Researchers run the internet on xylophones

A University of California graduate researcher has transmitted internet packets by playing them on xylophones.

It is not practical for every day use, but there is proof that the idea works.

Stuart Geiger, a graduate student the Berkeley’s School of Information told the Association for Computing Machinery’s Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems, which was held in Austin, Texas, that his experiment gave him an appreciation for how the internet was designed.

He told IDG you could really take anything and put it anywhere.

Geiger’s network protocol, IP over Xylophone Players (IpoXP), provided a fully compliant IP connection between two computers. It used a pair of Arduino microcontrollers, some sensors, a pair of xylophones and two people to play them.

The Arduino was connected to a series of LEDs. Each LED corresponds to a hexadecimal character, as well as a key on a xylophone.

When the LED lights up, the human participant strikes the corresponding key on the xylophone. The Piezo sensors are attached to each xylophone, so that they are able to sense when a note is played on the other xylophone.

When the Arduino for the receiving computer senses the note, it converts it back into hexadecimal code. And when the second computer sends a return packet, the order of operations is reversed.

Transmission is fairly slow. Characters are issued one every second, giving the network a throughput of one baud. It took 15 minutes to play a single packet. That is assuming the player did not hit a duff note.