Learner to Learner

NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory launched telemedicine as a requirement for manned space flight, squeezing a stream of images into radio audio circuits and later for telephone lines.

Telemedicine consultation was used over Intelsat after the devastating 1989 earthquake in Soviet Armenia. In addition to assist scans, technique allows transmission of x-rays, nuclear scans, ultrasonic imagery, thermograms, electrocardiograms or live views of patient. Also allows conferencing and consultation among medical centers, general practitioners, specialists and disease control centers.

Scanning camera & processor by Glen Southworth's Colorado Video Much of the progress at JPL relied on the work of Glen Southworth’s several patents and equipment that he developed at his firm Colorado Video, such as his 1970 camera and scanning processor.

“Paper and pencil are wonderful inventions, watercolors and oil are cheap. But let’s look at it closely – these techniques are millennia old and we’re in an electronic era. Video image creation and manipulation is fast, fascinating, and capable of effects never dreamed of by daVinci or Michelangelo.”

Glen Southworth's scan samples of bird flightGlen Southworth enjoyed birdwatching and turned his cameras toward the sky to chart bird flight activity.

He wrote about his patent,
“I’ve had more fun with this device than anything else that I’ve worked with and I continue to find new ways of looking at the world.Glen Southworth's scan samples of bird flight

“Use a television camera to look at the sky, and watch what’s going on with a TV monitor. We’re no longer restricted to those nice summer days, but can be puttering around the house, or even be at work if you have a window and a view of the sky.”

JPL’s 1984 spinoff with Southworth’s Colorado Video introduced business and industry to teleconferencing, cable TV news, transmission of scientific/engineering data, security, information retrieval, insurance claim adjustment, instructional programs, and remote viewing of advertising layouts, real estate, construction sites or products.

“Why waste time at the airport and rack up travel expenses when you can hold that business meeting over the Internet?” Another pioneer at NASA, Elliot Gold says, “Teleconferencing isn’t just for replacement of travel,” emphasizes Gold, noting that reading books wasn’t replaced by radio, radio wasn’t replaced by TV, TV wasn’t replaced by other video technologies. Teleconferencing, quite simply, he says, “is for holding certain types of meetings that couldn’t be held by any other means.”

I’ve just noticed that Glen Southworth passed away in 2006. Glen has been acknowledged for his efforts, receiving several awards including the National Academy of Television Arts & Sciences Engineering Award.

In the early 1980’s I worked with Bruce Sullivan, an officer of the pioneering text service called “The Source”, who introduced me to Colorado Video. We pioneered ‘slow scan’ video as “telestrategic industry”, showing workable remote visual connections using unfiltered phone lines and radio. We demonstrated the technology all over California.

During the oil embargo of the 70s, the National Science Foundation predicted that as much as 20 percent of business travel could be displaced by teleconferencing. Video conferencing has since vastly improved and today a web meeting is more than a curiosity. Companies that provide equipment and service for remote conferencing are thriving.

It seems to take forever, but a new infrastructure is emerging, partly to enable IT and Internet transactions and increasingly to improve communications and reduce both costs and the excess use of fossil fuels.

Writing about Green Thinking on his blog, David Tebbut says “I think the bottom line is for everyone to start thinking in terms of input-process-output. (Sound familiar?)

“In a fractally sort of way, this can be applied from macro to micro level.

“From the company looking at what it’s doing right down to an individual, they are all capable of looking at what resources they draw on, how they exploit them and what outputs result, both good and bad. IT can raise its game…

But, to radically reduce costs and alter our environmental impact, we don’t just need to reprogram our computers. We actually need to reprogram our brains.”