Today’s A-to-Z Challenge is brought to you by the letter W. W is for Wireless.
Today, the term wireless conjures up thoughts of smartphones, tablets, Bluetooth headsets, and the IEEE 802.11a/b/g/n/ac protocol. Wireless is the technology that lets us live our lives unburdened by a tangle of ethernet cables and curly telephone cords.
But the concept of wireless goes back a lot farther than that. Back in what steampunk fans surely refer to as the good old days, wireless referred to the wireless telegraph, a means of keying Morse code messages over radio waves, and the earliest form of radio communication.
Wireless isn’t just limited to communications. Famed inventor and mad scientist Nikola Tesla conducted experiments in wireless power transmission. Tesla hoped to be able to transmit electrical power worldwide, and while he didn’t quite succeed in that goal… a little over a century later, some of us do charge our smartphones using inductive charging mats.
Wireless communications might take place over radio, microwave, optical wavelengths, or infrared, but all of these are electromagnetic radiation. Tesla’s wireless power experiments were also electromagnetic in nature. This isn’t surprising, considering that our technology is based on electromagnetism and electronics.
Still, there are other means of causing action at a distance. Sound waves, for example, though we don’t generally refer to shouting as wireless communication. Gravitation is a force similar to electromagnetism, though it’s much weaker, and we have no means of controlling gravitational fields the way we can play with EM fields. Will civilization of the future refer to their advanced, precision gravity manipulation as “wireless”?