Archive for communication

One Megabyte

Posted in Lucerne Village, Mystical Experience with tags , , , , , , , , , , on October 6, 2012 by javedbabar

Alan and Patricia were always welcoming. As soon as he neared their forest cabin, Bobby began feeling happy and relaxed. His weekly trips there were a tonic.

There were things going on at the farm that he didn’t understand, and that worried him somewhat. Tomatoes grew better when exposed to advertising jingles, mushrooms were affected by satellite TV channels, and he was encouraged to drink a “healthy natural beverage” that somehow unsettled him.

Alan’s workshop was full of technology. Bobby wasn’t sure if this was the right word though. It was state of the art technology once upon a time, but these days of smaller, better, faster may now cause it to be labelled junk. There were many metal boxes with buttons, wires, levers and cogs.

“Do you still use all these” – Bobby didn’t know what to call them – “machines?”

“Sure I do! They still work. Why shouldn’t I?”

Bobby pulled out his smartphone. It never received a signal on the farm but here it worked beautifully. “This phone has more power than everything in this workshop. I’m not trying to show off; anybody with twenty dollars a month to spare can have one. I just mean that your machines seem outdated.”

“So you think I should donate them to the museum?”

“Not necessarily,” said Bobby. “But maybe. Wouldn’t you be better off with a small, simple gadget with multiple functions? And when technology advances, you can upgrade.”

Alan looked at him with seriousness. “What is the data limit on your smartphone? Ten megabytes? A day? So three hundred megabytes a month. Well, I transfer one megabyte a month.”

Bobby was about to be impressed, but then thought, hang on! He said, “Do you mean one gigabyte? So you transfer three times more than me?”

“No I meant one megabyte. That’s plenty. I do use some compression technology, but that’s it!”

Bobby was confused and stood blinking.

Alan pushed a few buttons and lights appeared on metal boxes. “In the early days there were radio transmissions for only two hours a day. When TV came along, we had only one hour a day. Telephone calls were very expensive; you’d watch your minutes carefully. With computers there was limited bandwidth, it was precious and you preserved it. A photo took half an hour to download, and a movie took all day.

“We appreciated those things. Our family would gather around the radio. We would watch TV together. Receiving a call would be a special thing.

“Now everything is always available. It’s too much. People receive endless news, data and popular culture. It is making them sick. They flick through these things as if they are empty boxes, always looking for the next one, hoping it will be full.

“Patricia and I pick one thing a day and focus on it, whether it is a message, a photo, or scene from a film. We enjoy that thing only. It is like a meditation. And we’ve found that after one hundred years, we’ve never been bored yet. Do you want to see today’s special selection?”

Bobby nodded.

Alan showed him a picture of the Lucerne Valley one hundred years ago, before the time of roads, factories and malls. There was just land and light. Its beauty made him weep.

T-Phone

Posted in Classic Sci-Fi, Lucerne Village, Mystical Experience with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on October 5, 2012 by javedbabar

The farm was hot and full of bugs. Maybe the ecosystem wasn’t quite balanced yet, or the ladybugs were of a lethargic species, and the mosquitoes of a dynamic one, for the latter were winning hands down. The forest was cooler, with widely spaced Arcadian Firs. Their branches captured much of the light, which meant less vegetation on the forest floor, and thus fewer bugs. Bobby dozed in the forest daily from twelve to four.

On days off he’d visit Alan and Patricia, who said they’d lived in the valley for one hundred years. Alan was a prehistoric geek, obsessed by communications. He captured local transmissions via an antenna, many miles long, strung between firs.

“You always seem so happy together,” Bobby said to Patricia as she poured him Lady Grey Tea. She’d said it was a perfectly refreshing afternoon tea, which she preferred to the floral taste of Earl Grey. “What’s your secret? Is it just your time spent together? A hundred years in the forest has surely drawn you closer. Or is it something else?”

“Alan says that we are in tune. We have the same frequency. Do you know the difference between AM and FM radio signals? You don’t? Well, AM means Amplitude Modulation. The size of the waves rises and falls, conveying the information necessary to transmit a message. FM is totally different. It stands for Frequency Modulation. The size of the waves is constant but the distance between them changes, which conveys information. Well, Alan says that he is AM and I am FM, but we’re in tune with each other. It doesn’t really make…”

“Hello again, young man!” said Alan, bursting into the room. “So good to see you. How’s your teatime? You like it? Good, good.”

Patrician poured him a cup too. There was no need for her to ask him, as she was in tune.

“Has she told you about my new invention? I can tell him, can’t I, love?” Patricia nodded. “It’s the T-Phone!” He pulled out a mobile phone as big as a brick. Bobby had last seen one of those in the 1980s. Was Alan that much behind the times?

Alan smiled and said, “I know it’s not much to look at, but wait till I show you what it can do.”

Bobby said, “Please do.”

“I’ve tried various forms of information propagation – AM, FM – I heard Patricia telling you about those – and SSB, TETRA, amateur radio, unlicensed radio, even radio control, but they have never conveyed all the information encoded. There is always loss.” He stopped for a moment. “And digital information is even worse; its binary form removes gradation.”

Alan tinkered with the brick-sized phone. “Do you know Instagram? Well, what that does for your photos, the T-Phone does for your voice. It enriches the frequencies, avoids noise, and prevents fading. It creates a richer sound.”

“Why is it called the T-Phone?” asked Bobby.

“Because the technology it uses is Telepathy. There is no physical transfer, thus there is no resistance and loss. The T-Phone uses silence as a means of communication. Everything is contained within it.”

Bobby noticed that Alan said these last words without his lips moving.