Re: WATPA: FW: Two-Way Personal Digital Assistants (PDAs)

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From: DDeBar (
Date: Thu Jun 10 1999 - 06:55:51 EDT

>From a different perspective, that of the communities of which your writer
speaks, consider that the saturation of our communities with MWv radiation
may, after all of the real world data is in, actually turn out to be more
destructive than the excavation referenced.

> From: Norman J. Jacknis <>
> To: ''
> Subject: WATPA: FW: Two-Way Personal Digital Assistants (PDAs)
> Date: Wednesday, June 09, 1999 9:54 PM
> With the explosion of cell phones and PDAs like the Palm Pilot, I thought

> this message from a community telecommunications group might be of
> interest.
> Norm
> ----------------
> Permit a dissenting opinion from a guy who carries around three antennas
> wherever he goes. (Radio, cell phone, wireless modem, in case you're
> wondering.)
> >From the point of view of populations that already have telephones, cell
> phone definitely had a major gee-whiz factor, and probably still do among
> those of us who are impressed by new toys. For seventy years, the only
> major innovations in the home phone were modular cables and touch tone;
> then in the space of a decade, suddenly there are 76 million folks with
> phones in their pockets.
> On the other hand, take a population without phones, currently measured
> around 1.2 billion or so according to Bell Atlantic, and a cell phone
> seem any different from the old cast-iron Ma Bell device. Both are
> miraculous -- pick it up and talk to people.
> Excepting, of course, that we don't have to dig up your village to give
> a cell phone. We do if we want to lay cable. All things considered,
> you don't already have a massive investment in a wired infrastructure,
> a no-brainer for both the end-user and the provider to go to wireless.
> least for voice transmission -- different story for the time being if you
> need data as well. But that's changing rapidly.)
> I wouldn't want to place any bets on the future of Iridium or Teledesic,
> but
> there is no doubt that someone is going to do what they're doing,
> In 20 or 30 years, you'll have instant wireless access to an entire
> spectrum
> of telecom services, probably through a commoditized connector that will
> embedded in just about every electronic device you own. Given the rapid
> progress and initial breakthroughs being made in new spectra, I'm
> that this is as likely to be transmitted through quantum physics or some
> other totally new type of medium as it is to be transmitted through the
> old,
> slow, and crowded electromagnetic spectrum.
> (Our grandchildren will ask: "You mean you actually put up SATELLITES to
> blanket the planet with RADIO WAVES?")
> So I think the appropriate question is not how these technologies fit
> our current perspective, but what new possibilities are opened up by
> A Palm VII can be used to send email. Or you can program the infrared
> to control your television. Or you can use that same port to steal a car
> (just find a car with an IR lock system, and sit with a cup of coffee
> the Palm cycles through 100,000 combinations).
> Likewise, is my cell phone really a PDA because it can store 200 names
> numbers? Is it a Nintendo because it can play games? A mail browser
> because I can forward email through the pager function? If I write a
> program that finds data on the Web and emails it to my cell phone, do I
> have a web browser?
> The point is that it doesn't matter what it is, it matters what it can
> My cell phone is my pager and my email notification service. My Palm is
> Game Boy and a novel or two that I haven't read. My PowerBook is too
> versatile to even begin to categorize it -- as an example, whenever I'm
> using it, it's looking for intelligent life in outer space. (No joke --
> see
> for details.)
> So as a result I'm rather confused by Ryan's mention of "promoting"
> pager technologies over other systems. The systems that will survive are
> the ones which provide the greatest flexibility. Why buy a pager when
> other
> technologies supercede a pager? What is it about a two-way pager network
> that gives it wider reach than a cellular network? And why do we assume
> that any of these descriptions will be in the least bit valid in three
> years?
> If the pager companies are scrambling to prove their relevance, they've
> already lost the battle. Watch for the same thing to happen to current
> cell
> phones in a few years -- who would want an Iridium phone after some
> enterprising company finally comes out with an xDMA/GSM phone that will
> work
> on any cellular network, anywhere?
> So, I'd say here are some good tenets for telecom activists over the next
> few years:
> 1) Don't tie yourself in to any particular technology. The Ma Bell phone
> lasted decades -- the Nokia 6160 will probably be utterly useless in five
> years (and superceded so badly that I won't want to use it after two).
> 2) The horses to bet on are the ones with the most flexibility. Ryan
> at the Palm VII and sees a new, unproven transmission standard. I look
> the Palm VII and I see a user base only slightly less rabid than
> users, and a brand new communications medium. The "web clipping" Palm
> services is only a subset of the existing Web because that's where the
> content is, but if this market matures you may very well find yourselves
> reading about the "Palmweb" in a few years -- which means that savvy
> companies and organizations will have to have a Palmsite as well as a web
> site.
> 3) Immature technologies need nurturing. Companies promoting immature
> technologies need publicity. Large amounts of cash will be thrown in
> general direction. I'm sure Palm would be glad to loan out 100 Palm VIIs
> for a community technology project to an organization who could get that
> story on page 3 of the New York Times.
> 4) Certain technologies help our causes by the nature of their being.
> TCP/IP naturally leads to free speech and open discussion in a way that
> most
> proprietary networks do not. Cable television and narrowcasting lead to
> more content, lower quality, and (arguably) more stratification of
> The issue, however, is not cost. A Palm VII is too expensive for the
> masses
> today, but the technologies in the Palm VII may power your toaster
> tomorrow.
> Of course we should continue to work for greater access to technology --
> and
> especially the artificial price points that keep most computers over
> while old usable computers are junked -- but don't let the early adopter
> price blind you to technologies that can really make a difference in your
> communities, sometime down the road.
> Best,
> Jeff Porten

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