Communications

I read with interest your recent editorial in the January, 1974 issue particularly the sections pertaining to automated mail handling and other telecommunications substitutes for paper shuffling, book bookkeeping, etc.

As an active ham (WA8VBN/6) and a communications scientist, I can say that much of which you speculate about is already either in prototype form, or available on the market.

For instance, there are a considerable number of large information processing type companies (or their divisions), ITT, Xerox, GE Information Systems, etc., that have developed information retrieval services. In fact, beginning in 1975, one major publisher, Chemical Abstracts will only be supplying their publications in computer tape format. Of course, there are literally dozens of companies that offer automated, computerized retrieval services (e.g., ISI, Philadelphia, PA.) whether in hardware form or in software form abstracting articles and concepts the user identifies.

However, you dealt with two other issues I would like to briefly describe. One, automatic, electronic message handling, Two, home terminal use and potential software.

In the first there are a number of networks (e.g., ARPA) that already, within professional circles, handle messages and communications electronically. At the network nodes, you will find completely paperless offices, with secretaries inputing all information via CRT. Whenever hardcopy is needed, they simply activate a hardcopy or facsimile machine. Further, these networks allow persons on the net to communicate with each other via message switching computers which store and forward electronic mail destined, and accessible only to the Targeted individual. A related development, is the emergence over the last three years of specialized common carriers who provide computer networks; analog lines of bit capacities in the hundreds of MH2, and digital lines, a IT across the country. These companies are emerg^ ing as a result of FCC decisions restricting the monopolistic position of Ma Bell in the same way that the 1968 Carterfone decision opened up Ma Bell lines to non-Western Electric equipment fof course hams for years had been attaching to those lines without much squable. Likewise, a new class of networks, called VANS, Value Added Networks, take Bell's fines and via state of the art technology offer analog and digital transmission channels and efficiencies that for high volume prices beat AT & T's prices. Considering the impact of private equipment manufacturer s office phone systems, home cable TV attachments, you can predict what will happen in a few years.

In addition, there is a large emphasis now on automated offices, which perform exactly what you describe, replacing phone, typewriter and paper. Paper handling is as obsolete for communication as physical proximity is for communication. Hams, of course, have always known this, with repeaters, phone patching, etc. Now the business community is in fact getting into the act.

In fact, I'm working on a large National Science Foundation grant investigating telecommunication substitutes for transportation. This investigates the technology, acceptability, tradeoff factors invofved in substituting the morning commute for interaction via home two way terminals. As you no doubt can guess, this raises a number of issues.

Moving on to home terminals use, let me tell you that all that stands in the way of widespread networking via home terminals, including EFTS (electronic funds transfer), home medical diagnosis, education, library searches, catalog shopping, etc., is the penetration of cable TV. Cable TV has a current penetration of about 10% nationally; although up to about 40% in selected metropolitan areas. As long as national penetration is below 50%, RAND studies, et al, estimate little incentive for the public and the manufacturers to generate interest in cable as anything other than "better TV and FM reception. . the latter being an extremely lame interpretation of its potential.

There are already some pilot two-way cable systems in the country providing prototype services. What these systems are testing is the psychological and economic feasibility of such services.

Incidentally, there are few electronic problems left to be solved,

although many of these are of the chicken and egg variety — not enough demand keeps R&D money out, or keeps prices too high for popular adoption, and vice versa. One of the problems still being investigated is the one of channel bandwidth, especially as it relates to video, I astound my friends when I describe Hamdom's activities with slowscanH and the consequent bandwidth compression. Only now are some of the larger corporations touting that they can manufacture home videosy stems that change frames every 12secondsM

Incidentally, the Post Office is investigating various forms of electronic message handling, including all types of automated mail handling.

Wei!, the purpose of this letter is not to merely describe these to you, but to advise you that I'd be interested, if you're interested, in writing an article or two on such developments, and related ones, primarily dealing with issues I've discussed, but aiso how these applications utilize some of lhamdom's techniques. Not only would such articles bring the ham fraternity up to date on "what's happening" in the outside world of communication applications, but pE^rhaps might spark the interest of technology/software type entrepreneurs that read 73.

I look forward to hearing from you.

Gerhard J, Hanneman, Ph.D.

Information Sciences Director

W2NSD/1 cont'd from p. 3

decide to canvas the neighborhood for books for the local hospital - for a mental institution for games for day care centers - toys for poor kids for Christmas - organize an auction -etc. Just think constructively, if possible.

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