And you thought your network was slow

RFC 1149, “A Standard for the Transmission of IP Datagrams on Avian Carriers”, describes how to use carrier pigeons to send Internet traffic between two sites. It was originally published as a joke (note the date on the document), and although there has been a proof-of-concept implementation of RFC 1149, namely using carrier pigeons to ping another computer, it understandably hasn’t seen widespread use.

Unless, perhaps, you live in South Africa, in which case it might be a more viable option than the conventional Internet service providers available:

Local news agency SAPA reported the 11-month-old pigeon, Winston, took one hour and eight minutes to fly the 80 km (50 miles) from Unlimited IT’s offices near Pietermaritzburg to the coastal city of Durban with a data card was strapped to his leg.

Including downloading, the transfer took two hours, six minutes and 57 seconds — the time it took for only four percent of the data to be transferred using a Telkom line.

[Pigeon transfers data faster than South Africa's Telkom, Reuters, 10 September 2009]

Of course, this isn’t too surprising. After all, a snail pulling a cart with two DVDs for wheels has a faster average data transfer rate than an ADSL connection.

Granted, pigeon- and snail-based layer 2 technologies suffer from pretty sluggish latency, so they’re often not the best option for running your network. You’re generally going to be off using a cat or 5 instead.

[Hat tip to The Risks Digest, volume 25, issue 78, for the South Africa story.]

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