Steve says in a Comment on the idea “Wireless Digital Camera” by Maskone (posted Thu Mar 25 2004): “There are so many millions of mobiles around, maybe it would be possible to build some kind of walkie-talkie technology into them, so the data could hop from one mobile to the next (and not via the phone company), much like the data on the internet hops from one network point to the next, until it reaches the destination.” (posted Sun Apr 11, 2004).
I pondered Steve’s interesting and challenging idea. Suppose we expand this idea a bit to include the transfer not only of digital images but of all the other kinds of information we currently send over the internet. We put a transmitter-receiver on the roof of each house on the planet, and we attach it to a relay computer in each house that is permanently switched on. One of the tasks of these relay computers is to receive files etc. from nearby transmitters and forward them on to other transmitters in the directions of their destinations. We would also connect everyone’s home computers to the relay computers. And either specially adapted mobile phones or tiny portable relay computers would be the mobile component of the network.
Are we beginning to create one giant computer here stretching right around the planet? Could this be the next big step beyond the internet? Many have imagined the internet as providing the way to create a giant world-wide computer. Steve’s idea suggests a different way to do it, and if a few technical problems could be sorted out, perhaps a potentially much more powerful way.
This giant Computer Earth would have two quite different kinds of interconnections - the present type of wire and optical fiber, and Steve’s all-encompassing wirelessly communicating short-distance hopping connections. Reminiscent of the brain with its long distance nerve fiber connections and the numerous short-distance connections between each brain cell and its neighbors.
I presume the idea of connecting computers around the world wirelessly has already been considered and researched in some detail, but so far it has not advanced (as far as I know) beyond local centres of activity, linear connections between computers, and applications such as Bluetooth. There are clearly plenty of challenges for inventive minds to solve here. Creating a fully interconnected network of home computers right around the world which can act as one giant computer is surely one of the great holy grails of our times. The internet is a great start but it lacks the intense and intimate connectivity of the human brain. Could Steve’s three dimensional and ubiquitous wireless hopping connections turn the present-day cold and linear internet into Computer Earth?
Reward: A free connection to Computer Earth!