With the ever increasing transmission speeds carrying data across the Internet we are at the beginning of the video communications era for everyone. Video depends upon transmission speed. Let me illustrate by an example from the past. There were the first analog video telephones sometime in the mid 80's. Being a Nerd I was so tempted to get a set (one needed to use the exact same phone at each end of the analog telephone line to send and then receive the video signals). These phones were sold by the old AT&T.
On these phones the video was small screen, grainy, and slow because the transmission speed was 9,600 bits per second or somewhat higher. The gold standard for digital voice transmission was the T-1 carrier speed of 64 Kbps or 64,000 bits per second. A single T-1 circuit carried 24 voice lines and operated at 1.544 Million bits per second. Vonage and other voice communication services today send voice at 90 Kbps. So you can guess why their voice quality is exceptional. Yes, it is due to higher transmission speed (90 Kbps > 64 Kbps) and more sophisticated voice compression.
The early cable television high speed internet access was 384 Kbps up to and 1 Mbps down from the Internet into your home. Today's FIOS speeds are 3 Mbps up to and 15 or 20 Mbps (20 million bits per second) down from the Internet. Why is more speed needed? Video! Sending pictures and streaming video requires more and more speed depending upon the size (a cell phone screen vs. a 50" HDTV plasma monitor) and quality (full motion video is roughly 30 screen refreshes per second). Size is less physical size sent and more the picture elements (dots or pixels) sent. A typical PC screen today is 1024 by 768 dots or pixels. My nerd monitors are 1920 by 1200 pixels. Sorry just bragging here. It lets me see the whole sheet of paper while I am writing this article.
Web cams let you send video from your Windows PC to other Windows PCs. They have varying resolutions and frame speeds. Higher and bigger numbers are always better. In the early web camera days I have used old web cams to send and receive video with people (that I did not know) overseas across analog telephone lines. I made at least two connections to Asia and one to the Irish bartender after he had closed his pub in Ireland. At the time, it was way cool!
Now streaming video from high quality web cams make Facebook and Myspace possible for millions of people. With Skype you make streaming video telephone calls between PCs. Netflix is streaming movies to PCs off the Internet. Eyejot lets you record video email with your web cam and send it to any other PC. It stores the email on the Eyejot server and plays it when the email is opened. We are only scratching the surface. Within ten years we will use video for all communications.
Years ago MIT researched a portable computer called the oxygen computer that was hand held. The computer hardware was exactly the same for all uses. Consequently, it could be manufactured in large volumes making it dirt cheap. Only the software adapted it for its use - phone - PC - Web Browser - GPS unit. Today that computer is the iPhone. It is targeted at the video and Internet surfing market. In the long term it will become much more. The 3g phones use 768 Kbps to carry information today. The 4g phones capable of 100 Mbps or higher are coming soon.
So we will all use video communications. It is inevitable. Even though I have resisted Facebook and Myspace so far, the time for me to learn them is fast approaching. When something is inevitable, one may as well just participate and enjoy.
Link to Videoconferencing
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