Universal Computing


A handful of events and developments in the world of desktop computing qualify as great things. The advent of PC-based computing itself was one.

Follow with Local Area Networks, the graphical interface (okay, Windows), and the Web. Although some would probably add other trends, few would debate these as key events in the modern computing era. Wireless computing is the next great thing that will be added to the list, and it is coming quickly to an office near you, maybe even your own office—whether you are ready for it or not.

Some call it pervasive computing. I like the term universal computing. Whatever the term, it signifies freedom from cables and copper wiring, and freedom from place.

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Think about it. Would anyone have wire cables, outlets, or jacks to deliver electrical, phone, cable TV, or computer data if we could get these services without them? You bet your twisted pair they wouldn’t! It’s doubtful that we’ll ever have wireless electrical service, or possibly wireless TV, but the rest are in use and can become pervasive (think cell phones), especially on the computing front.

Wi-Fi is already a rage at coffee shops and hotels and is coming into reselling, consulting and accounting firms widely, offering wireless Ethernet connectivity.

PC cards in notebook computers (Aircard is a Cisco name, but it makes the best generic name I’ve seen) give a cellular-based connection to email and the Web. And you can tack on other technologies like Bluetooth.

As computer users, we don’t want wires. We want access to our data from wherever we are, and if we can get the same kind of performance out of wireless systems, we will drop wires and cables the way consumers are dropping VHS for DVD. Or think about the limited use of floppy disks these days.

Wireless systems are already stampeding through the consulting market and auditors are adopting them as a way to stop working, as one CPA called it, like pack mules, when they bring their computerized systems into client sites. There is no stopping this phenomenon. It is the way people want to work.

There will be some impediments from making decisions over standards and which wireless systems to adopt. It’s hard to see Wi-Fi, with its limited range and need to be near Wireless Access Points, as anything but an intermediate step. The phone companies, with their existing systems, look like the best bet as the winning infrastructure providers.

Cables may become a sign of old systems in old buildings. In five years, walking into a firm that still links its PCs together by drilling holes in walls and running cable through the empty spaces may be as old-fashioned as green screens and acoustic modems.

“You’re still wired?” visitors will note with amusement.

Robert Scott — Editor

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