In the days before the RAD Lab was started, Soda Hall was deserted during much of the day because students were working from home rather than coming into their labs. One hypothesized reason for this was that previously, the technology available in the lab was far beyond what students could afford at home: as a grad student at Cal in 1994, my household had ISDN service—128Kbps—and we could only afford it because we had a partial lab subsidy, and if you had a 17” CRT, you were stylin’. But by the early 2000s, you could get a killer PC with a huge display and infinite hard disk space very affordably, and everyone had broadband at home. So the RAD Lab’s revolutionary idea was that students might come in if they knew with high confidence that their fellow students and even (gasp) their faculty advisors were likely to be there. And the idea worked.
Now I’m sitting at home (it’s the weekend! otherwise I’d be in the lab) with my 24” display etc., and watching my network backup proceed at 1Mbps. (We have cable modem “service” from Comcast, and like most residential broadband technologies, it’s an asymmetric link. We get anywhere from 6 to 10 Mbps down, but only 1-3 Mbps up.)
In the coming days of big data, I wonder whether we’ll again see students coming into the lab to work because that’s where the 100Mbps intranet and 10-100 Mbps uplinks are.