not every part of the world is in a city. The phone and cable TV companies allege that running cable to a rural market is cost prohibitive, giving the customers who grow your food a choice between three options with low throughput per dollar: dial-up, satellite, or GPRS.

        • by jcnnghm (538570)

          You aren't going to have people running a cable to your house in case you might want to use it.

          They would if they were allowed to, but the majority of the time this is a forced monopoly, perpetuated by local franchise agreements. Before FiOS came, my home was served by two separate cable companies, that competed quite aggressively on price, bandwidth, and service. Verizon has effectively added a third competitor, further reducing price, increasing channel selection (2 years of free HBO), and significantly improving bandwidth. If they were unable to compete so freely in my county, I doubt we'd have

        • Let any company hook up their DSL/phone equipment to the cable going to your house.

          And you can. I'm not sure about local phone service (though I think it's the same) but you can use whoever you want for long-distance, and DSL.

          For example, Verizon owns the copper coming into my house; we had their DSL but it sucked. So we went to AT&T (actually resold Covad) DSL over the same lines.

          I think the term is 'unbundling of the local loop'; anybody wanting to provide DSL service on the copper can do so and the line owner has to allow it. They probably can charge a maintenance cost, though.

      • Re:Snarky article (Score:4, Interesting)

        by iluvcapra (782887) on Tuesday December 16, 2008 @03:57PM (#26136573)

        Strictly speaking, using a monopoly to abuse stifle competition or innovation is bad, monopolies themselves are acceptable and common.

        The US Mail service doesn't have a monopoly, just ask Fedex Ground, and nether would a publicly-owned infrastructure either. It just sets a minimum standard of service. You're free to start Theaveng's Letter Service tomorrow, but it has to be either as reliable and cheap as the USPS, or charge more and compete on features.

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by Xaositecte (897197)

        Did you read anything beyond that line?

        GP's point is that in many rural areas, commercial data providers simply aren't willing to come into the town and install data infrastructure.

        Additionally, even though it's a monopoly, chances are nearly every citizen of a given small town knows each other, knows their elected representative personally, and can actually have a say in town decisions, as opposed to big cities or countrywide monopolies, which are usually run by an oligarchy of some sort.

        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by theaveng (1243528)

          >>>GP's point is that in many rural areas, commercial data providers simply aren't willing to come into the town and install data infrastructure.

          Then pass a law that obligates Comcast to run cable internet, Verizon to run DSL, Dish Satellite to provide satellite internet, Sprint to provide cellular internet, to any customer who asks for it. We have similar laws for electricity and phone, so why not internet.

          • Re:Snarky article (Score:5, Informative)

            by north.coaster (136450) on Tuesday December 16, 2008 @05:24PM (#26137767) Homepage

            We have similar laws for electricity and phone, so why not internet.

            Perhaps you need a history lesson [wikipedia.org]. Rural areas of the United States originally got electric service through public cooperative organizations because the private utilities would not provide service in these areas. While laws were passed to provide government loans to these co-ops, private companies were not forced to provide service.

            Private utility companies later purchased many of these co-ops, but there are still co-ops providing electric service in many areas today.

      • Re:Snarky article (Score:5, Insightful)

        by SatanicPuppy (611928) * <.moc.liamg. .ta. .yppupcinataS.> on Tuesday December 16, 2008 @03:58PM (#26136601) Journal

        So the government owned water and sewer pipes that serve your house are a bad thing? You want to see multiple competing water and sewer companies building multiple competing water and sewage treatment systems, and multiple and competing reservoirs, etc? How about competing highway infrastructure? No?

        Or maybe you prefer the current system, where one company is granted a monopoly in exchange for shouldering the infrastructure cost?

        If we own the infrastructure, we can actually HAVE competition based on service. We sure as hell can't have it when the telecoms own all the pipe.

        Educate yourself.

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by nsayer (86181) *

          So the government owned water and sewer pipes that serve your house are a bad thing?

          In not all cases are they government owned. There still exist private water companies that for the purposes of this discussion operate no differently than, say, PG&E.

          And sewer and water are not perfect examples, because there are lots of folks who use wells and septic tanks, meaning that they are self-reliant. There even exist some folks who are self-sufficient for their electricity needs. I don't know of anyone who is "self sufficient" for their Internet connectivity. Indeed, it would literally be impo

          • Actually, I get my water from a private company, so I understand what you mean. And wells and septic tanks are a fringe case, so they don't invalidate the point.

            I'm not arguing personal self sufficiency in terms of internet, I'm arguing that local informational infrastructure, local, not national, is often more efficient when treated the same as roads, water pipes, gas lines, etc. As it is now, you have an essentially national entity who has no particular stake in a local community deciding how that communi

        • by cptdondo (59460)

          Actually, there are 'competing' systems. Often multiple water providers feed a large municipal system; mutliple collection systems feed a regional sewer plant.

          The system works because the infrastructure is very, very expensive, it is very heavily regulated at all levels and because it has citizen oversight in the form of various commissions, councils, and boards. And if you cheat you can go to jail. (Try bypassing the sewage treatment plant, or hooking up your own well to the municipal water system.

          There

        • by theaveng (1243528)

          >>>Or maybe you prefer

          What I prefer is that we have a monopoly where there's no choice (water/sewer), and competition where it's possible (phone, electric, natural gas, cable, internet, hospitals, ambulances). It's not a black-and-white world. We don't have to be all all government monopoly or all competition - we can have a mix.

          • See, I'm hugely in favor of competition. The problem is the competition in this case is restricted by an artificial shortage of pipe. You're not buying pipe, you're buying data throughput, but they're sort of artificially merged because right now you can only buy data throughput from the people who own the pipe.

            A few years ago there were laws that affected only the phone companies that restricted the amount that they could charge competitors to lease space on their lines. That meant small ISPs didn't have t

        • but the problem is we already have it. We have numerous toll roads operated by the government, pseudo-government agencies, or private entities, and we will get more. There are always talks in Atlanta about turning portions of existing interstates into toll roads in order to fund road improvements. If they would stop wasting the collected money on items other than roads it would not be an issue but one local toll road's account was found to have been raided multiple times for things other than itself, som

      • Saying that "A government owned X is a good idea" is not the same as saying "All X should be government owned without any competition".

        You can have a government-owned business as well as privately owned ones, in competition.

        • by theaveng (1243528)

          That's true. We could have the government owned Trabant company make a comeback and compete against Ford, Daimler, Toyota, Hyundai, BMW, Volkswagen, and so on.

          But why? We already have plenty of choices; we don't need to add a government company to the mix.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Jeff Hornby (211519)

        How about the government monopoly on the roads? Or on national defense? Currency? Courts? What they probably didn't teach you in 10th grade social studies is that everything is a trade-off, and while monopolies are bad sometimes and for some things, they are often good for other things.

        The assumption that monopolies are bad is based on the idea that the only true value is progress and perhaps financial returns. Monopolies promote stability, predictability and ease of regulation. Personally I thnk that

      • by hey! (33014)

        You didn't have a very good social studies curriculum then, or at least not enough to cover things like the history of electrification, or the subsidization of universal telephone service through government granted monopolies.

        The advantage of possessing a monopoly is the ability to gain higher than normal profits, or (equivalently) lower profits at reduced risk. When such a monopoly is gained through private action, it is almost always a problem for the public, which is why we have regulatory restrictions

        • by theaveng (1243528)

          >>>You didn't have a very good social studies curriculum then

          Well of course not. Schools are a government monopoly, and monopolies have no incentive to provide better service. ;-)

      • Yeah, that's right! What if our roads were all owned by the government, it'd be a disaster! We certainly wouldn't have one of the world's best road infrastructures if that was the case.
      • by Sleepy (4551)

        Monopolies ARE bad - you are correct -- but you throw all meaning out the window if you ignore the fact that municipal services ARE competition at a low common denominator level.

        Monopoly players simply choose not to serve an area... then sue the dickens out of any town that tries to create municipal service. Monopoly player then announces intention to offer service, and goes to court OR the state capital. This drags out in court until the taxpayers get angry. Then the monopoly player moves on, never deliver

        • by theaveng (1243528)

          If you want to build a Town-owned service in Nashua NH, go ahead. I just don't want to pay for it - and I fear that I probably will somehow (like U.S. Congressional grants taken from my and other neighbors' wallets). Build your Nashua internet, but pay for it out of the monthly bills, not through taxation.

          It's bad enough that $1 of every tank of gasoline goes to fund subways/metros. That shouldn't be allowed; let the riders directly pay the cost through the ticket sales, not force carowners to subsidiz

      • by theaveng (1243528)

        by theaveng (1243528) - (Score:0, Flamebait)

        Labeling my comment as flamebait simply because you disagree, does not change my valid opinion - we should have Internet Choice, not Internet no-choice.

        Nice try though to suppress free speech. Hister would be proud.

        (Uh oh; Godwin; well we never agreed on rec.arts.startrek anyway. He liked Kirk; I preferred Picard.)

        • You weren't modded flamebait for the content of your post, but for a combination of the opinion expressed within and the style in which it was put forth. I assume that the flamebait moderation was from someone who actually assumed you thought/knew differently than you do and that your post was therefore purely there to incite argument without content (flames) - the very definition of "flamebait".

          Now, since it seems you actually DID mean what you posted, and were not just attempting to get a rise out of peo

    • by theaveng (1243528)

      >>>Government owned local data infrastructure is actually a pretty good idea.

      I'm sorry: What? I was always under the impression that "monopolies are bad", at least that's what we learned in 10th grade social studies, and yet here you are saying a monopoly is a good idea. I have to disagree. The U.S. Mail monopoly is a bad idea, and so too is a U.S. Data monopoly.

      What we need are MORE choices at the home, not whittled down to just one.

      • by timeOday (582209)
        A competitive market is better than a government monopoly. But a government monopoly is better than a private monopoly. At least you get a vote.
        • by theaveng (1243528)

          I disagree that a government monopoly is better than private monopoly.

          With a private monopoly you can simply stop paying the bill (for example: cancel phone service, or stop using Windows). You don't have that option with a government monopoly which, even if you choose not to participate, keeps sucking money out of your wallet via taxation.

          • by timeOday (582209)

            You don't have that option with a government monopoly which, even if you choose not to participate, keeps sucking money out of your wallet via taxation.

            Governments can levy service-based fees instead of taxes. So far as I know, there's no law preventing me from shutting off running water to my house, and it's metered.

      • by sjames (1099)

        What you're bumping up against is called a 'natural monopoly'. That is, a situation where economics will only support one provider or even wheer no provider can afford to move without some granted lock-in.

        Currently, most broadband is delivered over DSL or cable, both of which were built as part of a granted monopoly (at a time when the technology wouldn't allow for both services to be provided by a single infrastructure). Essentially, it is just affordable to run phone lines if everyone who is willing to pa

  • So... (Score:5, Funny)

    by pitchpipe (708843) on Tuesday December 16, 2008 @03:40PM (#26136309)
    Ted Stevens was right, just 100 years late!
    • by StCredZero (169093) on Tuesday December 16, 2008 @04:08PM (#26136729)

      From Wikipedia:

      Technical analysis

      Stevens's speech was analyzed by Princeton computer science professor Edward Felten, who said that he disagreed with Stevens's argument but felt that the language "series of tubes" was entirely reasonable as a non-technical explanation given off-the-cuff in a meeting.[12]

      The term pipe is a commonly used idiom to refer to a data connection, with pipe diameter being analogous to bandwidth or throughput.[13] For instance, high-bandwidth connections are often referred to as "fat pipes."

      Most routers use a data structure called a queue to buffer packets.[14] When packets arrive more quickly than can be forwarded, the router will hold the packets in a queue until they can be sent on to the next router or be dropped.[15] On links that become congested, packets typically spend more time in the queue than they do actually moving down wires or optical fiber...

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Series_of_tubes [wikipedia.org]

      I too disagree with Steven's argument. But people who jump on "tubes" often do not even know the concepts behind the analogy. In a lot of cases, the people that laugh at his comment are even less informed about the topic than Stevens.

      • by pitchpipe (708843)

        In a lot of cases, the people that laugh at his comment are even less informed about the topic than Stevens.

        I stand corrected, and will no longer laugh at the "series of tubes" quote.

        Oh, who am I kidding? 8^D

      • So wait- is the Internet something you dump something on? More importantly, is it a big truck?

        I only ask because I just the other day got...an Internet was sent by my staff at 10 o'clock in the morning on Friday. I got it yesterday.

        Why? Why?

        W

      • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

        Well, besides being partially false and over-simplistic it should be held in mind that the actual context was that Stevens was supposedly argumenting against net-neutrality. And in that context, it's just bizzare and does nothing to support the actual issue involved. It should also be remembered, I think, that Stevens had earlier been subjected to hours of expert testimony on the subject. He knew full well he was bullshitting people with his incoherent argument even if his 'internet' did arrive late.
      • by Chris Burke (6130) on Tuesday December 16, 2008 @05:17PM (#26137639) Homepage

        My main issue with the analogy is that, to the extent that the internet is like a series of tubes, how is it not like a truck? Data flow is not continuous, it's sent in discreet packets of variable sizes, it can take multiple routes to get to a destination, and every so often at a switching point there's a collision so the data never arrives and has to be resent. Honestly, I think roads and trucks is a much better analogy. Given that, I think it's safe to say that he still really had no idea what he was talking about, and the plausibility of one of his analogies is due to chance alone.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by drew (2081)

        If Ted Stevens had made an otherwise coherent argument where he happened to characterize the Internet using a new variation of otherwise common technical slang, I suspect that very few people would have even noticed, and I doubt that we'd still be talking about it two years later.

        But if you look at the whole speech, you get several other wonderful nuggets like: "Ten movies streaming across that internet, and what, what happens to your own personal internet? I just the other day got- an internet was sent by

    • Ted Stevens was right, just 100 years late!

      Or he was just having a flashback from his younger days when he said it...

  • by Ostracus (1354233) on Tuesday December 16, 2008 @03:42PM (#26136345) Journal

    The Victorian Internet [wikipedia.org]

  • by David Gerard (12369) <slashdot@NospAm.davidgerard.co.uk> on Tuesday December 16, 2008 @03:44PM (#26136381) Homepage

    Here's [today.com] a picture by Joi Ito [tinyurl.com] of a mechanical router, on display in a Tokyo museum. The engine of the steampunk Internet. Imagine BBs being pumped through the series of pneumatic tubes. "ROUTER BLOWOUT! SEVEN SYSADMINS SHOT DEAD BY THEIR ANALYTICAL ENGINES!"

    If you're browsing with Chrome, don't forget to click the special page about:internets [about].

  • I would love to have a pneumatic tube delivery to my front door.. Would beat the crap out of the lazy mail carrier who drives down the street, sits in his truck for half an hour, then drives off without actually delivering any mail (I've seen him do this at least a dozen times). Not to mention it might drastically improve local delivery time.

  • You insensitive clod. By "insensitive", I mean your sensory nerves don't work. Why else would you insult Brooklyn [wikipedia.org], which still has 2.5 million residents in what would be the 4th largest US city. Which anyone could know from watching _Welcome Back, Kotter [wikipedia.org]. Then you'd also know that failing to consider Brooklyn gets you "up your nose with a rubber hose", a private application of tubes as "neural interface".

  • thanks the large volumes of mail spam.
    • by gooman (709147)

      Just think, Hormel could send real Spam as spam.

      I love it. I'm having Spam, Spam, Spam, Spam, Spam, Spam, baked beans and Spam.

  • Is this what Slashdot has become? So desperate to make fun of Ted Stevens that this shows up on the front page?

    I am of course asking all this rhetorically.

  • That was back before the government nationalized the economy.

  • Oh, to have a pneumatic "Internet" of tubes! It would be wonderful. I say this in all seriousness. Today, I can use the Internet to move data. That's all well and good. But what if I could order Chinese food from across town, to have it arrive via pneumatic tube a minute later, propelled directly to my apartment 300 mph? What if we could move stuff?

  • If Charles Babbage's difference engine was actually built...

    If the Extraordinary International Network of Pneumatic Conduits (as they may have called it) was built... We would have had a Steampunk ICT revolution perhaps a century sooner!

    But, of course, the tubes could become literally clogged... by literal fat packets.

Facts are stubborn, but statistics are more pliable.

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