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  • Writer's pictureDean Anthony Gratton

My Life without Wi-Fi

I know, the title sounds grandiose, doesn’t it? ‘My Life without Wi-Fi,’ and I also know it’s a first world problem, but I wanted to undertake an experiment of sorts. I wondered if I could survive at least three consecutive days without Wi-Fi – to be honest I had initially pondered a week’s withdrawal, but felt that such masochistic torture wasn’t necessary.

Cubed beef Chilli

I embarked upon my experiment by, first and foremost, avoiding the need to connect. So, I powered down my computer, which was probably a good thing, as I may have inadvertently saved a bob-or-two on next month’s electricity bill. I also disabled Wi-Fi on both my iPad and smartphone so, I was well and truly ready for the challenge.

I have to admit my experiment set off on a rocky road, since I watch TV, for example, with a computer – that is, I tend to watch ‘catch-up’ TV, so I avoid having to pay a TV license. Yep, that’s right, you only need to pay for a license if you watch ‘live’ TV. But damn it, the computer in my cinema room uses Wi-Fi – not a good start! Okay, I’ll trundle off to the kitchen I thought and spend some time cooking this evening’s meal. I like to play some background music, along with a glass of red, as I create my cubed beef chilli dish – an authentic Mexican dish taken from my Grandfather’s seriously old cook book. His cookbook is somewhat battered and worn and shows sign of its years of use, displaying several wine stains, along with other misplaced ingredient splatters, but I still manage to read the list of things that are required to make this sumptuous dish.

Crikey, I have hit another wall!

You see, I have a Teufel Air Blue proudly on display in my kitchen. It’s not intrusive and blends in amazingly well, yet the music quality produced by it is utterly phenomenal. Anyhow, I ordinarily use my iPad to stream music from Spotify using AirPlay – a nice little feature from Apple, but this feature depends on Wi-Fi and a connection to my broadband router. Okay, if I’m going to cook I need my music playing, so I resort to Bluetooth wireless technology as, fortunately for me, the Spotify premium service allows you to stream content when you’re ‘offline’ so to speak. Phew saved by another wireless technology!

And now for a little history

The first Wi-Fi products appeared in the late ‘90s, which naturally coincided with 802.11 and 802.11b. Okay today, we have 802.11ac – I know, the IEEE and their alphabet soup! Nonetheless, Wi-Fi has allowed most, if not all of us, to enjoy connectivity no matter where we are, although the term Wi-Fi is often used synonymous and incorrectly, as many seem to associate it as actually being the Internet.

That’s not such a terrible thing since Wi-Fi is Wireless Local Area Network (WLAN) technology – it was spawned out of a supposition that if it was difficult to lay Ethernet cable then a WLAN connection should be used. A simple and fair notion – use wireless technology to essentially bridge a gap with your Local Area Networks (LANs), Metropolitan Area Network (MAN) or in a university context, a Campus Area Network (CAN) to ensure that students, consumers and business folk alike all remain connected. It’s amazing to witness, how today, this ability to connect is second nature.

Going cold-turkey

So why this experiment? What was my rationale for taking on such a daring challenge? Well, it struck me one day that Wi-Fi has not been around for that long and yet many of us have grown totally dependent on the technology. Naturally, due to my work, I’m a little obsessed with all things wireless, yet I felt it important to take a break, as it were, and to prove to myself that I could, indeed, survive three days without Wi-Fi.

I made it through those three days cold-turkey with a feeling of victory and a resolution not to slip back into Wi-Fi dependency – yeah, right! But the following day was my birthday (October 26th) and, at a wonderful restaurant, the first thing I found myself asking was not “Could we see the menu?”, but “What’s your Wi-Fi code?” You see my wife and I feel a need to share our foodie experiences with our Twitter followers and Facebook fans, so it’s become natural to seek a connection with our ‘virtual’ friends wherever we dine. So slip back I did and I fear I am destined to be eternally addicted. I desperately want to avoid sounding like a cliché, now but the need to be connected to the Internet today has no doubt found a prominent place in today’s hierarchy of needs, just under the need for red wine, of course!

An Internet tax? There will be riots…

In fact I read in the news after my challenge and following my birthday how people in Hungary are protesting against plans for an Internet levy – a tax on using the Internet: What? If such a thing was introduced here, or in the US there would be riots and a public uproar would ensue.

I have to confess to experiencing severe withdrawal symptoms during my three day Wi-Fi detox – crikey, it was just three days but, as I connected to the restaurant’s wireless network, I found myself looking to the screen with the loving retort “I’ve missed you so much,” as I waited in anticipation for those little bars to appear. I felt elated – there were four of them – this was a strong connection in more ways than one!

We’ve become so dependent on connectivity

The following day after my birthday, I was pleased to hear my computer gently humming as I opened up Google Chrome and clicked on Sky News. That’s when I came across the story about Hungary and their protests about tax on the Internet – in three days I had missed so much it seemed. Looking at Facebook, I saw a number of notifications that I hadn’t responded to, I started up my LinkedIn app and saw a similar backlog and then there was my Twitter timeline. Yikes, I had so much catching up to do! I’ll never leave you again Wi-Fi – I promise!

Could you do the same? Could you forgo your connectivity rush and put aside the need to logon to the Internet using Wi-Fi? I personally found it a difficult but interesting challenge. After all, our virtual connections have become an essential part of our community – of who we are. And, like our innermost angels and demons; who are we to deny them?

Until next time…

 I saw a news story surrounding Samsung’s 60GHz Wi-Fi technology, which touted that 1GB of data could be transferred in under three seconds. Well ‘bravo’, but the 60GHz spectrum requires you to be in line-of-sight, just like Infrared, devices need to be lined up so that a connection can be established and sustained. I’m not entirely convinced this will take off, since the entire premise of Bluetooth wireless technology and Wi-Fi is to avoid the need to be in line-of-sight and to allow transfers to happen pretty much anywhere. It’s this kind of connectivity freedom that will ultimately be a barrier to Samsung’s success I fear.

So, this is where a relieved and reconnected Dr G signs off.

Originally published in Technically Speaking.


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a technology influencer, analyst & futurist 

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