being brown

Exploring Bandwidth

This is not really a blog post. Its a mini-post,  a post-let if you will! Just want to register my ‘wtf!’ moment before it slips my mind. But more importantly, a nice big juicy blog post is on its way and soon.

A colleague walked up to me and said “ I need you to help me to do this project. If there are any bandwidth issues, we should sort it out for next week.” This was the third time I had encountered this word in the last two weeks: bandwidth. It made an appearance in the middle of my boss’s soliloquy to me, “ I don’t have the bandwidth to deal with these issues.’ There it was, once again, the word I have trouble understanding. And last week the same boss shot of an email to everybody in the office intimating us about a training session she had taken pains to organize. She said, “ I have been spending a lot of bandwidth on this session.”

Now, I love words. I love exploring words.I love how precise some words are and how vague others are. And as a writer, I am always looking for that perfect word for every situation. In short, i am a word-nerd. Not understanding a word bothers me a lot. So when, this morning, my colleague asked me about my bandwidth which I didn’t know I had, I was determined to get to the bottom of the bandwidth brouhaha.

So I googled it: says, “1) In computer networks, bandwidth is often used as a synonym for data transfer rate – the amount of data that can be carried from one point to another in a given time period (usually a second). This kind of bandwidth is usually expressed in bits (of data) per second (bps). Occasionally, it’s expressed as bytes per second (Bps). A modem that works at 57,600 bps has twice the bandwidth of a modem that works at 28,800 bps. In general, a link with a high bandwidth is one that may be able to carry enough information to sustain the succession of images in a video presentation.” says, “1. The numerical difference between the upper and lower frequencies of a band of electromagnetic radiation, especially an assigned range of radio frequencies. 2. The amount of data that can be passed along a communications channel in a given period of time.” “Bandwidth is a term used to describe how much information can be transmitted over a connection. Bandwidth is usually given as bits per second, or as some larger denomination of bits, such as Megabits per second, expressed as kbit/s or Mbit/s. Bandwidth is a gross measurement, taking the total amount of data transferred in a given period of time as a rate, without taking into consideration the quality of the signal itself.”

Quite obviously, it has something to do with data transfer. It has something to do with computers. When my boss said she had spent a lot of bandwidth on organizing the training program, she was probably referring to the loads of data that was passing to and fro; from her to the trainer; from her to her employees. That is a lot of data! But more importantly, since when did people start talking about their conversations with other people as data? When my boss told me she didn’t have the bandwidth to deal with these issues, she was probably referring to her unwillingness to deal ‘with these issues’. Since when did human feelings such as will become data transfer? And when my colleague asked me about my bandwidth, she probably meant my availability (time and effort) for a project with respect to other projects. But again since when did engaging with time and effort become data transfer?

This job is telling me that theres a whole new language out there. Technology has generated a whole new vocabulary that sometimes is necessary and sometimes is wasteful. I love some of the words I have learnt on the job. But sometimes the superfluous nature of newly coined words borders on the hilarious. I mean, when we start thinking of ourselves as computers with bandwidth, I am sure something is wrong.


9 responses

  1. Aparna

    Haha! This word baffled me too, when I joined this office. And then I heard even more annoying terms; my favourite ones being- plucking low hanging fruits (short-term-profit-type-projects)and baking an idea!

    November 26, 2010 at 9:47 am

  2. sumanyav

    ROFL! ‘plucking low hanging fruits’- indeed!

    November 26, 2010 at 10:00 am

  3. Senthil Murugan R

    You have got the bandwidth to write about bandwidth is a great bandwidth !!!! LOL!!!

    November 26, 2010 at 10:07 am

    • kovid7

      A reply with a great bandwidth 🙂

      December 13, 2010 at 4:25 pm

  4. Madhumitha

    Absolutely loved this one Su!!
    Here’s one more: When people want to say seven in a very hep fashion, they say “hepta” 😛

    November 26, 2010 at 10:10 am

  5. sumanyav

    😀 Touche, Madhu.

    November 26, 2010 at 10:14 am

  6. Ishma Siddiqi

    I wish I didn’t have to sound this cynical. But science has taken us so far ahead that we are leaving a lot of things behind. Our friend here was on a primary call minutes ago… Hardly had he said a few words, when the guy at the other end asked, ” arre..isse mera kya faida hoga??” Our friend had to hang up!

    November 26, 2010 at 10:30 am

  7. Rene Lacoste

    I doubt if words in our vocabulary grow organically. With any new word, we first adopt it in a superficial manner, before attaching more meaning to it than the semantic. Whatsay?

    November 29, 2010 at 4:48 am

  8. sumanyav

    True, Rene! I have actually observed it in myself; when i come across a new word, i tend to use it at every opportunity (sometimes in the wrong usage too)until it gets into my unconscious vocabulary. But it is also a human trait to resist change. so instinctively, I am repelled by the word ‘bandwidth,’ specially when used in spoken English and specially when other words are more precise.

    December 13, 2010 at 11:58 am

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