[This material was prepared for a talk to a general audience in the Spring of 1994. Some updating of the material has been undertaken since. Last revision Oct 1995]

Background to the Wiring Work

The Physics Building at Glasgow University was subjected to extensive building works in the period 1992-4. During the advance planning, we were able to see that all our ad hoc data wiring would be destroyed, and we had heard good things about structured wiring schemes, using unshielded twisted pair cables. We struggled long and hard to convince the University that we needed this: after we had finally got our scheme accepted, the University adopted structured wiring as official policy for future installations.

In the initial survey, the University had been offered category 3 UTP cable, and this had been specified in the invitation to tender. The contract was put out to tender, and BT won the contract. Due to unforseen site problems subsequently, the building work then was seriously delayed: during the delay, we became aware of developments in cable specifications, and we were able to re-negotiate the wiring contract to use a better grade of wiring. This may turn out to have been a fortunate turn of events: time will tell.

The Physics building has an older part, dating back to the time of Lord Kelvin, and a newer part of a more modern construction. In the older part, serviceways were formed in the very high ceiling of the corridors, and screened by a false ceiling. In the newer part, there were already serviceways above false ceilings, and these were re-used for the new installations. Vertical pipe ducts existed at reasonable points in the building. These service ways and pipe ducts do not convey fresh air, so the use of cable materials of the low-smoke low-halogen type was not mandatory. To give an idea of the dimensions involved, the whole building has a roughly rectangular ground plan with outer dimensions about 82m x 53m formed around an inner courtyard, and is on 4, 5 or 6 floors in different parts.

The data wiring was brought into service as it became available, during the progress of the building works in 1992-3, with a formal handover of the major part of the installation in Autumn 1993 and of the Astronomy penthouse by the end of 1993. It was an immediate success, both for the older data connection methods and for the twisted-pair Ethernet that we were bringing into use at that time, and that has now (Autumn 1995) become the major usage of this wiring.

Please don't ask me to say more now about our experiences with the builders: maybe when you see me in the bar, well... Suffice it to say that we were very pleased with the way in which BT handled the wiring work, in difficult circumstances.

The degree to which different parts of the Department were receptive to the proposed wiring system was surprisingly varied. Many individuals were already able to see the benefit, and wanted as many ports as possible; on the other hand, we were surprised at the suggestion in some quarters that data sockets would not be required at all in lecture rooms and student laboratories. We insisted on at least a minimum provision, and with hindsight, I think even the nay-sayers have been glad that we did.

The World Wide Web

The World Wide Web concept, originated at CERN, has been enthusiastically adopted in many fields of knowledge, including of course our own (Particle Physics).

In order to better inform the staff of the Department about the wiring, as well as about the services to which it can give them access, I wrote these introductory modules, which can be used for self-study or as the basis for a talk. I decided to introduce myself to World Wide Web techniques by building these modules as a series of WWW documents. The present talk draws on those modules to produce something which I hope will be comprehensible to a general audience, although I probably won't be able to resist mentioning the occasional technical point. You will see that this approach is somewhat of a compromise: when presented as a talk, too much material appears on the screen; when a printout is generated from the html source, it reads rather strangely when hypertext links are met within the running text. Nevertheless I feel it was a worthwhile first try. I hope that you will agree.