By Nicholas Negroponte
In full of life, mordantly witty prose, Negroponte decodes the mysteries--and debunks the hype--surrounding bandwidth, multimedia, digital truth, and the web, and explains why such touted recommendations because the fax and the CD-ROM are inclined to cross the best way of the BetaMax. "Succinct and readable. . . . if you happen to be afflicted by electronic nervousness . . . here's a publication that lays all of it out for you."--Newsday.
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Water flows or doesn't flow. You can regulate how much comes out of a garden hose by closing the nozzle. But even as the flow from a fire hose slows to a trickle, the water atoms are moving as a group. Bits are different. A ski lift may be a better analogy. The lift is moving at a constant speed, while more or fewer people get on and off. Similarly, you put a number of bits into a packet and then drop that packet in a pipe capable of delivering it at a speed of millions of bits per second. Now, if I drop a packet of 10 bits every second into a fast-moving pipe, my effective bandwidth is 10 bps, not the speed of the pipe.
To pass a law against it would be about as reasonable as a blue law. The digital world is far more resilient than the analog domain in that signals can carry all sorts of additional information about themselves. Computers can process and postprocess signals, add and subtract interlace, change the frame rate, and modify the aspect ratio to match the rectangular form factor of a particular signal Β Ε I Ν6 with the shape of a particular display. For this reason, we are better off making as little as possible part of some arbitrarily fixed standard, if only because what sounds logical today will prove to be nonsense tomorrow.
Digital video in general is an example of data compression without any attention to information content. People use the same coding techniques for an NFL game, a Ted Koppel-style interview, and a James Bond chase. Without being a computer scientist, you can probably guess that each of those programs would lend itself to very different approaches to data compression. As soon as content is considered, one can compress data very differently Consider the following example taken from human-to-human discourse.
Being Digital by Nicholas Negroponte