Wireless Is The Next Big Lie

As you are reading this, there is a very good chance I’m also online, scouring the Net. Just like yours, my signal is dashing from machine to machine, hopping networks, and jumping firewalls. Our digital selves seem to have more freedoms than our physical selves. In the virtual world, we are free from many of the constraints of travel, time, and custom. It is my hope that by experiencing these freedoms even in their distorted digital manifestations we will yearn for them in our civil societies. The Internet will be a major catalyst to a more progressive and enriching world, not just as a tool to organize but as a testing ground for ideas and innovations that make our lives better. It all sounds so perfectly amazing, right?

The truth is the Net is only a fraction of how cool it can and will become. We will continually have to wade through crap in order to get there. First we had to put up with AOL disks. Then came email spam. Remember pop-up ads? Or spyware. Did you ever get a virus? We’ve overcome a lot already. But I’ve found the next myth, the next hoax, the next lie that we need to dispel: wireless.

First off, I don’t like the term. Wireless. It takes eight letters to say something doesn’t exist? And it’s always going to be second banana to “wired” because it has bought into the paradigm in which “wired” products are the norm. I think that “wireless” should be the standard and gadgets with wires should be called “teathered” or “immobile.” That’s what so-called “wired” products really are. We need to start using terminology that is based in the technologies of 2006 and not 1950.

To me, you call a human a human, not a tailless monkey.

And it’s not just our vocabulary that needs an update. Modern product designers should be ashamed. The amount of cords and wires it takes to run an average media setup is ridiculous. There is a whole intestine-looking tangle of cords behind my entertainment center. I’ve often said that I think the only people still making money hand over fist in the product hardware business are the cord and wire makers.

So needless to say, the concept of “wireless” sounds fantastic to me. I don’t even need to see the flop. I’m all in.

In fact, I’ve already purchased quite a few “wireless” products. Pretty quickly, however, I found out that wireless often means something very different than an average person’s definition of the term. For example, it would seem obvious that “wireless” means “without wires” as in this diagram:

But, sadly, that is often not the case. Usually “wireless” quite simply means “differently wired.” You need a dongle for that, a power cord for this, and an ethernet cable just for good measure… or spite. All to be “wireless.”

Here is my xbox wireless adapter, for example.

In this case, “wireless” means “two wires.” I am actually surprised they went so far as to put the word “wireless” in the product name. This thing can only go a matter of five feet from an outlet. Immobile, not wireless in my book.

And what do I tell my friends when I trip on one of these cords? “Sorry guys no basketball for me. I biffed my knee when I tripped on my wireless adapter’s cord. What’s that? Yeah, I’m ok. I’ll just chill around the house and listen to audio cassettes on my iPod. I never weened myself off tape hiss, man.”

9 thoughts on “Wireless Is The Next Big Lie”

  1. I have often found “wireless” to simply mean crappy. Everything that comes out “wireless” falls hopelessly short of functioning. I have owned plenty of wired gizmos that worked great. I have been fooled by the public relations people to buy some fancy wireless replacement, only to have it stop working two days after purchase. I say wire me up! I’ll take a few extra wires in my coffee maker. How about a foot wide cord for the electric shaver. It’s all good in this guys perspective. PLUG ME IN

  2. Sadly, the best we can do in our society as of yet is “occasionally wireless” in the time between rechargings.

    And we all try and stretch that timeframe of wirelessness to it’s maximum. Every time I go away for a weekend, I charge my phone in advance, just so I don’t have to burden myself with packing a charger around with me. After all, it isn’t really a vacation if there are wires involved.

    And, as Krusty alluded to, are wires really that bad? In general, everything wireless costs more, breaks more often, and is less powerful than it’s wired counterpart. How is this tradeoff even remotely worth it? Give me wires any day.

  3. Well, I am surpised there are so many wire-lovers out there. Do you all still travel by steam engine? How’s that phonograph treating you? Krusty, I hear you have a cold… should I get the leaches?

    But you all are really helping prove my point. The state of wireless gizmos and gadgets today is pitiful. Wireless products that suck are being rushed to the market and eroding consumer confidence in the technology in general. That doesn’t mean wireless technology sucks, just the products that they are currently shipping. I, for one, am not giving up on the idea of completely mobile electronics and connectivity. It would be foolish to do so. It is the future. The day I bought a laptop, the idea of a desktop computer suddenly became so outdated and limiting. The same will be true for all electronics.

    And Chris, of course that Breakin’ album was strategically placed. I knew I could count on you to notice it. I figured the post was so boring that perhaps the commentary could degenerate into a discussion of who was a better breakdancer, Turbo or Ozone?

  4. We all know who the better break dancer was…. Turbo.

    I don’t know anyone that can debate with any technical merit that Ozone was better.

  5. You have awakened the sleeping giant.

    I’ll start this off simply so you can decide if you wish to hear my rant: I hate wireless.

    I strongly feel that wireless technology still needs massive amounts of work before it should be advertised as a solution to everything. Now i work in a High School with about 270 computers, ranging from paperweight to a 3.0ghz cpu used for ringing up students in the cafeteria (technology usage at it’s best) I understand the usefulness of being able to walk around with a laptop, be browsing the internet, able to print their mildly-humorous distributed emails, and drink coffee at the same time.. don’t get me wrong, we all strive for such luxury.

    First and foremost, wireless is broadcasting a signal to a perimeter, it is not like Scotty is beaming this data directly to your computer. And i’m just going to safely say that the mass majority of people who have set up home wireless networks do not understand what a ‘secured’ wireless network is, or how to make their personal broadcast secure. Almost every time i’ve had my laptop handy, just for kicks i’ll search for an open network, and i’m rarely disappointed.

    Next: At it’s BEST, the maximum bandwidth of a wireless connection is 54mbps, which is if you’re using 802.11a or 802.11g, and is literally unattainable due to hardware restrictions and other things like the computer’s operating system.
    Since it’s wireless, and broadcasting a signal into space, you are in essence sharing 1 wired connection (the cable from the wall to the access point/switch) with everyone else who also uses that wireless router/access point. Now you might say “Well my wired network switch has multiple ports going out, isn’t that slowed down too?” And yes, it is.. but the 100mbps ceiling on wired network distributes faster, and is handled better, than a wireless switch ever could. (100mbps wired is also a theoretical maximum, and is also constrained by hardware and operating system limitations)

    Still ranting: It’d also be one thing if people just wanted wireless internet connections, but people don’t stop there. As mentioned earlier, i work at a school, so naturally people want the “nicest” stuff they can get. Wireless keyboards and mice, wireless display devices for projectors, not to mention the personal wireless networks that come in from some of the local houses, (which i don’t get, i had to buy a repeater just to get the signal to cover my not-all-that-large home) all amount to more interference and more problems. Then let’s add in microwaves, vacuums, air conditioners.. how fast is that connection now?

    Near or Far: Distance is key in wireless networks. It’s common sense that signal strength is going to be dependent on how close you are to the access point, but apparently there’s a problem with being too close to it as well.. so how far is too far? Within 5 feet is speculated to be bad due to collisions, it’s sending and receiving a signal within a small enough space it actually slows it down.. so to fix that you back away, which lowers signal and.. you guessed it, decreases performance and effectiveness.

    (deep breath) So in short, if you worry that running a wire causes a risk of tripping because you forgot you ran the wire, you probably don’t deserve to be on the internet anyhow.

    Here’s a direct website quote that sums it up: “Overall, the performance of 802.11a and 802.11g is sufficient for home Internet connection sharing and file sharing, but generally not sufficient for home LAN gaming. ”

    That’s it from the Corral.
    -Wyatt Earp

  6. I’m stumped.

    7 letters – overair
    6 characters – on-air
    5 hieroglyphics – radio

    The latter goes back even further than the 1960s, yet might work alright.

  7. Wireless Wireless! Everything is going wireless these days. (Wireless phones are kinda-sorta popular these days.) But none of these wireless do-dads work without some solid WIRED infrastructure in place. Also those VOIP, Internet phones, cell phones, wireless networks, etc. — none of that will work without the telco or cable (hard wires) in place in the first place. It’s a wired world.

  8. In general, I am some what surprised at the population of people that dis-like wireless.

    Of course wireless abilities do have its dis-advantages, but look at the advantages, they save money time and space, they may not be totllay reliable but hey, what ever is? Im not saying that I ‘War Drive/ walk’ but look at the minor advantages of doing so.

    Wireless is a step further in Modern Technology, creating specific electrical devices, capable of wireless activities such as Bluetooth! What is a modern day mobile with-out bluetooth? Infrared is a huge advantage for remote activity, imagine using a remote with a wire (rhetorical question). Wi-Fi is just brilliant, I am not even going to describe the advantages for Wi-Fi, it makes the PSP a beauty.

    That God for S & P waves!!!

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