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Fragile Data Communications Infrastructures

As I write this column I'm watching as events unfold at the San Fernando Valley, CA earthquake. This devastating natural disaster shows us just how fragile human civilization really is. Residents of Sylmar, Northridge, and other Los Angeles environs are now without power, water, natural gas. . . telephone, FAX, etc.

Do these people have other civilized accouterments like PCS/PCN (Personal Communication System/Personal Communication Network), WLANs (Wireless Local Area Network), or Data Superhighways -- or do they even really need them? It seems that natural disasters almost always target our high technology infrastructures. Los Angeles high tech re-enforced concrete freeways, overpasses, bridges, parking garages, new hospitals and even modern apartment building have fallen down in alarming numbers.

Are the systems that we are designing for the next generation of data communications just more stuff that will fail, come the next natural disaster? Computers and computer data communications are not yet must have items of necessity like water, power, gas and telephone service. But, someday businesses, at least, may count on our SS systems to be robust enough to survive earthquakes and other natural disasters. Have you designed in enough redundancy, enough robustness, enough standby sources of power for your data communications products?

I'11 bet not one SS product in a thousand has ever considered the effects of natural disasters on system operation. But you might like to sell your products to police departments, fire departments, water / gas / utility companies -- right? Don't you think it's high time to consider environmental "robustness" in your system design? I especially think that the supporting infrastructures of our next generation data communications products need to make provisions to survive the most common natural disasters.

Future PCS/PCN systems, wide area or metropolitan wireless LANS and many other SS systems fall into this category. It would be a simple matter to provide for system survival in all but the most severe natural disasters. Sure it would cost more to design environmental "robustness" into our systems. But, would these features benefit mankind or civilization? I think that this issue should become food for thought and a topic for discussion in our trade groups and even in informal gatherings. Don't you think we should do something?

1993' Best SS Products

Back to day-to-day, mundane business -- this month marks a milestone, of sorts, for SSS. We present our First Annual "Best SS Product" awards for the year 1993. As you see on the cover, GRE's GINA received the "Best SS Hardware" Award. We had to split the other two categories of Software and Applications, to accommodate the outstanding entries in these fields, The stories on these awards begin on page 9 of this issue. Please read these features to find out just what made the best products of 1993.

In the following months we plan to do more in-depth review of each of the winners in each category. 1993 had a great crop of outstanding products -- here is your chance to find out all about them.

To those who did not win an award from SSS in 1993 -- work harder in 1994! Seriously, there were just a lot of very good products out there -- we picked what we were familiar with and what we thought was best. You may accuse us of bias -- but we had to choose from what we have evaluated, first hand. To get an early start for an award in 1994, simply make us aware of your product -- send us literature, press releases or working samples. We can't evaluate or judge what we don't know about!

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