Taking the 'why' out of Wi-Fi

My wife recently had lunch with a staffer from Cleveland's Department of Aging at Ticket to Tokyo, a lunch-only eatery on Public Square that I discovered three decades ago when I was a homesick student fresh off the trans-Pacific flight to attend CSU. Of the many things they discussed over tempura and rice, digital illiteracy of some seniors was a hot topic of discussion. She learned that some seniors didn’t understand how Wi-Fi and tablet usage went hand-in-hand.

As an advocate for seniors to embrace the digital world, demystifying Wi-Fi seemed like a great topic for this issue. And rather than going over technical jargon related to Wi-Fi, we will go over the more popularized usage of the term "Wi-Fi" instead.

For many readers born in Generation X and later, it may be easy to deduce that “Wi” stands for “wireless.” It's much trickier to figure out what “Fi” stands for … because it actually doesn’t stand for anything! When Wi-Fi was coined, it was a play on the term “Hi-Fi” and didn't have significance in meaning.

One can think of the internet line coming into your house as just another public utility line such as electricity, water, telephone or natural gas. Electricity, for example, comes into your home and travels through the web of electrical wires to power your lights around the house.

On a similar token, you can connect a traditional desktop or laptop computer via a wire to a device called a “modem” which is also connected to the internet line that is running into your house. Modems are akin to the water main shutoff bulbs that sit between the house and the city water line.

Connecting a traditional computer via a wire means you don’t have mobility, as you are tethered to a room. Wi-Fi unshackles you by giving you the option to replace that wired modem connection and instead use the built-in Wi-Fi antenna to make the connection to the modem. Once that Wi-Fi connection is made, the digital world is yours to explore.

My readers know that I recommend Power of One devices, such as tablets and smartphones, over traditional computers because they are intuitive to use, requiring only one finger to operate through touchscreen of the device.

Unlike traditional computers that give you the option to connect to the modem either by wire or Wi-Fi, Power of One devices rely solely on Wi-Fi as they do not come with a jack to connect a wire. So the rule of thumb is that Power of One devices need available Wi-Fi connection to be useful.

Reading wbvobserver.com on your tablet while sipping hot cocoa – all the while connected to your Wi-Fi at home or free Wi-Fi offered at many establishments – isn't a bad way to spend a frigid Cleveland weekend!

Tak Sato

Business and technology strategist/consultant with over 25 years of experience. Holds Bachelor of Science in Computer Information Science and MBA from Cleveland State University.

As founder of geek with a heart, "Hand-holding You in the Digital World", Tak helps Individuals, Seniors, Families, Small Businesses, Schools, and Non-Profits utilize appropriate technology in their personal and professional lives.

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Volume 8, Issue 4, Posted 9:28 AM, 02.16.2016