The problem with wireless: all those effin' wires
Recharge of the light brigade
Something for the Weekend, Sir? Those of you who choose to pursue the itinerant professional life will be familiar with the need to carry one's tools of the trade everywhere, usually in a heavy bag slung over one shoulder. Like me, you may have found that the number of devices you have to carry around has increased, for a variety of reasons that I have moaned about before.
My shoulder bag hasn't become much heavier over the past year but it's probably time I bought one with a greater number of separated, padded pockets to stop all the devices clanging against each other as I lope from one location to another. A few weeks ago, I had to sprint to meet an appointment - London transport seems to operate in either of two modes, supreme efficiency or utter collapse, with no intermediate stages - and when I took my kit out later, it was like emptying a tumble drier. One item had even turned inside out.
And for many of the add-on devices that I have to carry around because of the piss-poor spec of oh-so-modern notebooks, such as extra storage and external DVD drive, I have to carry a clutch of cables I never needed before.
There is always something you forget on vacation
Source: Sarah Connor Chronicles/Warner Bros
What's bugging me most is the number and variety of cables I have to carry around for my devices. Half of these devices are 'wireless'. I became more acutely aware of what a pain in the arse this has become when I set off on vacation. It doesn't seem that long ago that I could get by with one power cord, a single mobile phone recharger - we all had Nokias - and a couple of European adapter plugs. This year, I had to pack a such a collection of coiled cables that they occupied a quarter of the space in my hand luggage.
In addition to a host of different mobile phone rechargers for the family, there were USB cables (standard, mini and micro), HDMI cables (ditto), Nintendo DS rechargers, iPhone and iPad rechargers, an HP notebook power cable, digital camera rechargers, car adapters, and more. There were black ones, white ones, one with a bit of shite on, and one with a fairy light on to show you the way. When I reached into my bag for a book during my outbound flight, it was like a scene from Snakes on a Plane.
'Enough is enough! I have had it with these motherfucking wires on this motherfucking plane!'
Source: Snakes on a Plane/Entertainment In Video
I should be grateful: back in the day, I'd have to buy two dozen rechargeable batteries - or carry my own body weight in Duracells - to run all this peripheral junk for the duration of a holiday. Then there was a really silly period in the not-too-distant past when cameras, MP3 players and the like came with nothing but a plain device-to-USB cable without any mains socket adapter, so that you often ended up switching on your computer simply as a device recharging station.
Lugging a quarter-bag of electrical spaghetti is one thing but the real challenge is getting the power levels of all the wireless devices in sync so one doesn't flake out at the wrong time. When this happens, it's a bit like heading off to the South Pole with a team of huskies, only for one of them to drop dead, whereupon all the other sit down and look at you with tongues hanging out and tails wagging, cheerfully asking (in doggie language): "OK, now what?"
Tesla was a bright spark in science
Source: The Prestige/Touchstone Pictures
How I wish big business had properly invested in Nikola Tesla's full-scale experiments for the wireless transmission of electrical current.
Yes, I know this would have involved powering up my iPhone via the stratosphere or by using the Earth itself as a conductor, but I feel confident that one or two refinements would have been achieved in the technology during the 95 years since Tesla's death. Just imagine a hi-tech world that relied upon the realm of earthworms for its economic and technological sustenance. Frank Herbert wouldn't have been a novelist but a historian.
Unfortunately, the common public perception of Tesla today is of some kind of scary Lovecraftesque egghead meddling with the forces that bind the universe together, much as David Bowie played him in The Prestige. In his own time, however, big business simply treated him as a risky investment and - using an apt cliché - pulled the plug.
So it's partly because Tesla was a poor salesman but principally because early 20th Century investors were as thick as pigshit that I have to keep plugging my so-called wireless devices into the wall every bloody day using cables too short even to reach from the socket to the top of a fucking knee-high coffee table.
"Wireless electricity? Longer USB cables? Where's the profit in that?" ®
Alistair Dabbs is a freelance technology tart, juggling IT journalism, editorial training and digital publishing. He is also a member of the IEEE and apologises for his Wardenclyffe misrepresentation. Yodas who wish to tell me off and 'talk Tesla' are welcome to do so by clicking 'Comments' on this page.