The following article appears courtesy of EETimes's The Buzz weblog.
One of the benefits of covering a leading edge tech industry like electronics for a news organization like EE Times is that we journalists rarely ever have to visit -- let alone see or write about -- technology backwaters.
Rarely I say.
To be sure, in nearly three decades on the tech beat I've seen my share of high tech hollers -- and listened to other reporters gripe about problems filing from the ragged edge of computerized civilization.
For several years running in the '70s, I covered the Pittsburgh Conference for Electronic News as that itinerant analytical instrumentation venue made its way from one analog metropolis like Cleveland to Atlantic City to Detroit -- tech backwaters then and now.
I can still recall Frank Barbetta's rage-against-the-machine in the late '70s when he traveled to San Diego to cover a National Association of Broadcasters convention"only to have to stand in line in the wee hours of the morning with an unruly bunch of drunken sailors at a dockside Western Union office so that he could get a teletype operator to key in five takes of typewriter copy into a telex machine for transmission back to the EN copy desk in New York, where an impatient and unforgiving editor was holding the front page.
Marty Gold, whom Frank and I worked with back in the old days, could also tell you about the times he traveled to the backwaters of Paris (France) in the early '70s and had similar humiliating and discouraging experiences trying to transmit live news copy from Composants in the City of Light back to HQ on 12th Street in the Village from Fairchild Publication's chic-but-unwired digs on the Champs Elysee.
In the late '90s, I spent a lot of time in China doing editorial spade work for EE Times Asia. Along the way I had my own share of dust-ups with Stalinist-era telephone systems, uncooperative screaming modems and clunky Internet connections.
In India, our intrepid correspondent K.C. Krishnadas -- in response to an offer from EE Times Network News Editor George Leopold to send him a new laptop computer to ease the pain of telecommunications -- reportedly said he'd, "rather have uninterruptible power supply."
In this business, if you're not a road warrior you're part of the pavement -- not a high-tech heat seeker, dross in the melt. We're wired, WiFi-ed, broadband and cable-ready, DSL, GSM, and GPS qualified.
Have Code, Will Travel.
Wire: New York
So imagine my horror this week as I show up on assignment and found myself in one of the worst technology backwaters I've ever encountered.
WiFi? Why Fiddle? My Boingo account developed nose sores sniffing for non-existent signals from one end of town to the other. In Manhattan on a bad day my list of WiFi hotspots exceeds the number of e-spam messages in my inbox.
The so-called "press" rooms for the working press in this town had a few dial-up lines, but wireless LAN, Ethernet or any sort of high bandwidth connection was nowhere to be seen.
Cell phone service? Forget it. Dropped calls, "No Service" and shitty, noisy-static connections were about all I've had since blowing into town.
One of my top reporters -- who lives here -- had to camp out in one of this town's more expansive hotels because the house he lives in has neither DSL nor cable modem service, so he kept the semiconductor industry up to date on the day's happenings by hooking up to an Ethernet line and filing to our website from a hotel room a mile from his house.
At about ground zero in this digital backwater I stood in the parking lot of one of the industry's leading Internet service providers with a local and a Chinese colleague -- all of us equipped with the latest cell phone handsets -- none of us able to detect or connect to anything even remotely resembling an RF cell phone carrier signal.
So exactly what savage land did this knight without armour find himself this week?
Outer Mongolia? Peoria?
Try Semicon West in San Francisco and San Jose.
Call me a part of the liberal Eastern establishment. But guess what? Back in NY we talk the digital talk and walk the tech talk. In Silicon Valley, you're a bunch of high-tech hypocrites and digital do-nothings.
Andy, Craig and Bill are traipsing all over the world hawking PC-this, digital that, Centrino connected-all-the-time mumbo-jumbo"whatever -- but in your own friggin' backyard your shoemakers are shoeless. Your cell phone service sucks, WiFi connectivity is a joke and the technology press -- struggling to report on the latest semiconductor advances in the most important industry in the world -- is forced to suck up non-existent bandwidth through twisted-pair connections in a press room which harks back to the days of vacuum tubes.
Andy, Craig and Bill: Clean up your own backyard and get (band)with it -- puhleeze!