Two major electronic creations of the past four decades form the core of the revolution in communications. The first is the computer. The second is the satellite. Basically, a computer i8 a machine capable of accepting and processing information and supplying the results in a desired form. The digital computer, the primary element in 80 much communication, performs operations with quantities represented electronically as digits to solve arithmetical problems at high speed.
Computers are almost everywhere. They guide space vehicles and operate automatic bank teller machines, microwave ovens, and automobile engines. Our concern with the computer focuses on its role in processing news, other information, and entertainment for mass audiences. Material fed into computers can be stored, analyzed, codified, prepared for publication, and transmitted from place to place at speeds far beyond the capacity of the human mind and hand. One result has been an enormous increase in the amount of news published. Small personal computers have many uses in media work
The interconnection of both portable personal and fixed position computers over telephone circuits has created a new and expanding way to communicate called electronic mail. This exchange of business and personal messages, which eliminates postal delivery time, forms a loosely knit network for almost instantaneous dissemination of information separate from the standard forms of mass communication and ,not subject to the editorial control most such forms receive. Electronic bulletin boards are an increasingly popular way to circulate messages and information. Misuse of bulletin boards to distribute racist literature and stolen credit card numbers has created debate over possible controls on such computerized communication
Marvellous as today’s computers are, a spectacular leap forward appears probable in the near future with a revolutionary change from computers that simply calculate to computers that reason. These “thinking” computers, equipped with artificial intelligence, have potential uses so numerous that they cannot yet be fully comprehended. Talking computers and those that operate robots have opened still other possibilities
Most human endeavor involves reasoning and problem solving rather than calculation and data processing. If computers can be harnessed to diagnose and solve problems, their aid to humanity will be enormous. Japan obtained a head start in research on the “thinking” computer by making a very heavy investment, but the United States is trying strenuously to catch up.
When early communication satellites were launched into space, their role as distributors of news and entertainment was limited. The Telstar satellite sent aloft in 1962 received, amplified, and returned signals ‘to earth but could relay messages only when its orbit placed it between the sender and the intended receiver.
This problem was solved by firing’ a satellite to the precise altitude of 22,300 miles above the equator, where a satellite has an orbital period of 24 hours. It thus remains stationary above a fixed point on the earth’s surface, always available for relaying back to receiving dishes on earth the news and entertainment transmissions beamed up to it from originating points on the ground.
Demand for satellite transmission facilities grows constantly, and an ever-increasing number of satellites are parked far above the equator in what scientists call the geostationary belt. Not only is satellite transmission much cheaper and more reliable than along-the-ground transmission, but it is far faster. “Onecomputer can “talk” to another computer thousands of miles away about 160 times faster via satellite than can be done over landlines. As National Geographic magazine points out, such computer-to-computer communication via satellite is fast enough· to transmit Tolstoy’s massive novel War and Peace from one point to another within a few seconds
The recent launching of ReA’s more powerful K-2 satellite permits a broadcaster to reach every television station in the United States with one satellite, a technical advance with great commercial potential. One company has formed its own client grouping to receive exclusive broadcasts of major programmes, independent of the networks
Pictures of rescuers digging through the ruins of the U.s. Marine Corps barracks in Beirut, Lebanon, where 241 Marines and Navy men died in a terrorist bombing, were transmitted almost instantly by satellite onto millions of television screens throughout the world.. The emotional impact was intense. When the shuttle Challenger disintegrated in midair, the dramatic satellite-transmitted
film became the first foreign news event ever to open the nightly television news programmes in Beijing, China. The Wall Street Journal publishes a daily Asian edition in Singapore, consisting primarily of pages created by computerized phototypesetting in New York and transmitted by satellite to a printing press in Singapore
The president of one of the world’s largest banks carries a personal video display terminal whenever he travels. He can plug it in and “talk” at any time with a dozen of his top executives, who have similar equipment. He also can plug it into his office computer file, which holds up-to-date information on 8000 business acquaintances, including their golf handicaps and spouses’ nicknames. Thus, he can always refresh his memory before he meets some of them. Soviet scientists, speaking from Moscow by satellite, discussed with a group of American scientists in Washington the suicidal peril of nuclear war. They called the arms stockpile “a cancerous growth,” expressing views similar to those of their American counterparts contained in a report under discussion.
Over its international data communications network, the First Bank of Boston transmits a document from London to New York in a minute. Formerly, several days were required for a loan application made in London to be mailed to Boston, processed, and mailed back to England. This is merely a tiny sampling of what the new electronic methods do.
Even the language has been altered, far better or worse, by the upsurge of high technology. Computer users identify a bit as the smallest unit of computer data: a 1 or 0 at a particular point within a computer memory. “Bit” stands for binary digit. Users know that eight bits make a byte, enough to identify one character. They are aware, too, that a diskette (or floppy disc, as it is also called) is a thin, magnetic, circular plate that stores data or programmed, and that software is a set of instructions written in computer language that makes a computer do as it is told. In still another usage new to the language, they define a chip as electronic circuits etched onto a tiny disc, generally of silicon. On these chips information in the form of words, numbers, sounds, or pictures is toted and processed as electrical Impulses–sometimes more than a half million components on a chip smaller than a cornflakes.
Computer jargon has also made verbs out of several nouns, ~ process that makes language purists wince. Users ‘access a computer–gain admission to its system by pressing certain keys- and input news stories into a computer through video display terminals (VDTs). Interface is sued to mean connect, as in -“My computer interfaces with yours.” Satellite transmission has produced the words up link and down link, meaning the ground stations from which signals are beamed to a satellite and the
round white receiving dishes that capture them on earth again.