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Star Trek analogy conveys tough concept

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in Leaders & Managers,Leadership Skills

David Pensak has more than 40 technology patents. One of his breakthroughs was developing the first commercial Inter­­net firewall.

Pensak, 66, faced a challenge during the early days of the Internet. He wanted people to understand the purpose of a firewall. But they were still grappling with the newness of the Web itself, so he had to figure out a simple way to explain a complex concept.

In his lectures, Pensak used a simple analogy to convey his point. Citing one of his favorite TV shows, “Star Trek,” Pensak referred to the characters’ frequent use of “beaming.” A teleportation machine would convert people or things into energy and reconvert them back to their original state once they reached their destination.

“When transporting someone, sometimes the transmission was fast and clean,” Pensak said in his speeches. “But sometimes engineer Scotty had problems beaming people and fiddling with the controls was necessary.”

Pensak compared this process to the communication protocols that drive Inter­­net traffic.

Certain protocols allow your computer to send data to—or retrieve data from—a mother computer.  

He’d follow his analogy through the entire process to increase his listeners’ understanding. When people were beamed on “Star Trek," they transformed into bits of energy and traveled in a jumble to wherever they sought to go. Once they arrived, a machine on the other end had to interpret the jumble and reconstruct the person.

Similarly, he told his audiences, Internet data are broken down into packets as they move from point to point. On the receiving end, reassembled data appear in an accurate sequence.

— Adapted from Supercommunicator, Frank Pietrucha, AMACOM.

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