Email and Network communication over Snails and Pigeons

July 29, 2008 – 8:54 pm

real snail mail iconIn these days of hyperspeed gigabit fiber network communications, its amusing to see biological prototypes that can deliver your email or transport network traffic.

Two notable projects that creative individuals implemented that use an animal to deliver electronic information between two locations.

Realsnailmail is a project by creative individuals from Bournemouth University in the UK who developed a way to send email using snails as a means of transmitting the information.

From their website:

Our snails are equipped with a miniaturized electronic circuit and antenna that enables them to be assigned messages from hardware located within their enclosure. The moment you click ‘send’ your message will travel at the speed of light to our snail server where it will await collection by a snail agent.

Once associated with the tiny electronic chip on the snails shell your message will be carried around until the snail chances by the drop off point. Hardware located at this point collects the message from the snail and forwards it to its final destination.

I love the quirky randomness of the snails that provide an unpredictable time length of your email being delivered over the gastropods. (actually, its almost simulates the predictability of Internet email, only slower!) Gives the term ‘snail mail’ a literal meaning.

snail chariotThe creators of realsnailmail give credit to anther snail-based data transport project called SNAP (SNAil-based data transfer Protocol), which is a paper extolling the benefits of a snail based data delivery system. SNAP is based on a chariot-like device tied to the back of a snail and the speeds and reliability of the data on such a system.

Pigeons as a means of transport

Back in April 1990, RFC 1149 was written. It specified a protocol for IP over avian carriers, CPIP (carrier pigeon internet protocol). It was an proposal of using pigeons as a method of transferring network data.

Then in 2001, several individuals in Bergen, Belgium gave the proposal a try and posted pics of their successful attempts.

pigeon graph

As broadband Internet integrates into almost every household, even dialup modems is unheard of for the current generation. The blazing speeds transferring terabtyes of terabytes of data is often taken for granted by most Internet users, but these projects, albiet seemingly silly, bring light to the actual technology that underlies the Internet and perhaps a greater appreciation of the network technology necessary to bring you that random streaming youtube video that you mindlessly watch. (or not)

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  1. 3 Responses to “Email and Network communication over Snails and Pigeons”

  2. Very interesting article. Kind of reminds me of us going back to weather balloons to deploy as satellites instead of building massive towers to repair hurricane damaged states, or having to launch a shuttle to put a satellite into orbit or hawaii using unmaned airplanes that fly in larger circles to give a communication network thats easily and cheaply upgradeable.

    By Matthew on Jul 31, 2008

  3. I really get so jealous when I read of the high internet speeds in the USA and UK! Back here in South Africa our broadband would probably be more accurately described as narrowband.

    It really is a trial and on top of that, the service breaks intermittently and is very expensive.

    Anyway I really enjoyed your article!

    By John Currie on Jul 31, 2008

  4. Matthew: Isn’t amazing even how technology is advancing now? With wimax, 3g, we’re pushing broadband through thin air with no physical transport!

    John: Thanks for your feedback! Yes, we here in the US has gotten spoiled by the speeds thats been fed into our homes. I do appreciate them still, as I still recall the days of 1200 baud modems, and getting excited as we setup an ISP back in the early 90s and got our first t1.

    By admin on Jul 31, 2008

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