[techbooks] REVIEW: "The Race for Bandwidth", Cary Lu
- BKRFBUDT.RVW 990131
"The Race for Bandwidth", Cary Lu, 1998, 1-57231-513-X,
%A Cary Lu
%C 1 Microsoft Way, Redmond, WA 98052-6399
%I Microsoft Press
%O U$19.99/C$26.99/UK#18.49 800-MSPRESS (6777377) fax: 206-936-7329
%P 199 p.
%T "The Race for Bandwidth: Understanding Data Transmission"
There is no statement of purpose or audience for this book, which
makes a critique of it somewhat difficult.
Chapter one provides a somewhat-simpler-than-layman's level
explanation of bandwidth as a measure of information transmission.
There is a scanty overview of the range of bandwidth requirements for
different technologies, with a few mistakes (one comparison is off by
a factor of fifty). However, there is also some social analysis of
what the increase in bandwidth availability means, that may be missing
from some purely technical discussions of the topic. The history of
communications given in chapter two is simple, though probably
interesting to the neophyte. There are still a number of minor
errors, such as the dates of the first inception of the Internet, and
the first fax transmission, that make other details sometimes suspect.
Various ways of looking at bandwidth, and the tradeoffs to be made
(with an interesting variation on "never underestimate the bandwidth
of a station wagon full of mag tapes") comprise chapter three. There
is also a good discussion of analogue and digital information. This
is extended in chapter four with some comparisons of analogue
bandwidths for various media, although it is unfortunate that the
comparisons are not fully carried over into the digital realm. This
is the more untoward since chapters five and six move into specifics
of the audio and video standards for North America and Europe, and
quickly become more technical than the prior background really
supports. (It is also unclear what the point of these two chapter
is.) The same holds true for chapter seven, which looks at the Public
Switched Telephone Network (PSTN), cellular, and modem technologies,
as opposed to the broadcast concentrations in five and six. Chapter
eight reviews a number of very important aspects of packet data
networks such as the Internet, although, again, some of the
significance of the discussion will be lost on some readers because of
sections missing from the background information. An afterword closes
out the book by noting that we will continue to want more bandwidth,
more will become available, and that not every piece of information
that we want is or will be available for transmission or access.
Clearly, this book is not suitable for professionals. Too much is
missing for those who really have to make informed decisions. For the
amateur, wanting to start to get a handle on communications
technology, the book holds much greater promise. It does not get
bogged down in technical details, and it does stop to look at social
and political issues along the way. While not always completely
reliable in its presentation of the technology, it is certainly
readable and entertaining. For those wanting to get a "feel," rather
than a working knowledge, this is worth consideration.
copyright Robert M. Slade, 1999 BKRFBUDT.RVW 990131
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