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TELECOSM: How Infinite Bandwidth will Revolutionize Our World Hardcover – September 11, 2000

3.4 out of 5 stars 53 customer reviews

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Amazon.com Review

And he said, "Let the computer age be over."
And so it was.

George Gilder, the tech-friendly author of the well-received chip treatise, The Meaning of the Microcosm, and publisher of the Gilder Technology Report, has brought forth Telecosm: How Infinite Bandwidth Will Revolutionize Our World, another work of technical prose that's sure to appeal to both techheads and nontechnical folks alike.

Telecosm predicts a revolutionary new era of unlimited bandwidth: it describes how the "age of the microchip"--dubbed the "microcosm"--is ending and leaving in its wake a new era--the "telecosm," or "the world enabled and defined by new communications technology."

Speaking like a prophet of the bandwidth deity, Brother Gilder lays down the telecosmic commandments--the Law of the Telecosm, Gilder's Law, the Black Box Law, and so on. He describes the gaggle of industry players--from cable and satellite to telephone and computer--who populate the telecosm arena.

Books about telecommunications rarely are quotable, but Telecosm at times is a brilliant example of magical and (believe it or not) mystical prose. Gilder's philo-techno perspective makes for interesting and thought-provoking musings: "Wrought of sand, oxygen, and aluminum, the three most common substances in the Earth's crust, the microprocessor distills ideas as complex as a street map of America onto a sliver of silicon the size of a thumbnail. This gift of the quantum is a miracle of compression." And, finally, he describes precisely what the telecosm will create among its congregation: "The gift of the telecosm is a miracle of expansion: grains of sand spun into crystalline fibers and woven into worldwide webs."

What happens when we become blessed with the miracle of infinite bandwidth? Gilder writes, "You can replace the seven-layer smart network with a much faster, dumber, unlayered one. Let all messages careen around on their own. Let the end-user machines take responsibility for them. Amid the oceans of abundant bandwidth, anyone who wants to drink just needs to invent the right kind of cup." And what of unlimited bandwidth? No mere contradiction in terms, unlimited bandwidth is what we strive for--"we" meaning those of us who suffer bravely through the contradictions of Moore's Law and Metcalfe's Law, as we increase our RAM and decrease our Net access time.

While it seems too simple to describe Telecosm as a telescopically written book of cosmic proportions, it is that and more. Gilder's political rants and raves for infinite bandwidth boldly foretell the age of the telecosm and its dramatic impact on all of us--of our metamorphosis from users who found ourselves bound by the limits of our networks to "bandwidth angels" who compute in the "Promethean light." --E. Brooke Gilbert

From Library Journal

Gilder, a highly respected and widely read technology analyst (Forbes, the Economist, the Wall Street Journal), predicts an impending "bandwidth blowout" that will reshape the way we do business and organize our lives. The author's The Meaning of Microcosm (1997) described a world dominated by the Microsoft- and Intel-based PC. In his latest work, a world enabled and dominated by new telecommunications technology will make human communication universal, instantaneous, unlimited in capacity, and free to all. Gilder explains the science and engineering trends of his predictions, who is fighting them, who will ride them to victory, and what it all means. He weaves together a number of rich and complex stories to back up his claims and provide readers with the necessary components toward understanding the pending telecosmic revolution. This book will be of interest to technologists, investors, and general-interest readers. Recommended for public and academic libraries.DJoe Accardi, Northeastern, Illinois Univ., Chicago
Copyright 2000 Reed Business Information, Inc.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 368 pages
  • Publisher: Free Press; 1 edition (September 11, 2000)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0684809303
  • ISBN-13: 978-0684809304
  • Product Dimensions: 9.6 x 6.4 x 1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.1 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (53 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,446,163 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
Many people have a point of view about how the telecommunications technology and industry will evolve, but few fully understand the principles and assumptions behind their own perspective. Telecosm is a valuable summary of the science, engineering, and most influential companies that have been leading the changes in telecommunications potential. Those who have an advanced understanding of the science can skip those sections (Part One) and still have an enjoyable read. Those who want to know the human side of the engineering will find many rewarding stories (Part Two).
The only people who will be disappointed will be those looking at his thoughts about investments (Part Four and Appendix B). First, it takes too long to bring out a book for the investment ideas to be any good by the time they appear. The market will have moved on. Second, this book is not enough in the futurist mode for us to find the important seedlings that will dominate the future. The companies discussed favorably in this book are visible and understood by most high technology investors already. Third, these ideas have been discussed for many years by Mr. Gilder in a variety of formats so they will only surprise people who are not familiar already with Mr. Gilder's nearly-ubiquitous prognostications.
Mr. Gilder has several strengths as a technology guru that are evident in Telecosm. First, he writes clearly, simply, and beautifully. No one else does it as well in this field. Second, he knows a lot of the people involved and can unveil the personalities and intellectual history in an engaging way, as a result. Third, he is a systems thinker, so he is adept at connecting one development to another in explaining his reasoning about why one thing or another has or will happen.
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Format: Hardcover
G. Gilder for many years had a reputation of the high-tech guru and the prophet of the "Internet Era". How justified is it? In fact he missed the Internet revolution altogether. Back in 1994, when the first Mosaic web browsers spread all over computer screens on campuses like a brush fire, he wrote and talked in his interviews and columns about the same things as now - increasing bandwidth, fiber optic lines, cable, interactive TV. Internet was occasionally mentioned in passing, Web - not at all. But isn't the Internet all about bandwidth and megabits per second? No, it would be like saying that the PC revolution of the early 80's was all about increasing number of transistors. Growing transistor count was one of the enabling driving forces. The revolution itself was radical shift in business models and organizational structures, huge leap in availability of computing power at the fingertips of much greater number of people. Similarly, the Internet revolution was not about more bits per second - it was a rapid and momentous transformation of the whole business of accessing and exchanging information by individuals and organizations all over the world. And G. Gilder largely missed it. To his credit, most of the other "gurus" missed it just as well. This is a pesky trait of true revolutions - to fool and confuse all pundits and pontificators gazing into their crystal balls.
Mr. Gilder is also often cited for in-depth knowledge of scientific and technical aspects of the "telecosm". I have an impression this reputation comes mostly from journalists who themselves understand very little of these technical issues, or those who do understand but directly benefit from his relentless promotion of certain technology companies.
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Format: Hardcover
This book is a big disappointment. It reads like a rushed job. A collection of Forbes ASAP articles stappled together. The organization of this book is poor. It jumps from topic to topic without any transition. There is little coherence across chapters. We get a bit on optics, and bit on wireless, a bit on Netscape and Java, etc, but Gilder does a poor job of telling the reader how everything fits together. Gilder's central thesis is never clearly articulated. At times Glider rambles and he repeats himself ad nausea. Sometimes exactly the same sentence is repeated within two paragraphs (where on earth were the editors?). The explanation of the technology is shallow. Don't look to this book to gain a layman's understanding of optical networking, or wireless technology, or the economics of either, because you won't get it. Instead, Glider uses extravagant language as a substitution for deep explanation. He goes on and on and on about "Maxwell's rainbow", "incandescent fibers", "Cathedral's of glass", and the like without ever stopping to dig deeper into the workings of the technology or educate the reader about the economic impact of all this. Actually, the language itself is a major source of irritation. If you like Gilder's hyperbolic use of language, perhaps you can live with it, but I was grinding my teeth by the second chapter. There is also his annoying tendency of putting his pet heroes and companies on "shimmering pillars of incandescent glass", while he denigrates his favorite whipping boys. And when he makes the truly absurd claim that Marc Andreessen is the next Bill Gates, the man's credibility goes out the window. It's really a shame, because at one time Gilder could write, and he clearly knows a lot. I suspect he could have done a much better job. In the final analysis, this book tells us less about the triumph of the Telecosm than it does about the triumph of Gilder's uniquely irritating style over substance.
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