Thursday, January 13, 2005

The Golden Age of Wireless

“Bye-bye empire, empire bye-bye.”
—“One of My Submarines”
Thomas Dolby

Sorry, just a bit of wishful thinking. In addition to being the title of a woefully forgotten gem from the Eighties, “the golden age of wireless” once referred to radio. Of course nowadays, the term “wireless” applies to lots of things, including Wi-Fi. I mention it because once you’ve gone wireless, you don’t ever want to go back. In fact, wireless is so darn . . . wireless that the City of San Francisco, along with Philly, Detroit, Portland, Chicago, New York, and Hot’lanta are amongst those municipalities with plans to make the technology part of their local public infrastructures. Works for me. I admit I'm an addict. (Mum’s the word on my source.) As with any junkie, 24-7 access is a necessity, and, like a real “overenthusiast,” I suffer withdrawal symptoms when I can’t get my fix. Try talking to my surfer/photographer friend Six, who damn near lost her mind after losing her connection for just short of 48 hours, leaving her without access to the local surf reports. Fortunately yours truly still had a connection. When she called, I was able to assuage her nerves with on the spot voiceovers I made up while watching the live surf cam on my laptop: “Yah, there's a person out there. Yah, only one . . . well, actually I'm not sure if it's a person . . . could be a piece of debris—oh, no I think it's a person. The water? It looks cold. Oh, what's it doing? Um, it's um crashing around . . . the water i mean . . . yah, like when it . . . whatdya call it . . . comes toward the beach? Yah, a wave.”

I mention all this because Yahoo, one of the myriad Internet pushers er providers, among other things, recently released the results of their cruelly clever little experiment to deprive people of their drug of choice. 28 crazy fools from 13 clearly demented households in Boston, Chicago, and Portland agreed to refrain from Internet usage for two weeks, during which time they were asked to keep paper diaries of their experience. Unsurprisingly, most folks were miserable. (If you’re not an addict, then that won’t make any sense to you, and I’m not gonna try to explain it.) In moments of desperation, the participants were allowed a so-called “lifeline,” i.e. the opportunity to use the Internet for a single activity. The lifeline was used 35 times: five times for communication, five for “task-oriented” needs, and 25 times for money-related matters. Lifelines were used twice on the first day and peaked with seven on Day 12. But here’s the fact that really shocked me: the researchers had to approach a whopping 750 people in order to find enough willing participants—despite offering a $950 cash incentive! Now that is outrageous. They should have approached me. I would have taken the grand and signed up all my friends—inc. the piece of debris at Linda Mar. Sure, I would have been miserable, but I would have bought myself an iPod, a portable DVD player, and a plane ticket to some island idyll, where with my new toys it’d be easy to kick the habit. Maybe have a party with my friends. Then I could come back for a nice refreshing relapse. . . .

primary sources chart


Anonymous Eric Olsen said...

posted by Eric Olsen on on January 27, 2005 11:16 AM:
another good one mpho - for a grand even I would consider giving the old Internet a two-week break, although I'd have to find someone to take care of the business, which means it wouldn't get taken care of, which still might be worth it

12:15 AM  
Anonymous Aaman said...

posted by Aaman on on January 27, 2005 12:50 PM:
Nice post - lots of food for thought. I have had about two weekends running with no computer available at home - I used the time to watch films, read pending books, go out. I still sneaked in a peek every now and then on my PDA to the internet - including blogcritics (which isn't very PDA-friendly;) )

12:16 AM  
Anonymous SFC SKI said...

posted by SFC SKI on January 28, 2005 11:22 PM:
I was a true net junkie until I went to Iraq, and once I finally had the ability to get online there, I was able to wean myself off of the electronic teat. Using limited use public computers is probably the only way to limit myself. Now that I am back I am itching to get a cable modem and dive in again.

12:17 AM  
Blogger mpho said...

posted by mpho on on February 2, 2005 03:21 AM:
I say it all the time, but it's funny how I can't remember what I used to do before the Internet. I guess I watched tv. I not longer own a television for that very reason, but I've only succeeded in trading that habit for watching Netflix DVDs on my laptop. And instead of writing/reading books, I find myself writing/reading blogs. Why let a little electromagnetic radiation scare me? :)

12:18 AM  
Anonymous Eric Olsen said...

posted by Eric Olsen on on February 2, 2005 09:31 AM:
I think the main differences are the interactivity nd the immediacy

12:19 AM  

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