the SAD state of wireless

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From: Tom Sweetnam (
Date: Thu May 11 2000 - 12:01:22 PDT

Gordon Mohr wrote:

"A global citizens band wireless network... inexpensive, low-power
cellular antenna boxes... deployed in windows and on balconies by
average citizens... a global wireless economy of digits, where your
cell phone bill would equal the difference between the digits you
provide to the network and the digits you take away."

I remember driving from Malibu back to Ventura in 1991, really pissing my
girlfriend off because I was talking to her on my cell phone and the
mountains along the coast and in Ventura County kept breaking up the call.
"Damn, I can hardly wait till 1995," I thought, "when wireless communication
will be as easy as Spock telling Scotty to beam him up from 25 miles deep
inside some planet that's 12 parsecs away from the Enterprise.

So here it is 2000, and I'm sitting in New Mexico in my beautiful new Class
A RV, rigged with every toy, bell, and whistle imaginable (talking GPS,
satellite TV, CB, 50 amp generator, state of the art solar package, etc.,
etc.) and my little computer station hurts for absolutely nothing
either...except an invisible umbilical cord to the net.

My Compaq Presario notebook will only accept an analog modem card. OK. My
Nokia 918 is analog anyway. Now I don't have to buy a new cell phone. I'll
just tie a piece of kite string between these two tin cans, and I ought to
be able to rig up some kind of communication. And since politics dictates
who is digital and who ain't, I see by AT&Ts availability map on their web
site last night that nearly the entire continent, except a sizable chunk of
California, is still analog anyway, and since I intend on dwelling in the
wilderness boondocks, digital just isn't an issue then.

I've given up on any kind of wireless Internet connection, because I'm not
springing for the ridiculous prices still charged for satellite two-way, and
since most of the continent is still analog, and the technology from that
point downstream seemingly buggy whip in complexity, the best I can hope
for, realistically, is about an 11k analog connection speed, where and when
I can get it.

What to do? Sign up for an AT&T one-rate cell phone package, pay maybe $90 a
month, or a little over $1000 a year for about 10 hours of link-up time a
month, and you will eat up every minute of that time just uploading and
downloading e-mail a few times a week (especially if you're a member of FoRK
;-). Forget about logging any web time. The connection speed would drive
most people crazy anyway.

The ultimate irony here, is that my first stop next Monday, once I'm back on
the road for the summer and fall, is the VLA (the Very Large Array) west of
Soccoro. It's that wireless communications center where they stay in touch
with quasars 20 billion light years away. I wish to hell I could do as well
between Alamogordo and Soccoro.

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