Wednesday, May 31, 2006

I been workin' on the LambdaRail

What do Promontory, Utah and the fiber optic LambdaRail network have in common?

They're both about connecting people and commerce, technology and trade. They're both about vision, achievement and big ideas that change the world. But it goes even deeper than that.

Promontory's the spot where the first US Transcontinental Railroad was completed in 1869. The railroad right-of-way which started 137 years ago in northern Utah still impacts us today as Utah connects to National LambdaRail, an ultrahigh-speed fiber optic network for education and research.

Without the physical railroad to literally pave the way, the fiberoptic rail might have taken a much different pathway to Utah. Railroad rights-of-way are not only about tracks for trains, but routes and land for natural gas pipelines, electric power transmission lines and fiber-optic cable.

Until a few weeks ago, I didn't realize I had several personal connections to both the old rail and the new one.

Connection 1: As kid growing up in the sixties I always liked May. It's the month of my birth. It's the month that school gets out. And a hundred years earlier it was the time when the Union Pacific and the Central Pacific railroads met each other in my home state. I remember liking the subject as a kid, perhaps because I had my own electric trains, and certainly because I'd been to the historic spot for tailgate breakfast of bacon and eggs with my aunt, uncle and cousin.

Connection 2: Skip ahead 35 years to 2002. I'm working at the Utah Education Network which shares space with KUED,TV, KUER-FM and KUEN-TV at the Eccles Broadcast Center. Emmy-award winning producer Ken Verdoia produced the first-ever TV documentary about Promontory. I got a chance to do a few voice-over lines of historial narration for program.

Connection 3: Then just a few weeks ago, I got involved in writing a news release on LambdaRail's arrival in Utah thanks to UEN and the University of Utah. I sat in on an interview as the U of U's science writer, Lee Siegel talked to Steve Hess, the U's Associate VP for Info Technology. When Steve told Lee about the physical routing of the LambdaRail fiber, a chill went up spine, as I realized the train story of my childhood and the 21st century story I sought to tell were so tightly connected. Read more:

1 comment:

Bill said...

In 1969 I was working for KUTV, then on Social Hall Avenue along with the other TV stations, channel 4 and 5. As part of a live broadcast to commemorate the 100th anniversary, we rigged up some Morse code equipment to simulate what happened back then.

Originally the hammer and spike were set as contacts for the Morse code transmission so a series of dits went out for hammer hits. When the spike was driven, an operator sent "done" via Morse to the nation. We used a heathkit audio oscillator to simulate the code.

Morse code was a precursor to tcp/ip, and in fact has been called the tcp/ip of the Victorian age. Here is more information on that subject than you might have known or wanted to know.

Dit dah dit.