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Preview: Bob Frankston's Writings

Bob Frankston's Writings

Bob Frankston's essays and whatever else

Last Build Date: Sun, 22 Apr 2018 21:45:06 GMT

Copyright: Copyright 1994-2018 Bob Frankston

Re No “Material Difference Between 5G & LTE” [IP Letter]

Fri, 20 Apr 2018 15:57:42 GMT

5G may be reheated 4G but victory will be declared

Re EarthNow to Deliver Real-Time Video via Large Satellite Constellation [IP Letter]

Fri, 20 Apr 2018 12:07:20 GMT

Detailed photos of Earth are very big data with no opt out.

Re Is Science Hitting a Wall - it's not just about science [IP Letter]

Sun, 08 Apr 2018 13:49:11 GMT

We need to think of the future in terms of discovery and opportunity and not just the past a little faster and better. We see an example of this in public policies pushing faster old style telecom networks instead of creating new opportunities for connectivity.

Connectivity as a Vital Consumer Service

Tue, 27 Mar 2018 11:10:49 GMT

Today we retreat the Internet as if it were another television channel. If the service goes out we are fully dependent upon a provider to diagnose and fix the problem. Today we are increasingly dependent upon connectivity and must meet the challenge by empowering consumers to work with providers to address issues and assure connectivity. ((Also avalable on CircleID)

Re A start-up says it can back up your brain. However, there’s one small catch. - The Washington Post [IP Letter]

Fri, 16 Mar 2018 14:58:35 GMT

Why do people think they can easily digitize the brain?

From Net Neutrality to Seizing Opportunity

Mon, 05 Mar 2018 08:37:18 GMT

Network neutrality is important in the context of assuring the opportunity to innovate in how we communicate and connect. We can't define it in terms of specific outcomes but rather in terms of what we enable. The Internet is just one example of what we can do when given the opportunity to use software to fashion our own solutions. (Also avalable on CircleID and at Broadband Breakfast

Cockamamie #broadband pricing from #Cox. [IP Letter]

Tue, 20 Feb 2018 15:43:37 GMT

Another reminder of perverse pricing of broadband

Re Stop Saying 'Smart Cities' [IP Letter]

Sun, 18 Feb 2018 16:39:35 GMT

Smart Cities are like intelligent networks. Instead we need empowering cities.

House Republicans Just Voted to Eliminate the Only Federal Agency That Makes Sure Voting Machines Can't Be Hacked [IP Letter]

Thu, 15 Feb 2018 00:56:05 GMT

Another attack on the credibility of our basic institutions.

Nationalizing the imaginary 5G Network? [circleid]

Tue, 30 Jan 2018 15:07:13 GMT

The proposal to nationalize 5G may be spurious but it is an opportunity look at how we think about networking.

Facebook Posts

Sat, 20 Jan 2018 16:45:10 GMT

An attempt to catalog my Facebook Posts until when and if I use the ideas in formal essays and columns

Got API?

Sat, 06 Jan 2018 20:00:34 GMT

(image) If you're home control product doesn't have an open API, then it's a niche product and not part of the future of connected devices.

Interconnected computing [IP Letter]

Tue, 02 Jan 2018 22:19:14 GMT

It's useful to think of the internetworking effort as a way to weave end points, initially computers, into a whole. The network is just a means. We need to look beyond neutrality to infrastructure.

It's time to move from "Broadband to Infrastructure" [external]

Wed, 13 Dec 2017 22:22:31 GMT

Network Neutrality is about the business of telecom vs. a future in which we can assume Ambient Connectivity.

The Internet as Infrastructure FAQ

Mon, 04 Dec 2017 14:35:05 GMT

When I write about the Internet as infrastructure I find some questions keep reappearing - hence this FAQ

Assembly Required

Mon, 20 Nov 2017 12:36:30 GMT

Increasingly consumer devices are not just become smart but connected. We are only at the earliest stages of understanding this connectivity and how to give users the ability to manage the connections.

Bob Frankston interview at ICCE Asia October 2017 [external]

Sun, 19 Nov 2017 17:13:26 GMT

Interview by IEEECSocTV after my keynote.

Interview with Factor Daily in Bengaluru India [external]

Sun, 15 Oct 2017 12:47:31 GMT

Thoughts while I was in town to speak at ICCE Asia

Whither Consumer Electronics

Sat, 23 Sep 2017 15:58:31 GMT

What is consumer electronics in an age where we use software rather than (just) electrons to create value. And when devices are defined by apps rather than hardware?

Re Why Google Fiber Failed to Disrupt the ISPs [IP Letter]

Wed, 26 Jul 2017 10:44:34 GMT

A reminder that Google FIber is still in the old ISP model.

5G: Telecom Versus The Internet

Wed, 14 Jun 2017 20:55:50 GMT

My July 2017 IEEE CE Magazine Column: Overview of the contrast between 5G and the Internet.

Bots and Conversations

Sun, 26 Mar 2017 09:17:14 GMT

Monage 2017: Bots and Conversations. With the Internet our conversations take place outside the networks.

What is special about an Internet of Things

Tue, 14 Mar 2017 18:53:12 GMT

I've been reading reading papers about an "Internet of Things" but they tend to be old engineering approaches relabeled. What makes the Internet special is our ability to build on the big idea of "just works" or ambient connectivity and the ability to mix and match end points using this common facility.

5G (and Telecom) vs. The Internet [circleid]

Sun, 26 Feb 2017 10:20:11 GMT

5G sounds like the successor to 4G cellular telephony and indeed that is the intent. While the progression from 2G to 3G, to 4G and now 5G seems simple, the story is more nuanced and gives us a chance to better understand the what and, more important, the why of the Internet.

Re 5G (Spectrum article) [IP Letter]

Thu, 02 Feb 2017 18:21:37 GMT

Spectrum doubles down on the 5G as the future though it's relaly the past.

Re: 5G (and Telecom) vs. The Internet [IP Letter]

Wed, 01 Feb 2017 18:25:01 GMT

Overview of the contrast between 5G and the Internet.

The real reason why Trump using an old Android phone should freak youout notsp [IP Letter]

Fri, 27 Jan 2017 00:11:50 GMT

The President is using a phone that makes it easy to tap into any conversation! Uh oh

TEDx 2016 Talk -- The Abundance of the Internet [external]

Wed, 25 Jan 2017 00:00:00 GMT

My talk from TEDx November 2016. Having grown up from when the technology was simple I see can see beyond the Internet and how it is so much more than just a network and just the web. It gives us the raw materials to create our own abundance.

Interview at StartupCon 2016 [external]

Sun, 22 Jan 2017 09:36:16 GMT

Talking about my experience as a co-founder.

Techdirt's First Amendment Fight For Its Life / Ayyadurai again [IP Letter]

Thu, 12 Jan 2017 09:37:44 GMT

Ayyadurai's deep pocket fight over email continues to do collateral damage.

Time to Retire the Leap Second [Medium]

Tue, 03 Jan 2017 14:04:17 GMT

The leap second creates many problems in return for essentially no benefit. It is a leftover from the days when computers used the same notation people did for writing dates. Now that computers separate the representation from the presentation it's time to move on.

Trump questions quest for cybersecurity: 'No computer is safe' [IP Letter]

Mon, 02 Jan 2017 08:29:51 GMT

Normalizing Russian Cyberattacks is extremely dangerous. See also this and this follow up.

Site Insites

Thu, 29 Dec 2016 10:38:51 GMT

This past summer I decided my website need to be refreshed. Rewriting the site from scratch in JavaScript (actually TypeScript) gave me a chance look beyond the façade of the web and better understand how the Web works and the simple mechanisms it is built on.

Parking apps are tied to cars not location [Facebook]

Tue, 20 Dec 2016 10:32:45 GMT

Parking meter apps are tied to the car rather than just the location. Making implicit explicit requires adjustment.

The Internet as infrastructure - IGF 2016 [external]

Tue, 13 Dec 2016 14:27:28 GMT

A link to my IGF 2016 video. There is also a live transcript of the session here.. I'm planning to do an associated essay.

Culture Vs. Facts [Facebook]

Tue, 13 Dec 2016 09:18:15 GMT

Culture vs. Facts

Re Pittsburgh's new artificially intelligent stoplights could mean no more pointless idling [IP Letter]

Sun, 23 Oct 2016 20:54:41 GMT

Experiment in intelligent stoplights offers hope for APIs

An Alien “Drove” my car

Tue, 18 Oct 2016 23:13:51 GMT

AI and applications like self-driving cars are exciting but we need to wary about treating them as if they think like we do. It is normal to see new technologies just replacing existing technologies or, in this case, human drivers. While there is some overlap in roles we get the most benefit by recognizing how they are different from us and not just replacements.

Re Question. Re Today is a remarkable day for the Internet! [IP Letter]

Tue, 04 Oct 2016 16:58:12 GMT

The end-to-end argument is about being to ignore the network rather assuring a connection between end pointts.

Trump’s Financial Naïveté

Tue, 27 Sep 2016 15:43:08 GMT

Trump has a very simplistic view of money. [From Facebook]

Mobile Edge Computing

Fri, 23 Sep 2016 11:34:37 GMT

When we frame local computing as being at the edge of a network we lose the big ideas of connectivity by framing the Internet in terms of tele-communications.

Infrastructure for a Connected World

Mon, 19 Sep 2016 11:02:07 GMT

Connected devices need a free-to-use infrastructure that allows for innovation beyond the needs of a provider or other intermediary. Also available on CircleID here

re Tales from Comcast's data cap nation: Can the meter be trusted? [IP Letter]

Tue, 06 Sep 2016 10:05:50 GMT

Data caps are tolerated because of false analogies.

ANTIC Interview 226 - Bob Frankston, co-developer of Visicalc [external]

Mon, 05 Sep 2016 11:04:59 GMT

Interview with Kevin Savetz about the history of Atari and more ... You can go to YouTube for the video.

The Stories of Software

Fri, 12 Aug 2016 13:03:33 GMT

The concept of software has evolved from the early days of programming when each minute step of had to be described in detail. Yet the challenges remain because, ultimately, software is about sharing our understandings with devices that will act as our agents. I learn a lot writing these columns. This one made me think about what software is and why automatic programming succeeded beyond anyone’s expectations yet has seems to have succeeded at all.

What is a "Neutral Network" [external]

Sun, 24 Jul 2016 12:19:24 GMT

Panel at HOPE 2016 where I talk about infrastructure as an alternative framing to network neutrality.

Re US, NSF to put $400M into Advanced Wireless Research Initiative for 5G networks [IP Letter]

Tue, 19 Jul 2016 01:39:20 GMT

The NSF is funding a new wireless effort that fails to address the need for ambient connectivity as infrastructure. It's just same-old albeit a little bit faster. Like a 600HP car in rush hour solving traffic problems in a city.

Re How the internet was invented [IP Letter]

Fri, 15 Jul 2016 00:00:00 GMT

The popular view is that the Internet is just another network. It's not -- it's represents a very different approach to how we communicate. One that is resilient rather than dependent on carriers.

The Internet as Our New Infrastructure

Mon, 04 Jul 2016 12:31:50 GMT

The Internet is our new infrastructure. It is a basic facility just as roads and sidewalks available as a basic elements of infrastructure. I use the term "infrastructure" rather than "utility" to distinguish it from metered utilities like gas and electricity that are provided only at a price. This is the talk I gave at FGV in Rio on April 29th 2016.

Re This dark side of the Internet is costing young people their jobsand social lives [IP Letter]

Sat, 21 May 2016 00:00:00 GMT

"Internet addiction" is simply addiction that happens to manifest itself in a particular way. Saying that it is new or special trivializes real problems.

Once Again, Thieves Enter Swift Financial Network and Steal [IP Letter]

Fri, 13 May 2016 00:00:00 GMT

Another reminder that security is about trust relationships and people. There isn't a magic fix.

Broadband Data Caps Pressure 'Cord Cutters' [IP Letter]

Fri, 22 Apr 2016 18:20:29 GMT

FCC should be addressing data caps rather than just focusing on the legacy set top box.

80/20 Consumer Electronics

Tue, 19 Apr 2016 20:19:23 GMT

I learn by doing and creating my own solutions. This gives me a chance to experience the future and see beyond the present. Join me in exploring the possibilities.

End-to-End Arguments in System Design [external]

Sun, 20 Mar 2016 11:23:27 GMT

A seminal paper about the design point of the Internet by Saltzer, Reed and Clark

VisiCalc History and more [external]

Sat, 12 Mar 2016 10:16:53 GMT

Dan Bricklin's VisiCalc repository

Before Excel there was VisiCalc: An interview with its creators [external]

Sat, 23 Jan 2016 22:06:27 GMT

Interview by Business Insider with Dan Bricklin and myself talking about the history of VisiCalc.

VCF East 10 - History of VisiCalc - Bob Frankston [external]

Sat, 23 Jan 2016 16:59:23 GMT

I had fun talking to the Vintage Computer Festival in New Jersey last spring - VCF 10

A Hackers Vacation

Fri, 01 Jan 2016 17:04:45 GMT

What I learned on my summer vacation.

Netflix vs. Caps vs. Neutrality vs. The Internet [IP Letter]

Sat, 19 Dec 2015 09:41:15 GMT

Issues like capacity limits and network neutrality are framed in terms of telecommunications. We need a different narrative if we are to understand the Internet. (See further comments here)

The Frankston Challenge [external]

Tue, 10 Nov 2015 00:00:00 GMT

Dan Bricklin does a great job explaining the need for Ambient Connectivity.

Zero-Rating vs. The Internet [circleid]

Wed, 04 Nov 2015 21:02:42 GMT

The idea of setting the rate for a given class of content is a concept that comes from the traditional world of telecommunications. It doesn't map into the raw packets of the Internet that are carried apart from their context.

The Internet is about Relationships

Fri, 30 Oct 2015 11:30:47 GMT

A big idea of the Internet is that we can focus on the relationships between two end points (devices) and not worry about what is between.

Identity Chaos, Courtesy of Your Federal Government - The New YorkTimes [IP Letter]

Sat, 17 Oct 2015 00:00:00 GMT

If we're going to use the SSN as a primary identify we should update it from the 1930's design point.

This guy bought for $12 - CNET [IP Letter]

Fri, 02 Oct 2015 11:40:20 GMT

The DNS -- yet another oops.

Undercover New Hampshire police nab cellphone ban violators / AKAbanning photography [IP Letter]

Thu, 01 Oct 2015 15:32:00 GMT

If your camear can run a telephony app does that make it illegal to use in a car even if it's stopped?

The Engineers "Dilemma" [IP Letter]

Sun, 27 Sep 2015 18:24:00 GMT

The telecommunications business model has problems. The FCC's well-meaning efforts to make that business work has the unintended consequences of protecting it from alternatives approaches that can work far better. This extends to protecting it from better engineering.

Snake Oil for the Innovation Age: Problems with Clayton Christensen's "Disruptive Innovation" [IP Letter]

Sat, 19 Sep 2015 20:28:00 GMT

We need to be wary of claims that we can manage our way through disruptive changes. But nostrums and solutions sell books so we tend to try to tame disruption rather than embracing the new opportunities. We should read the The Innovator's Dilemma as descriptive rather than prescriptive.

Let Consumers Use Better, Cheaper Cable Boxes - The New York Times [IP Letter]

Mon, 31 Aug 2015 00:00:00 GMT

The FCC may be getting ready to encourage set top box competition but that only fixes a symptom. It doesn't address the problem of silos.

Why Can't We Be Like South Korea?

Sat, 01 Aug 2015 17:27:59 GMT

We need to be careful about what we ask for and heed the lessons of Minitel which was the future in 1980 but lacked the dynamic of the Internet.

For .sucks Web domains, the currency seems to be paid in reputations| BetaBoston notsp [IP Letter]

Thu, 23 Jul 2015 18:54:00 GMT

What sucks is the idea that you can't owner your very identity nor reputation!

#APIFirst: How Things Speak to Each other

Tue, 21 Jul 2015 17:42:40 GMT

If we are to understand the world of connected devices we need to look behind the surface of the web to the APIs (Application Program Interfaces) that are the building blocks for the services we use and the ways devices “listen”. The hashtag #APIFirst emphasizes the importance of this foundation.

When Algorithms Discriminate

Mon, 13 Jul 2015 19:31:03 GMT

We tend have faith in algorithms as if they represent a divined truth.

A Software-(re)Defined World.

Wed, 08 Jul 2015 21:35:36 GMT

My Keynote from the ICCE conference in Taiwan June 2015

For Start-Ups, How Many Angels Is Too Many? [IP Letter]

Tue, 07 Jul 2015 19:01:46 GMT

Is angel investing become too much like a lottery?

Re: Where is Google taking us? [IP Letter]

Mon, 06 Jul 2015 09:46:00 GMT

Google is doing interesting projects but let's remember that they have a neat trick and not a crystal ball.

Chicago’s cloud tax [IP Letter]

Thu, 02 Jul 2015 09:55:00 GMT

The idea of an "Internet Tax" misses the point that the Internet is just the latest face of ecommerce going back to Sears selling from a catalog over the phone.

Why ICANN's Whois Accuracy Program is a disaster | Security contentfrom Dev Pro [IP Letter]

Thu, 28 May 2015 17:07:00 GMT

Yet another reminder of how ICANN is more about classic telecom providing services rather than empowering us.

Deconstructing Television: Delivery, Content, and Policy

Fri, 24 Apr 2015 22:26:49 GMT

The business “Television” as we know it is very much tied to the accidental properties of 1930’s vintage technology. We need to rethink very part of the technology and the industry.

Re how to Beat a Polygraph Test - [IP Letter]

Mon, 13 Apr 2015 00:00:00 GMT

In our search for swift and sure justice we imbue hacks like polygraphs with magical powers far beyond those of mortal devices.

Surprise! Cell calls that sound superb ... but why? [IP Letter]

Thu, 09 Apr 2015 10:23:00 GMT

Verizon is selling VoLTE with the promise that one day it will be as good as Skype but that claim misses the point of VoIP which gave us the ability to do a Skype.

Product that do their own reorders

Wed, 01 Apr 2015 13:16:03 GMT

Products that do their own reorders may create ecosystems that may give a strong advantage to incumbents.

re Caught on camera: ICANN CEO slams team probing who will hold internet's keys of power [IP Letter]

Wed, 25 Mar 2015 21:48:21 GMT

More DNS gaming of names for profit

In science, irreproducible research is a quiet crisis [IP Letter]

Sun, 22 Mar 2015 12:29:00 GMT


Quora Question: What Is It Like to Have Been Programming for the Past Fifty Years? [external]

Sat, 21 Mar 2015 22:03:17 GMT

My response to the Quora question about what it's been like to have been programming for half a century. You can also see the answer on Quora.

Cancer genetic tests offered on websites often not all they promiseto be, Dana-Farber study finds - Metro - The Boston Globe [IP Letter]

Sat, 21 Mar 2015 09:26:00 GMT

While there is value in big data many of the expectations are driven by marketing rather than real science.

DL- GOOGLE Makes Us GODS (via Iona Miller) like Icarus [IP Letter]

Fri, 20 Mar 2015 18:02:40 GMT

The idea that we can gain by connecting our brains to the Internet. But our brains have never been isolated. They have always been connected to the rest of society and the intelligence outside the brain and inherent in its architecture have always been our source of smarts. We need to be careful lest this hubris lead us think this time we have the one true answer.

Kill Chain: The Rise of the High-Tech Assassins [IP Letter]

Mon, 16 Mar 2015 00:00:00 GMT

Another example of hubris in assuming that we can automate warfare ... and the rest of society.

"The Computer Utility and the Community" - Prescient 1967 paper byBob Fano at MIT [external]

Mon, 16 Mar 2015 00:00:00 GMT

A prescient paper by Bob Fano from 1967 on the information utility.

Further Reading

Wed, 18 Feb 2015 12:21:47 GMT

Any one essay can only skim the surface. For further reading ...

Internet-Native Policies [circleid]

Tue, 17 Feb 2015 23:22:40 GMT

Amid all the recent discussion about "Network Neutrality" a concern is that we may be losing the soul of the Internet – the ability to create our own solutions. Our "flow" metaphors fail us when dealing with the tolerant and bursty nature of the Internet. The Internet is not a utility, nor is it a consumable we can meter like electricity or water.

Now that the Internet has begun to "grow up" we need to move beyond policies appropriate for a nascent Internet seeking passage through a telecommunications network and start to adopt Internet Native Policies to facilitate connectivity

Connectivity Site [external]

Sat, 14 Feb 2015 14:01:11 GMT

I will be setting up a site for sharing approaches to sharing connectivity with our neighbors and communities at

Verizon nears "the end" of FiOS builds | Ars Technica [IP Letter]

Tue, 27 Jan 2015 14:36:00 GMT

Verizon looks to wireless for profits but that may not last long

Silicon Valley's Mirror Effect - The New Meritocracy [IP Letter]

Sat, 27 Dec 2014 09:21:39 GMT

The rise of the meritocracy risks policies based on the hindsight bias.

Putting it all Together?

Thu, 25 Dec 2014 13:53:46 GMT

The idea of an automated home is premised on the idea that we can just put together any number of programs and they would auto-magically compromise a coherent whole. After a half a century of programming I know we still have a lot to learn.

What infrastructure is needed for positively disruptive technology

Sun, 30 Nov 2014 13:39:27 GMT

The talk I gave to ISOCNY November 11 2014 aimed at helping policymakers revisit their "givens".

Trying to talk about the future using the vocabulary of the past [IP Letter]

Fri, 21 Nov 2014 15:33:15 GMT

It is very difficult to talk about connectivity policy when the very vocabulary implicitly assumes the 19th framing of telecommunications.