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The flipside of CHANGE

Is technological change always a good thing? Or are there pitfalls that we need to examine?


September 1, 2000  


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Technological change brings with it opportunity, innovation and progress. Yet, with all developments, there are the equivalent pitfalls — some that even make you wonder if technological change has been a blessing to humankind.

In this vein, I would like to examine a few key developments and changes in our industry that I believe deserve closer scrutiny.

CONFLICT OF INTEREST?

Let’s start with sales for proposed Category 6. They have been less than stellar, and several major cabling manufacturers have taken it upon themselves to develop a Gigabit Ethernet standard that requires the use of Category 6 cabling systems. Conflict of interest? I think so.

IEEE, the standards body that develops LAN standards recognized around the world, wanted no part of this new proposal; they did not see the need. Category 5e cabling systems are capable of supporting the present Gigabit Ethernet standard, so why develop another and confuse the poor end user even more? So manufacturers can sell more premium grade cable, that’s why.

Proposed Category 6 will not reach 100m. Sound absurd? Well it did to me the first time I heard it. It seems that as temperature increases, the attenuation or signal loss of a cable increases as well. The cabling standards body is toying with the idea of using shorter horizontal cable lengths, depending upon the ambient temperature of where the cable is placed. Horizontal lengths could be reduced to as much as 83m. The 100m channel length is one of the fundamental building blocks upon which structured cabling is based.

The cabling manufacturers do have a solution. Rather than have the minimum standards for proposed Category 6 meet the 100m channel length, most manufacturers prefer to go with the shorter lengths and force the end user to purchase their premium grade cables in order to achieve the full channel length. Whose best interest does this serve?

PLAYING GAMES

Sometimes I get so frustrated with the games companies play that I really wonder about technology’s ultimate payoff. We are working longer and harder, and we are more connected — which really means we can’t escape the office. Parents are complaining that their children need more computer access in school in order to compete, yet they are quick to point out that these same children are losing the art of handwriting. I can’t recall the last time I wrote a letter. However, I have become quite proficient at Palm Pilot graffiti.

Yes, technology has enabled medical breakthroughs and, as a result, we are living longer. I guess this is good news, but if it is, then why is the government reviewing retirement legislations? Is it so we can retire earlier? I don’t think so. It is so we can work longer!

We can put a human being on the moon. We can even put a remote-control vehicle on Mars and take lovely pictures. So why can’t we find more quality time in our lives?

PAUSE FOR THOUGHT

Lest I start to rant and rave for too long, I would like to briefly relay a story sent to me recently via email from a friend that made me re-evaluate just what is meaningful in this fast paced world of change.

The story goes as follows: A young and successful executive was travelling down a neighbourhood street, going a bit too fast in his new Jaguar. He was watching for kids darting out from between parked cars and slowed down when he thought he saw something. As his car passed, no children appeared. Instead, a brick smashed into the Jag’s side door! He slammed on the brakes and spun the Jag back to the spot where the brick had been thrown. He jumped out of the car, grabbed some kid and pushed him up against a parked car shouting: “What was that all about, and who are you?”

“Please mister, please. I’m sorry, I didn’t know what else to do,” pleaded the youngster. “I threw the brick because no one else would stop…” Tears were dripping down the boy’s chin as he pointed around the parked car. “It’s my brother,” he said. “He rolled off the curb and fell out of his wheelchair and I can’t lift him up.” Sobbing, the boy asked the executive, “Would you please help me get him back into his wheelchair? He’s hurt and he’s too heavy for me.”

Moved beyond words, the driver tried to swallow the rapidly swelling lump in his throat. He lifted the young man back into the wheelchair and took out his handkerchief and wiped the scrapes and cuts, checking to see that everything was going to be okay. “Thank you and may God bless you,” the grateful child said to him.

It was a long walk back to his Jaguar…a long slow walk. He never did repair the side door. He kept the dent to remind him not to go through life so fast that someone has to throw a brick at you to get your attention. God whispers in your soul and speaks to your heart. Sometimes when you don’t have time to listen, He has to throw a brick at you. It’s your choice: Listen to the whisper — or wait for the brick.

The moral of the story? When I find myself getting caught up in all the changes and hype and games that are played in our industry I need to stop and ask myself “just how important is it?”CS


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