Friday, 6 June 2014

faster than a stream of bits


I've spent today locked away in work, as indeed I was until around 10pm yesterday evening. Although the doors are not as complicated as the NASA JPL instructions above, it sometimes feels like it when I sometimes work in secure environments.

The above JPL warning featured today on brain pickings and it also inadvertently reminded me of another 'The Obald' flashback moment.

I used to work in a place not too far removed from the novel's imagined environment. It was so Civil Servanty that when we ordered any new furniture (filing cabinets or chairs), they would come in a randomly selected colour. We had mainly bright orange, green, shiny grey and beige, I seem to recollect.

We were doing things with special big room computers in times when today's high bandwidth communications were still considered as 'impossible' by various technicians.

I had a secret squirrel task that involved getting a load of data from Pasadena JPL and it had to be sent across by plane on a tape, because it was 'far too much' to be transmitted by any other means. We did have direct communication links with the USA, but only with low-speed lines really only useful for sending short messages around.

So the tape duly arrived, but was corrupted because of something that happened in transit. I sent for another one, creating what was probably a two week response time to my original data request.

The Obald features a computer doing mysterious stuff, ably backed up by similarly manual processes.

Little did we all know just how quickly the pace would pick up.

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