Article Date: 9/1/2004

Is Technology Catching Up?
Inexpensive wireless connections can make your life easier (finally).

Someday I'll be telling the grandkids, "You think you have it tough? Why, back in my day I carried a 10-pound laptop computer with me everywhere I went. You talk about pain. If I found a way to replace worn out sacroiliacs, I'd have every business traveler in the world as my customer.

"And I couldn't get my e-mail or connect to a computer just by pushing a button on my watch like you kids can. Nosirree, we had to plug a wire into the laptop and connect it to a phone line. Yep, one of those land lines. Then we dialed a phone number and waited hours for the whole thing to work."

Ah, those days are all but gone.

Welcome to the 21st century a few years late, you say? Yes, wireless, portable devices have been around, but they tended to be too expensive and complicated. By expensive, I mean they cost more than $85. By complicated, I refer to pushing two or more buttons.

An excuse to go to the bar

The time has come when I can travel to a hotel say, in Toledo, Ohio, and access a high-speed Internet connection for the price of a wireless networking card (about $50, including discounts and rebates) that attaches to my laptop or handheld computer. If the connection fails, I can walk to Nick and Jimmy's Bar & Grill on Monroe Street and connect to its WiFi Network, the short name for a local area wireless network or 802.11b Ethernet. (It's geek to me.)

It now becomes relatively painless to check office e-mail, access the Web and work on the road. Before you travel, check the site, which lists sites around the country where you can access public wireless networks.

No place like home

This technology isn't for road warriors only. It allows you to network computers inexpensively without hardwiring an entire office. We're not too far from the day when diagnostic equipment will communicate wirelessly with electronic medical records and practice management software, which will rid your office of miles of cables. (Of course, I probably won't write on this subject until the technology is cheap and easy.)

Let me suggest that while you're connected to the Web, you check out You'll find continuing education courses, our latest issue, an archive of back issues and OM's Web exclusive articles. The September Web exclusive, appropriately enough, reveals how to improve patient care and increase referrals with a computer vision specialty.


Optometric Management, Issue: September 2004