Cut the Old School Cords

That garish but oh-so cool geek mag, “Wired”, has an image problem.

When they started the publication up way back when, it was the early days of the Internet and computers were just coming out of the basement. The whole taped-up-horn-rim glasses scene was developing a tawdry gloss of chic.

In those days even phones had wires, so the name was perfect.

We’ve entered a new era of computing, however. Now it’s all about cutting the cables that bind and going mobile. So, you see, “Wired” is just too last millennium.

Just look at Apple’s new iMac. With Bluetooth and WiFi, it requires
only one cord: power. Everything else, from web browsing to typing, can
be done using only air.

Bluetooth is a wildly popular technology that allows devices to
communicate with one another in relatively close proximity without
wires and with zero configuration.

Devices that use Bluetooth include cell phones, PDA’s, printers, TV
remote controls, keyboards, mice and telephone headsets. So an iMac can
print without wires. It can sync address book data just by laying a
cell phone down beside it. And you can sit a room away from the machine
and still control it with a keyboard and mouse.

Cell phones also use Bluetooth to communicate with wireless headsets.
So you never have to pull your cell phone from your pocket. Just plug a
smallish device into your ear and make a call.

Then therre’s WiFi.

WiFi isn’t new, it’s been in Macs for over five years, but it’s still
one of the coolest technologies around. It’s a replacement for that
ugly blue Ethernet cable you’re always tripping over.

WiFi enables networking without wires. For example, in the olden days,
if you had more than one computer, getting them to talk to each other
was a chore, especially if they were in different rooms in your house.

You’d have to string all this unsightly blue Ethernet cable through the
heating ducts in your house, around furniture, tucking it under area
rugs and stapling it to the ceiling as you went. Then whenever you
wanted to move your computer you’d have to do it all over again.

WiFi means you just install a base station somewhere innocuous (mine’s
in the basement) and wherever you are in the house you can connect
without a second thought. It’s the perfect technology for households
that share an Internet connection between multiple computers.

There are even web sites that help you resell your wireless bandwidth
to your neighbours to help offset the expense of your high speed
internet account.

WiFi is everywhere. In Vancouver airport, for example, there are at
least two wireless networks you can join. It’s unthinkable these days
to open a new café without WiFi services for customers.

The widespread nature of WiFi is making the Internet ubiquitous in many
parts of North America. (Alas, not so the Yukon but we’ll catch up one
day.)

WiFi is actually a network contender for the next generation of mobile
phones. A number of cell phone manufacturers are releasing WiFi-capable
models that have a piece of software called Skype installed.

Skype allows users to make virtually cost-free telephone calls over the
Internet to anywhere in the world. If you combine that concept with a
WiFi-enabled mobile handset, then as long as you’re on a WiFi network,
you can call internationally for free.

Because of the nascent nature of this technology, the initial
application will be on corporate networks that link up multiple remote
offices. Within a few years, however, when North America is blanketed
with WiFi signal, you can expect to never have to pay for a phone call
again.

So back to Wired. Doesn’t that name sound tired now? Here’s the crux,
however: what new title to adopt? “Unwired”? “Wireless”? How about,
“The Mobile Geek”?

None of those ideas have quite the ring of the current name and I doubt
that Condé Nast, the magazine’s publisher, would risk the popular
magazine’s brand value for what is really a matter of semantics.

No, I believe “Wired” will go on, an paper anachronism in a mobile
world. One day my son will see me reading it and ask, “What’s a wired,
dad?”

Andrew Robulack is an IT Business Strategist and Architect based in Whitehorse.

Originally published in the Yukon News on March 11, 2005.
Copyright Andrew Robulack 2005