Robust Multimedia

Technology & Learning, March 1993 | Go to article overview

Robust Multimedia


To ensure the longevity of its multimedia communications network, Burnaby South designed its infrastructure around core components that would carry the school long into the future.

Cabling

Top-notch, high-capacity cabling was critical, as the school's needs for video will only expand over time. Such future needs may involve more laserdisc players, more VCRs -- or access to an explosion in satellite and cable TV service expected in the next ten years.

The particular source of future video channels isn't important; the capacity to deliver these sources certainly is, when the school has the chance to ensure its capacity ahead of time.

With a fiber-optic "backbone" for its multimedia network, Burnaby South may have enough capacity for decades. "Fiber gives you a very high-quality video signal," says Jeremy Meharg, Burnaby South's department head for educational technologies. "It also gives you the capacity for an amazing number of video channels. You can get 300 or 400 channels per fiber, or thousands for the whole cable --if you use 'multiplexing' devices at the termination points.

"Right now, the cost of multiplexing is high. But it's going to come down in price -- and when it does, we'll be able to add incredible capacity to our existing cabling."

Burnaby South made a similar long-range decision in selecting IBM token-ring networks to connect its 400 PS/2s to the fiber-optic backbone.

In tandem with "shielded twisted pair" cabling, these token-ring networks will allow the school to network more than 70 video channels -- as well as traditional computer applications -- directly to individual PSI2s. "We won't use the capacity initially," says Meharg, "but we eventually plan to bring video directly to the PS/2s. By using the token-ring cabling, we can build in video capability at the start."

According to Meharg, the capacity of the token-ring network for regular computer applications is also impressive.

"Performance doesn't degrade as more users go on the network," he says. "The cabling itself is also more rugged and stable than other solutions, which can be fragile. That's very important in an educational environment."

OS/2

Burnaby South chose IBM 0S/2 as its desktop interface with a similar eye to its capacity. Since 0S/2 runs popular DOS and Windows applications, students and teachers could still run familiar applications. With its highly regarded graphical interface, 0S/2 provides an easy transition for those accustomed to using a Macintosh(R). …

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