by David G. Propson
The wait is over — the oft-delayed tome from techno-pundit George Gilder is finally here. And, according to the author, the future is on its way fast. Gilder says that dial-up connections and the “World Wide Wait” will soon be thrown on the same scrap heap as party lines and plug-operated switchboards. In the future, we’ll have more bandwidth than we’ll know what to do with.<
No one is better positioned to explain how this will come to be than Gilder, whose earlier book, Microcosm, contemplated the workings and wider effects of microprocessors and PCs. He also hosts an annual conference dedicated to the coming world of infinite bandwidth. But in this book he never gets around to telling how this technology will “change your world.” It’s mostly about the science behind modern telecommunications and the businessmen who started telco behemoths. In the end, he explains just about everything readers could want to know about these technologies, except why they should care.
When he does get around to speculating on the possible effects on life and work, all he offers is a Jetsons-like vignette in which Dad checks his stocks in an electronic newspaper while Mom does the grocery shopping instantaneously. Since these folks don’t go to work, Gilder never gets a chance to reveal his vision of how his heroes will change the business world.
For instance, he gives a blow-by-blow description of advances in wireless and fiberoptic communications, starting with the discovery of the spectrum and ending with the phone call you answered last night. He also offers insights for those considering investing in new telco companies. These two topics don’t have much to do with one another, but they do make the book worth slogging through.
It seems Gilder kept working on Telecosm until the very last minute, desperately trying to out-race the future to include emerging companies and recent news before all of it became old hat. But in this onslaught of information many important points get lost. Who first figured out how to clad fiberoptic cables? Which is better, CDMA or TDMA, and why? Better check the index.
Gilder’s promised world of unlimited bandwidth won’t come a moment too soon. His book makes clear the problems of trying to put too much into too small a space.