Pigeon Mail Outpaces Gigabit Internet in New Experiment

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In a recent experiment, pigeon mail has once again demonstrated its surprising efficiency in data transfer, outpacing gigabit internet in terms of throughput. A 30-year-old April Fools’ joke about using carrier pigeons to transfer data on flash drives was put to the test in 2009 when a South African company successfully transmitted a 4 GB flash drive using a pigeon over a distance of 100 km, proving it faster than an ADSL connection. But how does pigeon mail fare now, with the prevalence of fiber-optic connections in homes? Can a pigeon still beat a network with gigabit speed?

Videoblogger Jeff Geerling decided to put the capabilities of pigeon mail to the test. Since the original experiment in 2009, both data storage capacities and data transmission speeds have advanced significantly. In that early experiment, a pigeon delivered a memory card over a distance of 60 miles (about 100 km) in 1 hour and 8 minutes, with an additional hour required for data upload and download. During the same timeframe, the local ADSL operator, Telkom, only transmitted 4% of the designated data volume.

Geerling equipped a pigeon with three 1 TB SanDisk Extreme PRO memory cards, each weighing 5 g (trimmed for weight reduction, although carrier pigeons can carry up to 75 g of cargo). The experiment was limited to sending data via pigeon mail over a one-kilometer distance. Geerling then created a graph illustrating the potential movement of the bird over distances of up to 1000 km (600 miles). According to calculations, the pigeon easily surpassed gigabit fiber-optic connectivity over this range.

However, when it comes to distances of several thousand kilometers, pigeons cannot compete with fiber-optic connections. Flying part of the way by airplane slightly improves the situation (Geerling assumed the role of the pigeon for this part of the experiment), but transmitting data via pigeon mail becomes considerably slower over long distances. Nevertheless, pigeons are capable of transmitting data on digital media faster than optical connections, especially in areas lacking fiber-optic infrastructure.

It’s worth noting that the concept of “pigeon mail” was originally proposed as a joke on April 1, 1990, by David Waitzman. This playful tradition of submitting humorous working proposals (Request for Comments, RFC) started in 1978 with RFC 748. Waitzman’s proposal suggested encapsulating IP datagrams in metaphorical carrier pigeons. The protocol has seen several humorous updates over the years.

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Martin Harris
I'm Martin Harris, a tech writer with extensive experience, contributing to global publications. Trained in Computer Science, I merged my technical know-how with writing, becoming a technology journalist. I've covered diverse topics like AI and consumer electronics, contributing to top tech platforms. I participate in tech events for knowledge updating. Besides writing, I enjoy reading, photography, and aim to clarify technology's complexities to readers.

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