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[techbooks] REVIEW: "The Race for Bandwidth", Cary Lu

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  • Rob Slade, doting grandpa of Ryan and Tr
    BKRFBUDT.RVW 990131 The Race for Bandwidth , Cary Lu, 1998, 1-57231-513-X, U$19.99/C$26.99/UK#18.49 %A Cary Lu %C 1 Microsoft Way, Redmond, WA
    Message 1 of 1 , Mar 3, 1999
      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
      %D 1998
      %G 1-57231-513-X
      %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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