Multiplexing with Roman

In our sessions with Soma, we discovered that Roman has an interest in inventors. So occasionally we’ll ferret out an interesting podcast to listen to on the road, and I found just the ticket in a BBC interview about Thomas Edison.*

Edison held a record number of patents, many of them tweaks on existing technologies like telegraphy. The telegraph network was likened to a nervous system, “spreading it’s tentacles across the world, transforming the way people think about communication, about distance, about time.”

The lore goes that young Edison saved the life of a local telegraph technician’s son, and in gratitude, was trained as an operator. He was plucky. Smart, and a hard worker, Edison moved up the ranks and began making incremental improvements to telegraph technology.

He is credited with
    ⁃    inventing a printing telegraph (a stock market ticker = OUTPUT)
    ⁃    innovating an automatic telegraph (information typed onto a paper tape is fed through the system, exponentially increasing efficiency, speed, and accuracy = INPUT)
    ⁃    boosting the capacity of multiple telegraph systems (INPUT + OUTPUT = COMMUNICATION)

Multiplexing allows for several signals to travel along the same communications channel. Duplexing - the ability to use one line in both directions - had already been pioneered. But Edison doubled the wire’s capacity with quadraplexing - the simultaneous sending of two outgoing messages and two incoming messages. He achieved this by modifying both the amplitude (strength) and the phase (polarity or direction) of the electrical pulses.

We were listening to all this in the car, en route from Austin to New Orleans. And I’m thinking that while most of us are actively duplexing information,** Roman is involuntarily multiplexing. The input is unfiltered, prolific and never-ending. He's constantly bombarded with sensory signals, and the door to the control booth is locked - his only methods to limit volume, direction, speed, and frequency are ESCAPE or MELTDOWN.***

Quadraplexing relies on a multiplexer to encode outgoing information and demultiplexer (<— obv.) to decode incoming messages. I suspect that Roman demultiplexes incoming signals with fidelity - he hears and understands fine, and input reliably travels through his nervous system into the laboratory.

It’s the outgoing signals that addle and occasionally run haywire. Case in point, Roman spelling one thing WHILE saying another.

Of course, we couldn’t have begun to fathom any of this depth of understanding before Soma. We could only see the OUTPUT: echolalia morphing into nonversations, sometimes frustrated cuss-fests shot through with quirky word merging, and all of the above evolving into his own brand of humor (see here  and here).

Perhaps his passive incoming wiring is taut, organized, and magnificently laid, but his outgoing cables have too much slack; they tangle in a serpent’s nest, delaying, kinking, interrupting, and warping the signal down the line. The capture is fine - it’s the release that’s a doozy.


* An extra spectacular podcast because one of the guests had unusual conversational fillers; pausing to gather his words, he jammed the commonplace “you know” into micro variations on “yanew,” “yeow,” “yno,” “na,” and peppered his answers with a multitude of these verbal tics. This, combined with his British accent sent Romi into peals of laughter. For Roman, humor + information = learning. In our Time podcast on BBC.
** In a roughly linear you ask —> I answer sort of format.
*** Sad face.

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