Pigeon post beats email

We mutter about the frustrations of rural broadband which isn’t very fast, but it’s better than dial up and it’s definitely better than South Africa where a carrier pigeon got a message through faster than email:

Computer experts at a South African firm said it took six hours to transfer four gigabytes of encrypted data from Durban to a call centre 50 miles away near Pietermaritzburg.

Staff at Unlimited Group, a financial services company, today attached a memory card to the leg of a pigeon called Winston who took just over an hour for the trip.

In total the flight, plus the time needed for the data to be uploaded, took under three hours. 

Pigeon post was used by the Persians and Romans more than 2000 years ago . How far have we come when in some parts of the world that’s still faster than 21st century technology?

3 Responses to Pigeon post beats email

  1. PaulL says:

    Pigeon post 2000 years ago couldn’t transfer 4 gigabytes of data. It could transfer about 500 bytes – or the amount you could write on a small scroll of paper.

    There will always be a data size such that I can put the tape/memory card/disk drive in a truck and drive it there faster. For 4GB, the transfer speed of the pigeon at 3 hours is 3Mbps, ignoring contention. That is a pretty fast connection – not that many city people have a connection that can upload that fast.

    FYI, the maths here is pretty simple:
    4 Gigabytes per 3 hours
    8 bits in a byte, so
    32 Giga bits per 3 hours
    32,000,000,000 bits per 3 hours
    3 x 60 x 60 = 10,800 seconds
    2,962,962 bits per second
    3 Mega bits per second

    Most connections can only transfer around half their rated throughput, so you’d really need 6 Mbps bandwidth to transfer this in 3 hours. For those of you on ADSL, remember it is upload speed we’re talking here, not download. A really fast ADSL 2+ connection does up to 24Mbps download, but only around 4Mbps upload.

    In short, this is another example spam journalism, attempting to sensationalise something that isn’t news at all – 4GB is a big file and it takes a long while to copy from place to place.


  2. homepaddock says:

    PaulL – those facts have just spoiled a really good story 🙂


  3. gravedodger says:

    Sympathy for HP, he does do that at times, I know from personal experience of receiving an intellectual slapping or three.


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