As I mentioned in my last post, despite being immersed in technology all day long, I’m actually a bit of a Luddite. Case in point: I needed to transfer 3 GB of data between two of the (seven) computers in my house.
For data transfers like this, I could use a USB flash drive, but I’m always lending them out or losing them, so I couldn’t find any. So I moved on to the next option: an external USB hard drive that I use to backup my data. It’s fairly slow, so it might have taken half an hour to copy from the first PC to it, and then another half hour to copy to the second machine from the drive. That’s the best case. The much worse case is what actually happened: the source machine is old and some of its USB ports don’t work. When I plugged the drive in, the PC couldn’t recognize the hard drive partition where I could store the data.
So then I had a brilliant idea: transfer over Wi-Fi. All it took to get started was me figuring out how to share a folder on the destination machine. The new machine supports peer-to-peer Wi-Fi, but the old one doesn’t seem to, so the data transfer had to go through my 802.11g router (I told you I was a Luddite.) After just four hours, the transfer was complete, for an average data rate of…less than 3 Mbps.
That’s just sad. My PCs were both close to the router, so that wouldn’t have slowed them down. But with two machines not optimized for data transfer and five other devices (plus the microwave oven) competing for the same channel on my router, the results were awful.
Here’s where I wish I had 5G WiFi. Not only would the data transfer have been faster – both because it would be peer-to-peer and a higher data rate – but it would have been more obvious how to do it. What do I mean? You often can’t tell what the value of a particular technology is before it’s launched – ten years ago, I didn’t even see the point of Wi-Fi. I mean, who needs Wi-Fi when you can just pull hundreds of feet of cable through your walls and ceiling and connect your desktop into an ethernet wall socket? So once you have 5G WiFi-enabled machines, your operating system will support wireless data transfer in a much more obvious way than it does today. And I think that’s true of many 5G WiFi features – we can’t imagine them yet, but once the technology is available, people will figure out all kinds of new and interesting things to do with it.