Electronic Design

Communications Paves The Path To World Unity

When I started covering Communications technology, I was pretty excited as almost every facet has a high "cool" factor. From satellite to wireless networks, optical systems, and the Internet, there are innovations everywhere you turn that will transform the way we work and play in the years to come.

Initially, I was on the lookout not only for the most technically advanced devices, but also for the easiest to use devices, as it's the man-machine interface that often spells the death knell for new technologies. No matter how advanced it is under the hood, if the steering wheel is in the trunk, it just isn't going to cut it. As the global economy takes on greater importance, ease of use comes to the forefront of the design criteria, as anyone, anywhere, must be able to pick up the device and figure out how to operate it relatively quickly.

It's the "anyone, anywhere" aspect that started me thinking a while ago. I realized that the true importance of what's taking place here isn't that my PDA can connect easily with any 802.11b network, and reach rates close to 11 Mbits/s. It goes beyond that. The fact is, the communications revolution around us has fundamentally changed our world view. While TV brought images of foreign shores to our living rooms, it was one way. Now, communities in the farthest reaches of the globe can easily hook up a computer to the Internet and have two-way interaction with anyone, anywhere. In places that aren't hardwired for telephone service, two-way satellite feeds are still a way off in the future. But, wireless phone service is readily available from companies like Globalstar, which already covers all of Australia, much of Europe and Asia, as well as South America.

A global community is finally in the works, and with that comes social change. That's what has really excited me lately. I have gone way past the "cool" device phase and now dwell on how the cloak of ignorance, the weapon of choice for despotic regimes worldwide, is finally being lifted. Those who were isolated are entering the global economy with unbridled enthusiasm. The enthusiasm is replacing the fear and loathing of "the West" that once permeated those cultures. As communications with the outside increased, walls started to come down.

Nothing breaks down walls faster than open communication. The increase in communication, open, and free, has set us on the path to world unity. No longer can world leaders brainwash followers with one-sided world views. Castro, for example, has his work cut out for him if he wants to convince Cubans that they're better off with Communism after his people watched the fall of the USSR and see the material wealth other nations now enjoy. Plus, as China, the sleeping giant, gears up to join the world as a whole, it's slowly loosening its grip on its people as they increasingly connect with the outside world. The lifting of trade barriers will be a boon to communications companies worldwide as they jump to the tune of 1 billion potential customers. It will also be a boon to human rights as the isolation required for violations to occur is removed.

Hopeful thoughts like these really excited me as I reviewed Globalstar's $1500 satellite phone a few weeks ago. Now the power will finally be in the hands of the people. Then I realized, at $1500 a pop, with calling rates of up to $1.50 per minute, it will be a long time before it gets into the hands of the masses. But that's what I have to look forward to over the coming years. In the meantime, I still feel like a kid in a candy store at every trade show and product review I attend. This is a good time to be in the business, and it can only get better. Share your viewpoint with me.

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