The Golden Age of Wireless

SAN FRANCISCO (03/28/2000) - We here at Macworld have a theory. When it comes time for Apple Computer Inc. to introduce a new product, the product managers sit down with a copy of our editorial calendar and figure out when the absolute last possible moment is for us to get the story into our next issue.

Then they set the introduction date for the next day.

Since Apple no longer briefs publications in advance of new products, we've had to come up with contingency plans to deal with last-minute debuts such as the one we cover in this month's issue.

But, as thorough as Macworld's planning is, something we didn't plan for was how critical my modest little home network would be in getting this month's cover story to you.

A Simple Plan

My journey into the world of home networking started simply enough: I moved into a new house. When we moved into our charming little slice of Silicon Valley, just a stone's throw from Apple's corporate headquarters, one of the first things we did was get high-speed DSL Internet access installed. That, of course, led me to wonder what I could do with all that bandwidth.

First, I knew I'd want to get all the computers in the house on a single network so they could share our speedy Internet access. Easy enough-I'd just run some Ethernet cable between rooms, then hook up a hub in the closet, and maybe even use an old iMac as a server.

That was last summer. My network wasn't up and running until just before New Year's Eve (for the complete saga, check out the ongoing series "Andy's Adventure Underground" at

As it turned out, setting up the iMac was the easy part-the problem was running the wires. I couldn't find anyone willing to install Ethernet cable for me. And I soon found out why: pulling the cable through the crawl space of my house was one of the most unpleasant experiences I've ever had, and I lived through polyester leisure suits, pet rocks, and disco all in the same decade.

Wires? They're So 20th Century!

Luckily for me, right around the time I gave up on having an Ethernet port in every room, Apple's AirPort technology arrived. So I installed an AirPort base station and hooked it to the network.

AirPort is a miracle. With the addition of $190 Lucent WaveLAN Turbo PC Cards to our PowerBooks and an AirPort card to our iMac DV, we could access our home network-including our printer and file servers-from anywhere in the house. Even with several computers accessing the hub at the same time, it was fast-much faster than our DSL connection was capable of supporting. About the only time I noticed any lag was when copying large files between computers. There, 10BaseT Ethernet still holds the advantage. And because all the computers accessing the network via the AirPort hub can share the same IP address, we didn't have to pay our ISP for any extra IP addresses.

Within a couple of hours, AirPort succeeded in completing the job that had taken me six months to begin. And AirPort did it for less. The cost of a $299 hub and some $99 Apple AirPort cards was minuscule next to the hundreds I'd spent on cable, tools, and jacks-and the cost of my time spent under the house running Ethernet cable.

GoreNet to the Rescue

But it wasn't until Apple's recent introduction of the 2000 model PowerBook that I really began to appreciate the power of the infrastructure I'd built in my home. My house is close to Apple, and Macworld's offices aren't. Rather than waste a precious hour driving back to San Francisco to start work on this issue's cover story, a team of Macworld editors invaded my home and turned it into an ad hoc Silicon Valley bureau. With the aid of several wireless PowerBooks and iBooks, I had editors scattered through the house and even the backyard. A few hours later, we had the story finished-just making our deadline.

With fast access to the Internet and the ability to have multiple users anywhere in the house, my humble home network delivered the infrastructure needed by a whole workgroup on the spur of the moment. It made me appreciate just how far we've come. Anywhere, anytime computing is finally here, delivered not by huge corporations, but by homespun networks like the one that lives in my house.

Questions? Comments? E-mail them to Andy at

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