Abort-Retry-Fail: Keep in touch

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By Bill Gregory

If you have Internet access at your home, you probably rely on email a great deal. So how do you manage your email when you are away from home? It is easier than you might think!

There was a time when the traveler had few choices to communicate back to his or her home or office. It was necessary to find a pay telephone or make the call from the motel/hotel room later in the day.

In 1973 that started to change when a Motorola manager made the first call on a hand-held mobile phone. It would take another 10 years before the FCC would grant approval to Motorola for their "DynaTAC" mobile phone. (This was the old "brick" phone.) As you might guess, cell phone coverage was pretty sparse in those days but over the years more and more cell towers sprang up and the technology for the whole system improved by leaps and bounds. It is nothing now to make a call to home or office from nearly any location.

About the same time as the cell phone was growing in popularity and usage, the Internet was coming along. Although the Internet would not become commonplace for several years, it was enjoying its growth as a defense and educational tool. As the Internet grew, making near-instant text communications via email possible, interest in making this tool available to the traveler also grew. More and more hotels and motels, not to mention coffee shops, had "ports" where their customers could "plug in" and go online. This accessibility ranged from the "mini office" set up by some hotels to a port in each room of the hotel.

All this was about to change when, in 1999, wireless Internet connections became possible. This new technology, known as "Wi-Fi," has revolutionized how we can connect to the Internet for email, research or any other purpose.

Today it is difficult to find a hotel or motel (even the little "mom and pop" operations) that does not offer Internet access in every room over a local Wi-Fi network. In fact, I have seen locations where there were three or more Wi-Fi networks in range. And this convenience is not limited to hotels and motels. Many campgrounds throughout this country have Wi-Fi networking set up for their customers; also many states have set up Wi-Fi accessibility at their rest areas along the Interstate Highway system. (Especially Texas where nearly every rest area, even many on state roads have Wi-Fi available.)

So what do you do if you need Internet access while you are moving? If you have a cell phone you may be able to use it as a modem. AllTel offers (and probably the other carriers, too) a service they call "Telephone as Modem." All it takes is the right model of mobile phone and a cable to connect the phone to your computer's USB port. AllTel will charge you and extra $25 per month for this service but you have unlimited use and the time you spen online does not count toward the minutes in your calling plan. The speed of this service is near that of DSL.

I think I have pretty well covered all of the bases for the traveler's communication needs. See you next week.

If you have a computer-related problem or question that you would like answered in this column, please send it to the Cedar Key Beacon by email at editor@cedarkeybeacon, or by email to PCTech@islandcity.net.