Presentation Notes

NET TRAVELLER - Exploring the Networked Nation

By Tom Worthington

  • Exploring the Networked Nation


    This is about how the Internet and the World Wide Web became a part of my everyday life - for business and pleasure. It consists of edited versions of web pages and other on-line documents prepared during my last five years working and living on-line.
    My first web page was prepared for a presentation at the Australian Computer Society Canberra Branch, 20 July 1994:
    It is intended to not be a polished performance, but like a holiday slide show. The photographs have been scanned at a resolution suitable for display on a personal computer and compressed to be transmitted in a reasonable time ... This describes a holiday in Europe, during which I did some work and visited some people.
    Those few words summarise how I spent much of the following five years: preparing on-line presentations, doing work on the Internet and visiting some people.
    No one really knew the Internet was going to be a success and no one knows now what will be the next big thing on the net. Many corporations have tried to lay claim to the on-line world and have failed. That failure is partly due to over optimism about technology and partly a failure to understand the social factors at work.

    Web at Exercise K95


    In mid 1995 the web was still largely experimental in the Department of Defence. The home page had been running successfully for several months, but we needed to show that Defence was different to the average government agency or commercial company. On a visit to the public relations area, I noticed a pile of press kits for the planned exercise, Kangaroo 95. I suggested this could be put on-line, with reports from the exercise on the web. Following the exercise I received several comments from people at the exercise that they got better reports from the web pages than from internal channels. This lead to the idea discussed later, of using the web for military command and control.
    I prepared a special K95 Web home page for the exercise, as manager of the Defence home page and while a member of the Commonwealth Internet Reference Group. This is believed to be the first time a military exercise has been reported direct via the Interent.
    The home page has background material on the exercise, the daily reports and photos sent by Robert Lester. In addition, there is a link to the daily weather report for the area, from the Bureau of Meteorology and daily satellite image courtesy of the University of Wollongong and James Cook University.
    For the first week of the exercise I was officially on holiday, but maintained the K95 home page remotely using a pocket modem and lap top PC from Mallacoota, Victoria.

    Hot Air Balloon Over Canberra


    The 14th World Computer Congress (IFIP96) was held in Canberra in 1996, during my term as President of the Australian Computer Society (host for IFIP96). I invited one of the speakers, Senator Kate Lundy, to transmit photos live from a hot air balloon over Canberra. Lift off was at 7:30am AEST, Friday 16 August 1996
    Equipment: Digital camera, laptop computer, GSM digital mobile telephone and PC card data adaptor.
    Getting the photos: Kate Lundy used the camera to snap photos in the usual way. Instead of film the digital camera stores the images in a non-volatile ``Flash RAM'' PC card. I then loaded the photos as data into the laptop computer, by removing the PC card from the camera and inserting it in the computer. The photos were then edited and compressed to make them suitable for transmitting, using software on the PC.
    Announcing the photos: I sent an electronic mail message is using the same PC, software and link to the head office of the International Federation for Information Processing (IFIP) in Europe. Software on IFIP's system relayed the message to the Presidents of the 65 member societies of IFIP around the world. Also a message was sent to some of the ACS's 16,000 members and other interested viewers in Australia and elsewhere.
    Digital images sent by mobile telephone have some serious uses and implications. This, for example, could be fitted into a radio controlled model aircraft to make a low-cost surveillance platform for use over a city by emergency services. See:

    USS Blue Ridge by Helicopter


    In 1996, I received an odd request in my e-mail at the Department of Defence: the Texas National Guard wanted to know what the weather was like in central Queensland. They were scheduled to take part in something called Exercise Tandem Thrust 97 and wanted to know what to bring. I forwarded the request to Australian Defence Force HQ and thought nothing more about it for several months. Then, as described below, an e-mail invitation resulted in my visiting the exercise in a borrowed uniform. This account is prepared from a web travelogue (Worthington 1997) and a seminar for the Australian Defence Force Academy and the Australian College of Defence and Strategic Studies (Worthington 1997b). These told how ordinary computers and Internet technology could be used for military command and control. This was heresy to military system designers, but some of my suggestions were adopted a few months later for a new deployable headquarters.
    The 620-foot 18,500 ton, 1550 crew USS Blue Ridge (LCC 19) is a purpose built Command and Control ship. The primary function is as the flagship of the U.S. Seventh Fleet. The secondary function as a command ship for Amphibious Task Force and Landing Force Commanders during fleet operations and as a flagship for the Commander Joint Task Force (CJTF), as in Tandem Thrust 97.
    Below decks looks like a cross between a warship and a computer center.

    Hi-Tech Tourist in Europe


    This is a look at Europe by an Australian information technology professional. In 1994 I visited Oxford University and reported the trial, tribulations and tips of checking my e-mail while abroad. This includes how to: talk your way into a university computer centre to check your e-mail and write an academic paper without effort, while on holiday.
    It was given as a talk to the Australian Computer Society Canberra Branch on 20 July 1994 and was my first web document on the Internet (Worthington 1994a). It was not intended to be a polished performance, but like a holiday slide show. The photographs were scanned at a resolution suitable for display on a personal computer and compressed to be transmitted in a reasonable time (about 30 seconds each) with a, then common, 9600 bps modem.
    The first photo is the view out of the window of the Radford Infirmary - Oxford, the hospital where penicillin was first tested. It also appears in the sets of some of the Inspector Morse, made for television, movies (Carlton Television 1999). To the right and over a bit is the Oxford University Computer Services centre. The infirmary has a stone floor in some parts. This has two curious features: it is worn from use and it is warm.
    A few kilometres outside Oxford is Blenheim Palace. The grounds have a lake designed by the English landscape architect Capability Brown. The lake is bisected by a bridge (visible in the distance in the photo), that carries a road from the Palace to a monument in the distance. The layout is reminiscent of that of Canberra's lake and Parliament House.

    Building the Virtual Organisation


    On-line working is still more of a concept than a reality in most Australian government agencies and businesses. The push paradigm, of sending out information in the hope someone may need it, is still current. E-mail technology applied at this simplistic level is creating a problem in many organisations, by drowning staff in useless information. This could be changed to a pull paradigm: providing a pool of information people can share, search and discuss, as required. As part of this, the concept of an ``office'' (or a military headquarters) as a group of people at one physical location, at one time, could change. An organisation will become a group of people, linked by on-line resources, to achieve a common goal.



    I hope to have encouraged you to become involved in deciding the direction for the Internet, rather than just being a ``user'' of it. Technological developments are not inevitable and technologists are not fallible. There are many choices for us all to make in how this tool will be used for community benefit, as well as commerce.

    Community Benefit


    The Internet and the culture surrounding it cannot be understood on the basis only of corporations seeking to exploit resources. The net has long been a playground for individuals, and a significant proportion of the traffic has been of little direct benefit to their employers. It has been of great indirect importance, however, as it has resulted in the foundation of electronic communities, and an explosion of creativity.
    Access to networked resources is quickly assuming the shape of a public utility, i.e. a service that needs to be available to all, on an equitable basis. Advanced western societies have recognised clean water, electricity and the telephone as facilities that the majority of people should have access to. In the same manner, network access becoming a reasonable expectation a civilised information society. However, unlike many utilities, an information infrastructure must support a great diversity of services.
    The whole population needs skills in order to operate computer equipment and use the basic application software. Moreover, the nature of the media makes new styles of communication necessary. For example, replying to email demands care with the selection of addressees. Commenting on documents, and on other people's comments about documents, requires some form of linking arrangements or text to ensure that recipients understand to what the comment relates.
    See: Vision for a Networked Nation:



    From 12 to 27 November 1996 I travelled to Windsor and Cambridge in the UK. The main reason was an invitation to a meeting on the Internet publishing and professional licensing issues by the British Computer Society to the ACS and others. Also there was the opportunity to visit IT researchers. More generally, I had been addressing various issues to do with on-line publishing and wanted to collect my thoughts on the issue and perhaps set them down for presentation. Cambridge, as a city of learning, appeared the ideal place to do this.
    One conclusion from my trip is that the personal aspect is important to IT and lacking from the general approach in Australia.

    Emulating HiTech Success


    Australia can cultivate a cultured high technology image to develop and promote its information industries. The raw material of IT is talented people in a stimulating environment. Marketing of the products they produce can also be helped by the cultural reputation of where they produce it.
    Information Technologists need to be pashonate about their wor. Politicians and voters want a vision of what can be accomplished through IT.
    The report``Sink or Swim - Discipline Research Strategy on Information technology'' examined the situation of research in Information Technology (IT) in Australia and aimed to show how the nation could gain increasing benefit from its investment in the discipline.
    The growth of high technology industries around Cambridge came from informal contacts, modest locally arranged financing and organic growth from existing small independent companies.
    An example of an Australian centre combining culture and technology is the Australian Technology Park (ATP) at the old Eveleigh Railway Workshops, in Sydney. This contrasts with the barren landscape and disappointments of the MFP Technology Park in Adelaide.

    Net Traveller



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    Copyright © Tom Worthington 1999.