Twinkle, twinkle little star,
connect me to my friends afar.
Jock Asiimwi has seen the future. The
day might come when our
phone bills resemble a page from TV Week
We all know that there is a real revolution occurring
in communications, and the new digital satellite system delivers us
at least four channels. But in the background, an even bigger, surreptitious
revolution is occurring, and it will make your latest systems look antiquated
before the year is over.
You see, in the past month, a conference was held in the United States
- well more of an expo - at which the new media for broadcasting were
paraded before a stunned audience. The internet is set to become the
main form of delivery in the years ahead. It is happening now. All you
need is a computer and a high speed link.
Was that a big groan I heard? At present, to set up a digital satellite
receiving service costs over $2000. To set up a computer system capable
of receiving the same, costs under $2000 - and currently provides over
100 television stations from around the world (including ABC, SBS, Seven
Central (yes! Aussie Rules!!), BBC, and plenty others to choose from),
and over 2000 radio stations.
The system includes a 'LAN box' (the computer / black box) and a satellite
dish. Only a single monthly charge after that. But do not run for the
free steak knives yet, there's more. Apple (of Apple Macintosh) have
just released 'Quick Time 4', a free software package that allows any
computer to literally become a broadcast station. This means that communities
will soon be able to do live broadcasts of their football team playing
in another community, and send it via high speed satellite link on the
internet. Any one can dial up the internet address, and receive live
to air pictures. Or community BRACS can transmit individual matches
as they wish.
Video conferencing is become standard fare in the outback. In fact,
it is predicted that 'webcams' will be standard built in pieces of equipment
for computers by the year 2003. If you ask me, I think they prediction
is a bit behind the times. I reckon 2001 is a more realistic prediction.
If the last thirty years is used as an example, about all that is predictable
is that the future is unpredictable. And you may as well buckle in for
the ride. AT & T (the US's largest communications provider) have
realised the impact of the internet, and are busy investing in networks
instead of trying to set any standards in phone services.
The days of the phone as we know it are numbered. Our phone already
tells us who is calling before we answer. We fax to and from our computer,
saving the need to buy that horrible thermal paper. If we go away on
business, our laptop computer still lets us do all our faxing, email,
and phoning from anywhere in the world.
The internet now allows us to shop around for cheaper phone rates. And
here's an irony, most of the time it is cheaper for us to phone the
US or Britain than Tennant Creek, and our phone is switched by the exchange
at Tennant Creek.
If I use Telstra or Optus to ring my friends in Uganda, I pay on average,
$2.30 a minute. Via AT & T on the internet, 45c a minute. And do
not be fooled into thinking that theses services are only available
in the big cities first. These services are being developed with a global
economy in mind.
The big communications companies are targeting you and I, the small
users. After all, if they can get everyone in India and China to pay
$10 per year for access to such services, how much profit would that
be? 10, 15, 20 billion? There is a realisation that many people paying
a little mean bigger profits than a few people paying lots. For those
of us buying computer systems, forget the expensive software, the large
companies on the internet are so keen to get us on-line, they give most
of the basic software away for free, or at a nominal cost, which is
more often than not, an administration fee, offering free updates.
Shareware is becoming big business for small companies. It allows you
to try out programmes before you decide to buy. And there are some beauts
The rule for us these days is to shop around. Really shop around. It
is easy to do. Just use Netscape or Internet Explorer (both are free
to download) to search for you. In fact the computer dealer we use,
does not even bother to carry much software now, they buy it in for
us if we ask, but generally just tell us to buy over the net. It's quicker.
In fact, whether you order from Alice Springs, Sydney, New York or London,
the delivery times are much the same. Overnight express is just a normal
part of the postal system (and I am sure Australia Post are amazed at
some of the express services which pass through to our mail bag).
So what can we expect in the near future?
A move to widescreen televisions which will deliver to the outback the
latest releases from Hollywood, before it hits the cinemas in Alice
Springs, Darwin or Sydney.
Cheaper, flexible communications. More refined television and radio
services (free to air television in the US is currently suffering a
backlash from disgruntled viewers who are turning away to the many other
stations on the internet).
And a lot more advertising - but then, one has to make some concessions
to receive more.
Well, I have to go now, I have a video call waiting to answer. By the
way, want a really funny version of solitaire? Try this one : http://www.freeverse.com/
Cheers, Jock Asiimwe