Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Just like Oxygen

Four or five years ago I used the phrase “just like oxygen” in the context of talking about a vision for wireless connectivity in our schools.  Since then I’ve often used this same phrase in conversations about how students and teachers entering our schools shouldn’t have to think to connect just like they don’t have to think to breath.  Well, let me tell you a short story of my journey today to Boston, MA…

I got up early (2:30am) to be on the road by 3:30 to YVR (Vancouver Airport).  I got through security – was randomly picked for extra checks – had a choice of full body scan (aka digital strip search) or a pat down check, I opted for the pat down.  Anyway, got seated in the waiting area, popped open my laptop, and connected instantly to free YVR wireless to do so work.
Sidebar: last night I got my wife Shelley hooked up for Skype so that we can video talk while I’m in Boston.  We did some trial runs so that she’d be comfortable with IM, Calls, Video calls, etc.
Time came to board the Delta plane and I noticed they had a sticker on the outside that read “WiFi Onboard”.  I asked the flight attendant about it, she didn’t think there was any (odd?).  I got seated and noticed stickers on the ceiling saying “WiFi Onboard”.  I read in the onboard magazine that once you’re past 10,000 feet, WiFi gets turned on – cool.  I waited, then powered up my iPad, connect to WiFi (gogo Inflight Internet), created my account with the service provider, paid my $9.95 flight WiFi fee and got to work.

I had a series of firsts: sent e-mail, posted tweets, browsed websites, logged into our work portal (my43), posted a blog comment, etc. all – for the first time - at 30,000 feet going 1000+ miles an hour.  What a rush!  I even fired up skype, saw that Shelley was online, and IM’d her.  Funny thing though, she ignored me – I had misspelled a word and she thought I was skyping someone else… remember she hasn’t used skype yet so isn’t totally familiar with how it works.  The point is, it all worked.  I was emailing our Superintendent, my staff, some school principals, our purchasing people.  I was twittering…  reading blogs, etc.  Until… we descend into Minneapolis where I’ll need to change planes to get to Boston…

I get on my connecting flight, fire up iPad, connect.  All’s good.  But, it asks me to pay again.  I then notice I should have chosen the 24 hour service…  I’m not paying twice!  So, I get onto a (wireless) live chat with the service provider (while flying at 30,000 feet over 1000 miles an hour…) and tell him my sob story.  He says he can’t upgrade me to 24h but he can get me a promo coupon – great!  Long story short, I get a second flight of WiFi Onboard for free but worked it out in a live chat flying through the air at 30,000 feet.  Is that crazy or what.  If you haven’t seen this video yet, it’s funny and talks about how we just don’t appreciate the wonder and magic of technology.


Later that night from my hotel room on my laptop on wireless, I skype Shelley.  We have a video call.  What a rich experience that is over a boring phone call!  Did I mention, all on wireless.  And isn’t it amazing that skype just finds us and connects us for FREE??!??  Okay I should mention our connect degraded 3 or 4 times, I lost total internet access for 10 minutes or so… but we persevered and reconnected and had our video call continue.

Seriously though, we’re getting close in our society to “Wireless, Just like Oxygen”.  I’ve been in the tech biz for over 25 years and I’m still amazed that this stuff works considering how complex it is.

I’m at the World Future Society conference this week in Boston.  I’ll be writing some posts about what I learn – the session lineup is mind boggling – tough to pick sessions, so many are so interesting.  Stay tuned for details…