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第4册 - Unit 4, Section A - The Telecommunications Revolution

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A transformation is occurring that should greatly boost living standards in the developing world. Places that until recently were deaf and dumb are rapidly acquiring up-to-date telecommunications that will let them promote both internal and foreign investment. It may take a decade for many countries in Asia, Latin America, and Eastern Europe to improve transportation, power supplies, and other utilities. But a single optical fiber with a diameter of less than half a millimeter can carry more information than a large cable made of copper wires. By installing optical fiber, digital switches, and the latest wireless transmission systems, a parade of urban centers and industrial zones from Beijing to Budapest are stepping directly into the Information Age. A spider's web of digital and wireless communication links is already reaching most of Asia and parts of Eastern Europe.

All these developing regions see advanced communications as a way to leap over whole stages of economic development. Widespread access to information technologies, for example, promises to condense the time required to change from labor- intensive assembly work to industries that involve engineering, marketing, and design. Modern communications 'will give countries like China and Vietnam a huge advantage over countries stuck with old technology'.

How fast these nations should push ahead is a matter of debate. Many experts think Vietnam is going too far by requiring that all mobile phones be expensive digital models, when it is desperate for any phones, period. 'These countries lack experience in weighing costs and choosing between technologies,' says one expert.

Still, there's little dispute that communications will be a key factor separating the winners from the losers. Consider Russia. Because of its strong educational system in mathematics and science, it should thrive in the information age. The problem is its national phone system is a rusting antique that dates from the l930s. To lick this problem, Russia is starting to install optical fiber and has a strategic plan to pump $40 billion into various communications projects. But its economy is stuck in recession and it barely has the money to even scratch the surface of the problem.

Compare that with the mainland of China. Over the next decade, it plans to pour some $100 billion into telecommunications equipment. In a way, China's backwardness is an advantage, because the expansion occurs just as new technologies are becoming cheaper than copper wire systems. By the end of 1995, each of China's provincial capitals except for Tibet will have digital switches and high-capacity optical fiber links. This means that major cities are getting the basic infrastructure to become major parts of the information superhighway, allowing people to log on to the most advanced services available.

Telecommunications is also a key to Shanghai's dream of becoming a top financial center. To offer peak performance in providing the electronic data and paperless trading global investors expect, Shanghai plans telecommunications networks as powerful as those in Manhattan.

Meanwhile, Hungary also hopes to jump into the modern world. Currently, 700,000 Hungarians are waiting for phones. To partially overcome the problem of funds and to speed the import of Western technology, Hungary sold a 30% stake in its national phone company to two Western companies. To further reduce the waiting list for phones, Hungary has leased rights to a Dutch -Scandinavian group of companies to build and operate what it says will be one of the most advanced digital mobile phone systems in the world. In fact, wireless is one of the most popular ways to get a phone system up fast in developing countries. It's cheaper to build radio towers than to string lines across mountain ridges, and businesses eager for reliable service are willing to accept a significantly higher price tag for a wireless call - the fee is typically two to four times as much as for calls made over fixed lines.

Wireless demand and usage have also exploded across the entire width and breadth of Latin America. For wireless phone service providers, nowhere is business better than in Latin America - having an operation there is like having an endless pile of money at your disposal. BellSouth Corporation, with operations in four wireless markets, estimates its annual revenue per average customer at about $2,000 as compared to $860 in the United States. That's partly because Latin American customers talk two to four times as long on the phone as people in North America.

Thailand is also turning to wireless, as a way to allow Thais to make better use of all the time they spend stuck in traffic. And it isn't that easy to call or fax from the office: the waiting list for phone lines has from one to two million names on it. So mobile phones have become the rage among businesspeople, who can remain in contact despite the traffic jams.

Vietnam is making one of the boldest leaps. Despite a per person income of just $220 a year, all of the 300,000 lines Vietnam plans to add annually will be optical fiber with digital switching, rather than cheaper systems that send electrons over copper wires. By going for next-generation technology now, Vietnamese telecommunications officials say they'll be able to keep pace with anyone in Asia for decades.

For countries that have lagged behind for so long, the temptation to move ahead in one jump is hard to resist. And despite the mistakes they'll make, they'll persist - so that one day they can cruise alongside Americans and Western Europeans on the information superhighway.

一个将会大大提高发展中国家生活水准的转变正方兴未艾。

一些不久前还是信息闭塞的地方正在迅速获得最新的通信技术,这将促进他们吸纳国内外投资。

亚洲、拉丁美洲和东欧的许多国家也许需要10年时间来改善其交通、电力供应和其他公用设施。

但是只一根直径小于半毫米的光纤电缆就可以比由铜丝制成的粗电缆承载更多的信息。

由于安装了光纤电缆、数字转换器和最新的无线传输系统,从北京到布达佩斯的一系列城区和工业区正在直接步入信息时代。

一个蛛网般的数字和无线通信网络已经发展到亚洲的大部分地区和东欧的部分地区。

所有这些发展中地区都把先进的通信技术看作一种跨越经济发展诸阶段的途径。

例如,信息技术的广泛应用有望缩短劳动密集型的组装工业转向涉及工程、营销和设计的那些产业所需的时间。

现代通信技术"将使中国、越南这样的国家比那些困于旧技术的国家拥有巨大的优势"。

这些国家应以多快的速度向前发展是人们争论的一个问题。

许多专家认为,越南在目前急需电话的情况下,却要求所有的移动电话都必须是昂贵的数字型电话,这种做法太超前了。

一位专家说:"这些国家缺乏成本估算和选择技术的经验。"

然而毋庸争辩,通信技术将是区分输赢的关键因素。

看一看俄罗斯的情况吧。

由于其坚实的数学和科学教育基础,它应该在信息时代有繁荣的发展。

问题是,它的国内电话系统是一堆生锈的20世纪30年代的老古董。

为了解决这一问题,俄罗斯已经开始铺设光纤电缆,并制定了投入400亿美元建设多项通信工程的战略计划。

但是由于其经济陷于低迷,几乎没有资金来着手解决最基本的问题。

与俄罗斯相比,在未来10年中,中国大陆计划对通信设备投入1,000亿美元。

从某种意义上说,中国的落后成了一种有利因素,因为这一发展正好发生在新技术比铜线电缆系统更便宜的时候。

到1995年底,中国除了拉萨以外的省会都将有数字转换器和高容量的光纤网,

这意味着其主要城市正在具备必需的基础设施,成为信息高速公路的主要部分,使人们能够进入系统,获得最先进的服务。

电信工程也是上海实现其成为一流的金融中心这一梦想的关键。

为了能给国际投资者提供其所期望的电子数据和无纸化交易方面的出色服务,上海计划建设与曼哈顿同样强大的电信网络。

与此同时,匈牙利也希望跃入现代世界。

目前,有70万匈牙利人等着装电话。

为了部分地解决资金问题,加速引进西方技术,匈牙利将国有电话公司30%的股份出售给了两家西方公司。

为进一步减少电话待装户,匈牙利已将权利出租给一家荷兰-斯堪的纳维亚企业集团,来建造并经营一个据说位居世界先进行列的数字移动电话系统。

事实上,无线方式是在发展中国家快速建设电话系统的最受欢迎的方式之一。

建造无线电发射塔要比翻山越岭架设线路更便宜。而且,急切盼望可靠服务的企业乐于花费可观的高价来换取无线电话服务──其资费通常是固定线路电话资费的二至四倍。

整个拉丁美洲对无线通信的需求和使用已急速增长。

对于无线电话服务商来说,没有任何地方的业务比拉丁美洲更好了──在那里有一个营运点就好像有一堆无穷无尽供你使用的钞票。

在四个无线电话市场有营运点的贝尔南方电话公司估计,来自于其每个客户的平均年收入均为2,000美元,而在美国仅为860美元。

产生这种情况的部分原因是拉丁美洲客户的通话时间是北美洲客户的二至四倍。

泰国也在求助于无线通信方式,以便让泰国人在发生交通堵塞时更好地利用时间。

而且在泰国,从办公室往外打电话或发传真并不那么容易:待装电话的名单上有一二百万个名字。

因此移动电话在商务人士中成为时尚,他们在交通堵塞时也能与外界保持联系。

越南正在做一个最大胆的跳跃。

尽管越南人均年收入只有220美元,它计划每年增加的30万条线路将全部为有数字转换功能的光纤电缆,而不是那些以铜线传送电子信号的廉价系统。

由于现在就选用了下一代的技术,越南负责通信的官员说他们能够在数十年中与亚洲的任何一个国家保持同步。

对于那些长期落后的国家来说,一跃而名列前茅的诱惑难以抵御。

而且,尽管他们会犯错误,他们仍会坚持不懈──总有一天,他们将能在信息高速公路上与美国和西欧并驾齐驱。

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