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don't forget IrDA


Mobitopia

With all the hoopla surrounding bluetooth in the past few months, one could justifiably think that the idea of transparent, zero-configuration synchronization was invented a couple of years ago. But we shouldn't forget the trailblazer, and the technology that is essentially the "spiritual predecessor" to Bluetooth: IrDA.

IrDA started out precisely with the aims of Bluetooth: to provide the ability to easily connect devices in a short range network, for syncing and basic communication. At the beginning (say, 10 years ago), there was much discussion of IrDA being used on everything from printers to portable devices, and so solve the "cable problem" once and for all. Sadly, IrDA had a couple of big problems: directionality (the sender/receiver have to be more or less aligned) and its "one to one nature".

At the beginning, configuring IrDA was a nightmare, but as with everything, it got better and better. Today, I can turn on the IrDA capability in my Nokia 6210 (yes, I own a 6210, please don't laugh) and align it with the IR receptor in my notebook (a Thinkpad T21) and immediately I get a popup identifying the connection for the phone. Windows (and, I assume, Linux as well) comes built it with the capability to identify that connection as a "phone line" of sorts, allowing you to create an Internet dial-up connection just as you would with a landline. And Nokia, like other cellphone makers, provides a nice package of tools that you can install on your PC to sync the contents of the phone (including SMS), which is useful not only as backup but also to create content on the PC (say, memos, calendar entries...).

So I find it heartening that all the new phones that I've seen (Nokia's 7210, 3650, SonyEricsson's P800) come with Bluetooth and IrDA. This is brilliant: it's going to be tough for a while to find Bluetooth-enabled PCs and notebooks, while all notebooks have IrDA, and getting an IrDA receiver/transmitter for a PC is easy and, more importantly, cheap. Sure, it won't be as convenient as Bluetooth, but it's still useful.

So, here's hoping that new devices, even ones that are on the pipeline now, will still support IrDA. It will still be useful for the next couple of years, as Bluetooth becomes more widely deployed, and a common built-in option in new systems.

Categories: technology
Posted by diego on May 2 2003 at 7:58 PM

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