The Poop on Wireless
Upper Kirby Progressive 11/2000

Never having touched an infant until I made one myself, I held in awe people who could change diapers nonchalantly. I know it seems trivial, but it was the same kind of awe that I held for people who designed skyscrapers without forgetting to put in plumbing, or for people who understood the complex notation of General Relativity and could still carry on a normal conversation. I had an irrational fear that I was simply not cut out for this mothering thing, and that I would show up for my diaper changing exam, throw my hands up in the air and exclaim, "I'm sorry, I don't want to go near the poop" and the licensing board would take my son away and I would have to go home and clean out my locker.

But, when I fed my son his first solid food, and he grunted his way through his first solid poops, and I laughed as I changed his diaper, it occurred to me that yesterday's breast milk poops prepared me perfectly for today's Gerber Rice Cereal poops, and that today's poops were going to prepare me for tomorrow's poops. With a fair bit of extrapolation, I decided that I was going to be able to make it through motherhood.

In a somewhat strained analogy (but I like the poop story, so I wanted to use it), I was also lucky enough to bond with the Internet when it was still a cooing and giggling infant. You know, when its gas made it smile, and didn't interrupt the business processes of multi-billion dollar global corporations. I've had the luxury of having participated in nearly every one of its evolutionary milestones and each has, like in raising a child, prepared me for the next.

I started using email in college, almost 20 years ago. It was hardly elaborate - sending messages to friends at terminals across the lab - but it was simple and cute, and it ate, pooped, cried and occasionally giggled nakedly. By grad school I was using the Internet to ftp data files to and from colleagues, sending mail to college friends, and logging onto remote computers to do work I would have otherwise had to travel to do. My baby was growing up, playing baseball, getting hurt, starting to like girls. By my second stint in grad school (don't ask…) the web started being called "the web", and someone invented something called a browser. The child was growing up, mowing lawns, babysitting and delivering papers. We were almost able to tell which side of the family it was going to take after.

I'm now in the Internet industry, and the Internet is now a young professional. It's gone to business school and is a player in the marketplace. It's also, as young adults are wont to be, quite fertile. In fact, while no one was looking, the Internet mated with the Telecommunication industry and has given birth to something called Wireless. I feel like a proud grandparent. I'm all ready to play with this new little baby and to watch it grow and see what it can do.

Then I think of my parents. They met the Internet when it was a pierced and tattooed, angst-ridden teen that they reluctantly accepted as a foster child. They approached AOL with the same sense of adventure as they did the VCR, which, coming as a surprise to no one, still blinks 12:00. They have only ever used the Internet - they've never been able to really understand it. My dad has a hard enough time with Windows (the concept of "iconization" still eludes him) without trying to understand what I mean when I refer to a URL that AOL hasn't prepackaged for him. Am I looking at another decade of trying to explain the Wireless equivalent of "double clicking" at long-distance rates?

No way. As they say in the industry, I'm positioned. I'm not just using current technology, I'm looking at where it's going, and I'm WAY into preventative maintenance. I have the opportunity to teach my parents that not only will they be able to order movie tickets from their phones, but soon they'll have chips in their phones that will alert the ticket taker that they've already paid and they'll just walk on in. I'll warn them about upcoming technology that allows their milk bottle to alert their refrigerator that it's almost empty so that the refrigerator can call the supermarket and add it to their weekly order. I'll explain to them what they're doing in Europe and Japan, and how far ahead of us they are, and maybe I'll even try to tell them about how wireless is being used in other businesses so they can understand where the industry is moving.

I think, in fact, I'll let you guys in on it too. 'Cos pretty soon, Wireless is going to be a driver license carrying teenager with purple hair. But right now, it's just a baby, and its poops aren't very scary.

Stay tuned for more of Wireless 101…

Laurie Feinswog currently works for an e-business consulting firm, where, according to her parents, she "works with computers".