The 5 Coolest Things I’ve Learned About Our Industry Since Coming to NCI By Greg Davis
5. Twisted Pairs:
Prior to joining NCI, I never really thought much about internet cables. They were blue, and they went from my computer to the wall, and that was about the extent of my knowledge. I had seen the little copper connectors on the plug, and maybe some of the wires, but never thought more about it. Once I got my feet wet, I learned a lot about Cat5 and Cat6, and one of the things that surprised me the most was that they consisted of 4 twisted pairs of wires, for a total of 8 copper wires. This is mostly to reduce cross talk between the wires and to eliminate EMI. What’s more is that the pairs are actually twisted at different rates, with the inner pairs more tightly wound than the outer ones!
Ever wonder how VOIP phones just get plugged in and then work? They light up, yet require no power. Wrong! They use POE, or Power Over Ethernet. This is actually a pretty commonplace thing in networking, but I was still surprised by it . The short story is that along with the data, the Cat5 or Cat6 cable conducts electricity as well.
3. Slack Loops:
Ok, this might not be that “cool” but it’s interesting for someone not in the know! Slack loops are loops of cable in the ceiling that good cablers put in, so that in the event that a data drop needs to be moved to the other side of the room, a new cable doesn’t need to be run. There are also useful if part of a cable gets damaged. Once I learned the concept and saw them, I noticed slack loops in other places too! You see them all the time on telephone poles- they’re there to help in case a pole falls as well.
2. Fiber & Copper:
When I was younger, fiber optics was the future and in 20 years I thought everyone would have fiber optic cables doing everything everywhere. Flash forward to today, and things haven’t developed like I thought when I was a kid. Fiber is in many, many places, but it’s usually behind the scenes. The technology is mind-blowing, and I’m excited to see the things we can do with it. One of the things that amazes me is the distances that fiber can reach- some long haul fiber cables can go for 90 miles! That’s insane! On the other hand, copper cables can only do 100 meters. One might wonder why we bother with copper at all? Because copper is very versatile! It’s much cheaper than fiber, and it manages to get better and better all the time. The speeds of copper are still amazing, and they will continue to improve. As amazed as I am by fiber, I’m equally amazed by copper!
1. Mistakes Happen (and they can be fixed!):
This isn’t really a “cool thing” that I learned about the industry, but it’s far and away the most important thing I’ve learned since coming into the industry. My first day working for NCI, I went to assist some other people on a job installing an automated system for the AV portion of a training center. I had zero knowledge of construction or cabling, etc. When I started at NCI, I was in a very different role, mostly assisting the president, Brian Watterson. I needed experience in what the core of our company did, so out in the field I went. I learned a lot that day, and at one point, the person training me gave me a low voltage mounting bracket and a drywall saw and told me to make a hole for a faceplate. I looked at him like he just told me to eat the moon. I didn’t want to cut a hole in the wall! What if I messed it up somehow? What if I did it crooked? The entire training room would be ruined! I expressed my fears, and he told me that I should just do it, and if I mess it up, we’ll fix it. Reluctantly, I drew an outline for the hole, and cut into the wall. Lo and behold, I did it fine, without any problems. The room was not ruined. Later in the day, I found a spot in the ceiling where a projector was mounted, and I noticed that whoever cut that hole HAD messed up, but they fixed it with putty, and I would never have known. So I learned that you can’t be afraid of screwing something up, and if you DO screw something up, it can be fixed. And that has been the most important thing I’ve learned at NCI; and I think that’s pretty cool too.