For a decade, the Integrated Services Digital Network (ISDN) has been hailed as a way to make ordinary phone lines carry rivers of voice, data, and video simultaneously. But ISDN never really caught on--partly because of subtle incompatibilities in the versions installed by rival phone-switch makers. So, on Feb. 26, the manufacturers announced they were creating a single standard by the end of 1992 to bridge the "islands of ISDN" scattered across the country.
Unfortunately, the peace treaty is a bit late. ISDN isn't well designed to carry the booming data traffic between local area networks. It remains a speedy alternative to modems for making connections between computers that don't regularly communicate with one another. But, says David Passmore, an Ernst & Young partner who specializes in networking: "It's basically 1970s technology, and the world has passed it by."