454: Rewiring

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Rewiring
My friend Elizabeth tried to mail one end of the cable to me and thread the mail system.
Title text: My friend Elizabeth tried to mail one end of the cable to me and thread the mail system.

[edit] Explanation

At the time this comic was written, most residential buildings in North America were wired for analog devices using the old landline telephone services, although thanks to the growth of internet telephone and wireless telephone technologies, including cordless and mobile phones, this in-house wiring was increasingly redundant. See also Use of mobile phones.

At the time, people who took their internet access seriously would have preferred that at least some of the phone wiring and phone jacks in their residences were Ethernet (Cat-5 or Cat-6) wiring and (RJ45) jacks for providing wired internet access throughout their home, or in this case, to their neighbour's home, so that they wouldn't have to resort to Wi-Fi, which was then slower and less reliable than a wired connection (Google Trends).

The title text suggests it shows a fanciful way of converting analog phone lines to digital ethernet lines by simply faxing an ethernet cable, since a fax machine is a tool for converting something analog content into digital.

Since the faxing of the ethernet cable is apparently successful, the comic is not really about the conversion, but is instead a subtle computer network joke about tunneling, whereby you can embed one kind of network access protocol within a very different protocol. Herein lies the humour: Cueball and Megan are apparently under the impression that they can achieve a faster connection by tunnelling a high-speed protocol (ethernet) through a slower (landline telephone service) one. Generally speaking, this is not true. The only exception is when embedding a compressed data stream within a non-compressed standard. The performance boosts, however, are typically modest for lossless compression, and not the orders of magnitude difference our novices apparently hope for.

[edit] Transcript

[Cueball is feeding cable into a device on a desk labeled "fax".]
Fax: zzzzzz
[Outdoors, showing a plant and a lamp (indicates panels 1 and 3 are separate locations).]
[Megan, laptop behind her, is pulling a cable out of a fax machine.]
Fax: zzzzz
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Discussion

As well as physically 'threading' the mail system, an email (or other messaging) client that keeps track of what messages reply to which others (often as a linear progression or cascade, or a tree-view where multiplie participants can be expected to branch the conversation) is said to show 'threaded' messages. Or was. (These days it's probably got some other name, and everyone seems to just want to top-post anyway. Thank you, Eternal September!!!) 178.107.249.215 13:12, 14 June 2013 (UTC)

If there were so many homes with phone wiring and no ethernet wiring and they were complaining, why didn't they just use the phone wiring for ethernet. It is a little less stable because of lack of addditional grounding/isolation wiring, but ethernet does only actually use 4 wires. Tharkon (talk) 19:35, 1 December 2013 (UTC)
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