You may have seen this story over the weekend. An IT firm in South Africa was experiencing problems with transferring large amounts of data over the internet between two of their offices, 50 miles apart. They decided to put the data onto a flash card and send it by carrier pigeon, and at the same time try and send the data electronically. By the time the pigeon got to its destination, they'd only downloaded 4% of the information via their ISP, which uses signals travelling at the speed of light.
Apparently South Africa suffers from a lack of bandwidth. This is, of course, a term that comes from radio communications. Although people talk about broadcasting on a particular frequency, depending on what that is, and on the information rate, a certain amount of space either side of that frequency is also used up in that broadcast, and this is referred to as bandwidth. Or something. I'm not fully up on all the gory details.
Because it's do with information rates, your radio station needs more bandwidth than someone sending Morse Code, and your TV station needs a lot more than either of them.
Although they only sent 4GB an hour via this pigeon (forgetting about the time it took to load the data onto the card), they could presumably have sent 256GB just as easily - you can get 256GB cards that aren't very big these days. So the pigeon could have been sending data at the rate of 2 million Megabits/second. Compared with, say, the 1.5 Megabits that I get at home.
Someone has even worked out a way of using carrier pigeons to sent regular internet (IP) traffic. It's called IPOAC (IP over Avian Carriers), and is RFC 1149. All internet standards are documented in RFCs. This one was written for April Fool's day 1990, but it has apparently been implemented by some students.
Of course, the main problem with using pigeons is latency. They might transport a lot of data fast, but the round trip that takes your google search to California and back would be even slower than the South African internet. And not much faster than mailing them.
I've been rather busy this week, and tired in the evenings, but I have continued my rather painful piano playing by attempting to play the Maple Leaf Rag. Like that IT firm, I'm going at a fraction of the proper speed and still making mistakes. I found someone on youtube who does it much better. As I've said before, I love these videos that people make and send in, instead of just ripped-off copies of professional videos.
Please Note: This video doesn't work very well by carrier pigeon.