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Magazines > Information Today > November 2004
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Information Today

Vol. 21 No. 10 — November 2004

OPINION
Oh, What a Wireless World
By Dick Kaser


My grandfather took me up in his attic once to show me the gas lines running to the chandeliers. At the time the house was built, it seems they weren't so confident with this newfangled thing called electricity. So, they wired the fixtures for both gas and alternating current. It all seemed so silly with the benefit of our collective hindsight. We laughed about the absurdity of the idea.

Now that I have gone to a wireless computer, I have come to appreciate the brilliance of the concept. My new machine (just like the lights in my grandfather's old house) came equipped with the technology necessary to cover all the bases. It includes the following:

• A 56K modem (just in case this brand-new technology turns out to be a dead end)

• An Ethernet port for those days when I'm in the office or at a hotel that provides an appropriate outlet ($9.95 a day in the U.S., $19.95 an hour in the U.K.)

• A wireless card for tapping into the ether from wherever I may roam (currently, as long as it's within inches of a wireless network)

• And of course, Bluetooth for ... well ... who knows—I may want a cordless mouse.

What can I tell you? It's got everything but natural gas lines already built in. I guess you could say I'm covered for everything.

You could also say that I'm lucky a 56K dial-up modem was included. That's still the way I get on the Net most frequently, most reliably, and from locations near and far from home.

But lately I have been enjoying the wireless network that, apparently, one of my neighbors has installed without (thank you very much, pal) turning on the security settings. It comes and goes, and sometimes I get the best signal when I squat by the front door. But sure, yeah, I can see that it would be convenient to jot off e-mails from my living room without plugging my computer into a phone line.

And lucky me! My local government is so taken with the idea of offering me a Wi-Fi infrastructure that officials have just announced they will be putting together a plan to make the entire city of Philadelphia wireless over the next couple of years. Rumor has it that a 2-month experiment brought 1,200 unique users and their laptops to the city's Love Park to bond with an experimental Wi-Fi network. Apparently, this evidence was proof enough for the city to consider wiring (or shall I say wirelessing?) the whole town (135 sq. miles, 1.5 million residents, who, for the most part, do not own computers, PDAs, or other wireless devices).

Well, I guess we all didn't own phones when the lines went up, and we all didn't own cars when the first highways were paved. It's like the chicken and the egg.

Do we really need Wi-Fi? Probably not. Can it actually be deployed citywide? Will I still own this computer when Wi-Fi goes everywhere my travels take me? Only time will tell.

When Wi-Fi is so ubiquitous that I can actually tap in from anywhere in town, I'll probably be singing its praises along with everyone else. Until then, I'm pretty glad the 56K modem came standard on my new machine.

Oh, what a wireless world!


Dick Kaser is Information Today, Inc.'s vice president of content. His e-mail address is kaser@infotoday.com.
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