December 01, 2000
Meetings & Conventions: Planner's Portfolio December 2000 Current Issue
December 2000 Tech filesPLANNER'S PORTFOLIO:




To understand new communications technologies, begin by learning the lingo

Not so long ago, the language of communications consisted primarily of the words telephone and operator. Today, new terms arrive almost daily, many of them quickly becoming a part of our everyday vocabulary. Here are some you need to know.

Often referred to as a "network appliance," this is a low-cost PC designed specifically for Internet access or a specialized business use. Examples are the Apple iMac and Compaq iPAQ.

Simply, how fast data is transmitted over a phone line, coaxial cable, by wireless transmission, etc. The larger the bandwidth, the faster information travels.

An industry standard referring to the wireless process that interconnects mobile phones, computers and personal digital assistants. It permits your Palm Pilot to act as a phone, to sync up with data on your PC and to send a fax or e-mail.

This is the ability to carry huge volumes of voice and video over a network or the Internet. Broadband enables the transmission of video and games to a PC without jumpy images. Cable modem. Enables you to link your PC to a local cable coaxial line and receive data at up to 1.5 Mbps (megabits per second). The service is similar to that provided through DSL (see below), but speed deteriorates as more users are plugged into the local lines.

DSL (digital subscriber line).
Brings high bandwidth to homes and offices via copper phone lines. Limited service areas are still a problem, as you need to be close to the phone company's central office or substation to receive it.

This popular local-area-network (LAN) technology links PCs equipped with a network card to each other. The connection used to need a cable or special twisted-pair wires, but now wireless transmitters work, too. Gateway. This is a network point that acts as an entrance to another network. Think of the network at your office or ISP (Internet service provider) as your gateway to the Internet. You move from server to server, each a new gateway, to get to the information you are searching for.

Peer-to-peer applications.
These allow people to use the Internet to exchange files with each other directly from their hard drives. Napster was peer-to-peer: Subscribers could copy music files from other subscribers' hard drives.

TCP/IP (transmission control protocol/Internet protocol).
This is the basic language of the Internet. The TCP portion slices a message or file into small packets of data for transmission; the information is received by another TCP control, which reassembles the packets. The IP portion handles the packet's address to make sure it arrives at the correct destination.

WAP (wireless application protocol).
A communications protocol that standardizes the way wireless devices access the Internet. An example of this is the installation of wireless Internet service in Austin-Bergstrom International and Dallas/Fort Worth International airports, permitting users with a radio-based Ethernet card to connect to the Internet anywhere within the terminal and baggage-claim area.

XML (extensible markup language).
With the explosion of the Internet as a repository for information, a common format for sharing data between diverse systems was needed. XML was created as a standard code to describe data. For example, {phonenum} indicates that what follows is a phone number. This standardization allows diverse databases and applications to share data.

Bob Walters, based in Fair Oaks Ranch, Texas, is the founder of Phoenix Solutions and developer of MeetingTrak software.

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