by January 5, 2004 0 comments

The big news last year has undoubtedly been wireless. Or, wireless notebooks, wireless Internet access and wireless networks, to be exact. We still have a long way to go to a fully wireless world. Let me explain. Consider the notebook I carry. My notebook is wireless equipped, but if you were to open my notebook bag, you would find it to be full of wires. In fact, as the years go by, I see an increase in the number of wires that I have to carry. Surprised? 

Let us count them. First there is the rather bulky power chord. Then there is the telephone cable that I carry for the modem on the road. Then comes the network cable for the occasional visit to the Cyber café. The USB cable for the digital camera is the fourth and the wires for the headphones take the count to five. Although I end up connecting different cameras to the notebook, luckily, I can get by with one cable for all of them!

Let us spend a minute in trying to figure out what it will take to move from this to a fully wireless world.

Let us start on the power front. Even if you eliminate all other wires, you are still left with this umbilical chord that binds you to terra firma. It will take major improvements in two converging directions before we can have notebooks that can work through the day and maybe more without recharging. On one side, we need circuitry, chips and most of all displays that will consume only a fraction of the power they do today. The Centrino is but one small step in this direction. There is still a long way to go. Paralleling this, we will need compact batteries that can store and deliver many times the power they do today.

When (and not if) both these happen, then the notebook, like the cellphone will not need you to carry a power cable with it.

The telephone cable and the network cable. The first can be eliminated if there is universal availability of broadband, if every telephone comes with a network port for Internet access. And both can be avoided if there is universal wireless networking and Internet access. Either of these situations is technically feasible, but practically they are still years, if not ages, away.

That brings up the digital camera. Infrared could solve the problem, but it would take ages to transfer all the data over infrared. Bluetooth? Possibly. Bluetooth devices are becoming more prevalent, albeit at a price. But, an application like transferring pictures and video over Bluetooth would require oodles of bandwidth, and we are not yet there.

And, finally, the headphones. Simple radio waves can handle that one. Wireless headphones are available in the market, but they have not caught on, and currently available base units would be too bulky with notebooks.

In short, almost all the technologies required for enabling a fully wireless world are available to us, but again, almost all of them require a lot more improvements and universal implementation before we can claim to live in a truly wireless world. Till then we have to accept the fact that occasional wireless network access is all that we have to go by. Otherwise, we are still firmly wired.

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