Alex. Brown predicts 'bandwidth bonanza'Alex. Brown &...


Alex. Brown predicts 'bandwidth bonanza'

Alex. Brown & Sons Inc. has three words to describe the coming revolution in the computer and communications industries: "A Bandwidth Bonanza."

That's the title of a provocative report from four Alex. Brown analysts on the wholesale restructuring likely to hit the information trades as new technology permits delivery of a flood of data to the home.

The report looks at the future of the "new media," defined as the intersection or overlap of five very large industries: media, entertainment, communications, consumer electronics and information technology.

"During the next decade," the report predicts, "New Media should grow to be a multihundred-billion-dollar industry."

One of the best sources for potential riches amid this explosion is the software market, because "as bandwidth grows, demand for content could grow exponentially."

Alex. Brown sees several technologies bringing about the bonanza, including dramatic improvements in telephone systems, new applications for existing cable systems, and a boom in wireless communications.

PC owners likely to be better-educated

If you own a personal computer, the Software Publishers Association says, you're likely to be wealthier and better-educated than the average American.

But before you start feeling too proud, note that you're also likely to get software illegally -- by copying it from friends, or from work or school.

The association's January survey found that 56 percent of computer owners had household incomes over $50,000, compared with just a quarter of the general population. And just over half of personal computer owners have a four-year college degree, compared with a quarter of the general population.

Among other findings: Those who use personal computers to help run home-based businesses operate them a median of 20 hours per week. People who bring work home from the office use them five hours per week. Those in other categories report a median of four hours per week of use.

How many people copy software? About 40 percent of those who primarily use entertainment software, the survey found. Among users of other applications, from 17 percent to 26 percent make copies.

IRE plans to expand encryption offerings

Information Resource Engineering Inc., which last week reported a revenue increase of 74 percent in 1992 and earnings that more than doubled, plans to expand its offerings this spring with encryption equipment for an additional computer network.

IRE, whose 30 employees work out of an office in the White Marsh Business Center, builds hardware that encodes data on computer networks. Its customers include a number of giants in the financial world, including Citibank N.A., Morgan Guaranty Trust Co., Mellon Bank and the U.S. Treasury Department.

Anthony Caputo, IRE's chairman and chief executive officer, said last week that the company was formed by two former National Security Agency employees in 1983. It went public in 1989, but only drew widespread market attention last year with a secondary offering of preferred stock.

The company's rapid growth has helped to propel its stock from $8.50 a share in early December, just before that offering, to a close of $12.50 last week.

IRE's devices use the Data Encryption Standard, a mathematical coding scheme that's won the seal of approval from the federal government and most financial industry groups.

Some cynics claim that the government has approved the coding scheme because it's figured out a way to crack it. In response, Mr. Caputo notes that there are 72 quadrillion possible "keys" on the DES system. "At 1 million keys a second, it would take 2000 years to go through all the possible keys," he said.

But suppose, just suppose, the rumors are true? "As a citizen, I want to believe that NSA can break any algorithm," he said.

Satellite images given to educational project

Lanham-based Earth Observation Satellite Co., or EOSAT, has donated $25,000 worth of images from the Landsat satellites to an educational program run by Robert Ballard, discoverer of the wreck of the Titanic.

In this year's project, Dr. Ballard is using the Jason deep-sea exploration craft to study hydrothermal vents off the coast of Baja California in Mexico. The action is being transmitted to students in 26 states and is being filmed for later showings.

The EOSAT data was used to create video segments simulating, in three dimensions, a flight over Dr. Ballard's study area on the Baja Peninsula. The segments will help familiarize students with terrain in the area.

IATA weighs partial ban on computer use

The International Air Transport Agency is considering a partial ban on the use of computers, computer games and headphone stereos during takeoff and landing, according to published reports.

IATA's safety committee says such electronic devices may interfere with radio traffic and that Walkman-style stereos might prevent passengers from hearing safety advisories. A technical committee still must review the findings.

* More computer news on 14C

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