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A unified, global digital telecommunications network is branching toward reality. A panel of international experts working under the sponsorship of the United Nations has recommended key technical standards; meanwhile, national telephone agencies in several countries have fielded trials with experimental equipment over the last few years [Fig. 1]. The day may not be far off when a design engineer can plug a telephone and a computer terminal into the same connector and talk with a partner halfway around the world, while the partner sketches and color-codes a diagram on both their screens.