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Do Tablets Signal Extinction for Desk Phones?

April 12, 2012 at 10:47 am PST

I read an interesting post on No Jitter yesterday that poses the question, “The End of the Desk Phone?” The author suggests that the era of the desk phone is coming to a close. The gist is that tablets are essentially going to take over the known universe and send desk phones the way of the Studebaker.

Like a lot of people, the author is particularly fond of Apple iPads and positions them as the ideal phone eliminator. Once upon a time a lot of people said the same thing about microwave ovens vs. regular stoves. Didn’t happen. Sure, I can make popcorn with a lot less fuss and muss, but convenient though it may be, it’s not the tool for baking a chicken – or better yet, chocolate chip cookies. Read More »

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From Telco Tragedy to Recovery in 28 Days

By Steven Shepard, Contributing Columnist

As companies grow large, we have a natural human tendency to declare them incapable of getting out of their own way. We see them as slow, inefficient and plodding dinosaurs surrounded by fleet-of-foot small companies that are so much more capable of getting things done — because of their apparent smallness.

And while there are certainly large companies that suffer from bigness, there are also quite a few that demonstrate amazingness, if you’ll allow me to make up a word (for agility, beyond compare). One of them? The mighty, much criticized Bell System, created in the transition zone between the 19th and 20th centuries.

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The Evolution of Communication Networks

By Steven Shepard, Contributing Columnist

When the telephone network became a commercial offering in the waning years of the 19th century, its architecture was quite different than the switch-centric, hub-and-spoke system that we have today. In that first iteration there was no concept of switching, the mechanical or electrical process of setting up a temporary connection between two parties for the duration of the call.

To talk with David on the telephone in those days, I would have had to have a dedicated circuit installed between my house and his. If I also wanted to be able to call my son or daughter, I would have to have additional circuits installed from my house to theirs.

This leads to what is known in the world of network topology as the “n times n minus one over two problem.” N is the number of people who want to be able to communicate with each other, and the little equation yields the number of circuits that must be installed to allow n people to talk with each other. Five people require ten circuits, but beyond that the number goes exponential. For a small city of 35,000 people like Burlington, Vermont, where I live, the number of circuits required to connect the city this way would be somewhere north of 600 million.

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