50 million set-tops = 400 Mt. Everests

This week, the company will ship its 50 millionth set-top box.

Motorola announced to the world that it had shipped its kajillionth set-top box. OK, that's an exaggeration--it's actually 50 million. But any excuse for a party, right?

To commemorate the self-congratulatory occasion, the company treated us all to a fascinating history of the set-top box. I'll paraphrase: Way back in 1996 (the modern equivalent of the Iron Age), Motorola capitalized on this newfangled thing called "digital cable." With its advent, companies could do things like send "program guides" and "shows on-demand." (Cue the French horns.) In its prescience, Motorola put out "the first commercial set-top box in the field," according to the press release. Actually, it says in the next paragraph, General Instrument Corp. shipped the first one. And then Motorola bought them. Eh, same difference.

Anyway, back to the 50 million. You want that number in some wacky geographic or cartographic context? Motorola's PR team is glad you asked. Fifty million set-top boxes stacked end-to-end would stretch from Sydney to London, and stacked on top of each other would stand higher than 400 Mt. Everests.

To quote my least favorite actor (except in "The Matrix"): "Whoa."

(Photos: Motorola, PBS)

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