TECH #25

So what’s all the hubbub over Internet2? You may have seen coverage of ODU’s participation in a project which promises to speed up the transfer of information between computers by hundreds of times. It involves a technology called ATM, or asynchronous transfer mode. “First of all it has nothing to do with automated teller machines.” Kim Booth is a spokesperson for FORE systems, Inc. in Pittsburgh. Last week that firm pledged over $1 million in advanced networking equipment, and to work closely to support the development of the Internet2.

“ATM is a connection oriented technology.” Booth explained. “To understand how it works you need to know a little about how other computer networking systems do their job. In your office, the LAN – Local Area Network – connects all the computers to each other. It has a set capacity, divided among each user. The more users, the less capacity each has for big files like audio and video.” Booth continued. “With ATM, each user has the full capacity of the system. Sort of like the difference between a private phone line and a party line.” Is this technology being used other than in developing a new faster Internet?

“Right now it’s used for medical imaging, and behind the scenes at big Internet providers like CompuServe and America Online. I think the coolest use is out in Hollywood.” Booth said. How so? “You know all those great computer special effects in the movies? Well a lot of companies do the work in a big computer lab, and ten using ATM, transfer the special effects right to the motion picture production facilities.” She’s right, that is pretty cool.