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Alexander Gieg


There are two small problems with this article.

First is the notion that you must upload a file to an intermediary and then download from it. This actually isn't necessary. One can upload directly to another person. Provided the download speed from the receiving end is equal or faster than the upload speed from the sender, the file will be received at maximum upload speed.

Second is the notion about pigeons "flying back". As far as I know, this doesn't happen. A pigeon only flies in one direction: towards its home, the place it was born. Thus, if you want to use carrier pigeons to receive something, you must have some raised with you, the sender must take them with him for when they're needed, and once he wants to send you something, he frees the pigeon. Two way communication is only possible as long as both sides have a "livestock" of mutually raised pigeons. As soon as both are depleted, the only way to replenish is for both parties to have their pigeons shipped again to each other.

Correcting both things would fix a few results. But overall the conclusions wouldn't change much.



The article also neglects to acknowledge multicast. That is, one can distribute a large amount of data to a large number of recipients in a locality simultaneously (eg an ISP maintaining a local FTP mirror of popular content), whilst Sneakernet is very much a 1-to-1 distribution method.

Kris De Decker


@ Alexander: "One can upload directly to another person"

Agreed, by using p2p. But in most cases (http, ftp, email), this is not the case. You upload to an intermediary server, and I download from it. P2P has disadvantages, and not everybody knows how to use it.

Peter Murray


A couple of years ago I attempted calculations for the bandwidth of a Boeing 747 filled with BluRay discs traveling between New York and Los Angeles. 74Tb/s. (http://dltj.org/article/internet2-hopi-network/#comment-2142)

Kees Huyser


Never underestimate the bandwidth of a station wagon full of tapes hurtling down the highway. —Tanenbaum, Andrew S. (1996). Computer Networks. New Jersey: Prentice-Hall. pp. 83. ISBN 0-13-349945-6.

The original version of this quotation came much earlier; the very first problem in Tanenbaum's 1981 textbook Computer Networks asks the student to calculate the throughput of a St. Bernard carrying floppy disks (which are said to hold 250 kilobytes of data). The first USENET citation is July 16, 1985, and it was widely considered a chestnut already, possibly dating from the 1970s[citation needed]. Other alleged speakers included Tom Reidel, Warren Jackson, or Bob Sutterfield. The station wagon transporting magnetic tapes is the canonical version, but variants using trucks or Boeing 747s and later storage technologies such as CD-ROMs have frequently appeared.

Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sneakernet



This is a very interesting arguement but you have to be moving some very large files to make it worthwhile. How many 500 GB files are there in the world that the average user would need to send to someone.

Also, I can't take the time from my job to walk one mile (each way) let alone 25.

I am thinking of massive databases, but when I do a pull from a database (such as the Census database) I am not need the entire database, but simply a small subset that I can download in few seconds.

Leslie Viljoen


About pigeons "flying back", the wikipedia article says that they can be trained to do that by placing their home at one end and food on the other: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Carrier_pigeon



You wrote "After the appearance of the internet, computer freaks invented a term for this: the sneakernet."

Sneakernets were in use long before the internet. In 1986 we used the term "sneakernet" to describe carrying 5.25" DSDD floppies up and down the hall for file sharing. We learned the term at a conference held by then-fledgling and soon-to-be-giant Novell.

Jon P. in Florida



They did that carrier pigeon with a memory stick a few years ago in South Africa, and the pigeon bet the upload by an hour.

Also, why did you assume that there was a 4hr wait at the airport to depart? Maybe he has access to a private jet and isn't flying commerical. Some of those private jets can fly at transonic speeds M0.9+



To correct the middleman requirement for FTP: Of course one can start an FTP server on the very same machine that is the source or the destination of the data. Then just download from or upload to that FTP server and there is a file transfer between two machines.
Same procedure works using SSH and is the standard for transfering data from or to remote controlled servers in the internet now. The masses fear everything that is called server software. But its there and it is used by them who do not fear it.



Interesting thought. However, you rarely need to send such an amount of data at once. Now is fibernet pretty common in the world. I don't know about Asia or Africa though, but most countries that had no network before have it actually faster than the developed world, because they start with fibernet and not already obsolete technologies.

Sneakernet is now basically used only if the computer to receive data is very close to you / in the same building. So for example it is faster to upload a movie on a USB stick and then give it to your friend to download it. But even then, it might be faster to upload it via Wifi, which I believe now everybody has, through the router directly to the other computer.

And, in the end, you should count the time one spends when sending a medium, when you are uploading, you just need to spend few minutes and the process goes automatically. You do not need to go to the post of contact delivery service, or go by foot.

Dan Howell


Well, it's been over ten years, and we don't have even close to petabyte hard drives in our computers--even high end computers usually come with no more than 2TB standard, and the biggest hard drives you can buy are 16TB, 18TB or maybe 20TB. And fiber to every home is not a reality yet, but we are getting there.

But one prediction may have came fully true: For fast data transfer by carrier pigeon, we can probably strap a couple of 1TB microSD cards to a pigeon to carry 2TB of data!

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