What is all this hysteria and folderol about wireless?
I mean it seems you cant go anywhere these days without some cellular or mobile computing company touting the virtues of doing away with wires. If we would only eliminate those nasty strips of metal encased in rubber, such companies tell us, our lives would be a fabulous fantasy in which Catherine Zeta-Jones would be at our side appealingly praising our perspicacity (not that theres anything wrong with that).
In the tech community, the hype is growing to epidemic proportions. Wireless technologypersonal digital assistants (PDAs) with e-mail, computers on our wrists, hot-spots that let us connect to the Web while sipping trendy lattesis ready to explode, the pundits tell us. And it must be true, because theyve been telling us that for at least 5 years now.
The pundits may one day be proven correct, but why must we stoop to demonizing the wire, an entity whose history in our nationand indeed the world overhas been one of selfless service?
On that fateful day in 1844 when Samuel Morse sent the telegraph message “What hath God wrought?” from the U.S. Supreme Court chamber to Baltimore, the course of communication in the civilized world changed foreverand wire was an integral part of that change. From electric power to telegraph to telephone to transoceanic cables, wire has been the medium that has enabled the tremendous technological growth of the 20th century.
And the wire has served valiantly in corollary rolesas a “rest stop” for millions of birds who wend their way south and north each year, and as a bridge of safety that spans the dangerous highways we humans have invented to wipe out the squirrel population. (Oh sure, a few furry creatures morph into crispy critters when they step on the wrong wire, but what ever happened to the idea of personal responsibility?) Yet marketers of wireless devices dismiss the noble wire as a technology pariah that “gets tangled” and “causes clutter.”
Wireless is hardly a new idea, though. In fact, in the early days of radio, that device often was referred to as “wireless.” And my more seasoned readers may remember Dick Tracy and his fabulous watch, which wirelessly carried all kinds of communication across comic-strip land. Ironically, such watches actually are being sold todaypart of the “wireless revolution.”
I also find it interesting, however, that when we as a nation had achieved free, wireless television transmission in the 1950s, we turned right around and went back to wires, and we were happy to pay a hefty premium to do so. By the way, heres a neato tech tip for those under 25: If you use that antenna thingy attached to your TV, you may still actually be able to tune in some of those wireless broadcasts, and you dont have to pay a dime for them! Cool, huh?