name dropping / satellite delivery (1998)

One way to embarrass the great majority of able, non-techy people is to ask them to look something up on the Internet. While they can dial a number to call someone, push a button to get a TV station – most of the world aren’t quite ready for typing www-dot-firm-dot-filename to get things on the Web.

That the Internet continues to boast growth in mega-humans is no real measure of a world’s newly acquired happiness with technology.
But now a new service from US company ‘Centraal’ promises to do away with the dots, slashes and underscores. In future if a chocolate firm wanted you to look them up they would tempt you to key in say, “Chocs Ltd” instead of the more tricky and sticky URL’s we now endure. The system they’re calling the ‘Real Name System’, also allows users to reach a firm’s Web site with ease. Typing the real name or a phrase such as ‘what I really really want’ might one day find them the Spice Girls. In this way they’ll be able to go directly to parts of a site, or use say, a TV programme name to take them to a TV channel’s front page.

Centraal are hoping that the browser software producers, search engines and Internet service providers will take the initiative seriously enough to embed to idea into the system. They are also hoping that firms will want to register their arrays of brand names at a price of $40 a year. It at least compares well to the cost of registering a domain name by other routes. Federal Express, Volkswagen and Ford cars are among the early adopters.

The plug-in or browser upgrade that makes this possible is available from the “real names” Web site. You do have to type www.centraal.com to get there, which for the rest of the population is surely the uphill part of the deal.

Satellite delivery

Typing long URL’s isn’t the only thing slowing us down as we know, though a satellite delivery service launched in the Middle East is a promising turn-up. Dubai’s Cable Satellite and Broadcast ’98 saw the arrival of ‘Turbo WebCast’ from Hughes Olivetti Telecom – a packaged delivery system that sends files out at around 3 Mbits per second. In down to earth terms, it delivers the equivalent of a 625 Mbyte CD-Rom in about 30 minutes, whereas using ISDN at 128Kb/s, the same file would take nearly 12 hours. At these speeds say HOT, they’ve the capability of distributing multimedia, video, audio for business television, videoconferencing and distance learning.

The European launch will be at June’s Cebit exhibition in Germany and by using multicast, the future saviour of the Internet, information on thousands of corporate desktops spread all over Europe can be updated quickly, easily and simultaneously. Clearly, it is the closest we’ve got to true Internet ‘push’ where content is indeed pushed instead of being pulled or grabbed with a click on a page. Strangely, for these days when interactivity is king, the corporate HQ select the broadcast material via a central link to the satellite service. Even so, this not-so interactive system is expected to find applications in training, corporate communications, remote surveillance and multimedia distribution. The key characteristic of these niche applications is that they require one-to-many communication.

A domestic version of the service, called Turbo Internet has already gone live in the US and gives some clues to the future over here. So too does the UK education wing of the initiative, called not so surprisingly ‘Space Academy’, which can beam multimedia goodies to classrooms. Turbo Internet uses ‘DirecPC’ hardware comprising a 21cm dish linked to a PC card in the computer and delivers data at 400Kbps – still 10 times faster than a regular modem. While the dish is able to pick up regular broadcast material it cannot of course send. The interactive side of the link is carried by a regular modem and phone line. Given today’s telecom charges in Europe the domestic system is looking like another uphill struggle for acceptance. (Roger Frost 1998)

Contacts
Real names www.centraal.com

DirectPC US www.direcpc.com DirectPC Europe www.direcpceu.com