13 May 2007

Happy Peak Day

Many many years ago I was a consultant for Bell Labs, and I learned a bit about the "old" AT&T. In those days when virtually every telephone call in the USA was carried by AT&T (and when a landline telephone call was virtually 100% of the real-time 2 way communications available) Mothers' Day was known as "peak day". That's because it was typically the day with the highest call volume, and thus was the day that the engineers used to determine the capacity of all the components in the system. The goal was assuring that even on peak day, you had a near certainty of being able to pick up your telephone, get a dial tone, and complete your call.

So today we're looking at placing a call to North Carolina to my Mother-In-Law, and I realized that we have 5 different, readily-accessible ways to attempt it from my house - two cell phone carriers, Vonage, Skype, and our AT&T landline we keep for emergencies (and fax). And if all else fails, she does read email, which she learned to use in her seventies.

It's not always easy to remember how fast we went from a communications monopoly to remarkable communications diversity - it pretty much happened in just 20 years. And the kind of statistical calculations and careful engineering that built the Bell System are, while still relevant - we still have a communications backbone that all these calls depend upon - they are both far more difficult and far less important in a world with many more options.

1 comment:

Scott McLeod said...

It will be interesting to see what the next 20 years bring. The past 20 have been a blur. Personally, I'm rooting for nationwide WiMax (or something similar)!