New York's Trusted Source for Pediatric Ophthalmology & Adult Strabismus

H. Jay Wisnicki, MD
"I'm only here for one reason: to help people see better. If your eyes have a problem, I want to help."


Dr. H. Jay Wisnicki has over 20 years of specialized care in pediatric ophthalmology and adult strabismus.

He frequently volunteers with Orbis International to save the sight of children in developing countries.

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New York, NY 10003
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Surfing the web from wireless devices is getting easier

Tech Talk

By H. Jay Wisnicki, MD

The explosive growth in cellular communications and the Internet has had a tremendous effect on society. We need only look at the number of new area codes that telephone companies have created in their scramble to keep up with demand to understand how fast these two technologies have grown. It was inevitable that the two would meet somehow.

Welcome to the world of 21st century wireless communications.

Like cellular phones in the late 1980s, cellular modems in the 1990s were the tool of the wealthy. Costing as much as low-end computers and featuring high airtime rates, cellular modem technology was only for those with big budgets. Besides, do we really need to surf the Web from the luxury of the beach?

It turns out, yes. Mobile phone carriers Sprint PCS, AT&T Wireless, and Nextel were among the first to bring Internet use to wireless communications.

Taking advantage of their digital cellular networks, these and smaller phone carriers began allowing their customers to subscribe to services such as the Internet, E-mail, and stock and scoreboard information through their cellular phones.

MiniBrowsers, while not offering the full functionality of desktop Internet service, allow cellular phone users to browse a variety of popular Web sites in text-only format. Data speed through most cellular modems reaches a high of about 14.4 kbps, so wireless surfing is much slower than desktop systems. However, third-generation technology is on the way, which will increase data transfer speeds tenfold to 144 kbps.

And speed is not nearly as critical with cellular Web surfing, since the information is transferred in text-only formats without graphics to slow down the system.

Most cellular providers charge a fee for using their MiniBrowsers in addition to actual airtime, so wireless Web surfing can become pretty expensive.

Another disadvantage of using phones as a Web browser is the size of the screen. The largest screen available is the 11-line display on Sprint PCSí NP1000. This pales in comparison with the demands of many seasoned Web surfers, but it can provide useful information to the user on the go.

Cellular suppliers are also partnering with many Web portals as a means of helping their customers connect to the Internet. Microsoft is offering a wireless version of its Hotmail news and E-mail service via Nextel phones. AT&T and Sprint PCS offer both Yahoo! and America Online. All suppliers also allow users to customize (somewhat) their phones to reach the service they desire.

Personal data assistants (PDAs) are a step up from cellular Web service. Whether your choice is the Palm Pilot, the Handspring Visor, or any of the other variety of hand-held computers, there are modems and services available to reach almost any Web site, send E-mail, or stay connected.

Unlike its prior versions, The Palm VII has a built-in wireless modem. However, Palm IIIs and Palm IIIxs can be outfitted with a modem for about $350.

Palm Inc. recently announced that all Palm devices will be able to access the Web by the end of 2000. The company will market a clip-on modem for existing products without Web access.

Palmís big rival in the PDA market, Handspring, has a plug-in modem for its Visor. The modem runs about $125 and allows users to take advantage of existing E-mail accounts with servers such as America Online.

And Microsoft is joining the fray with the introduction of its Pocket PC 3.0, an operating system for hand-held devices. Pocket PC 3.0 has corrected many of the problems the companyís previous operating system (Windows CE) had, including better synchronization with desktop systems and better interface features.

The company said the product is a mixture of ìthe best of the old system married with the new.î In fact, many users complained the old system was too complex and was poorly designed. Hewlett-Packard, Compaq, Casio, and Symbol are introducing new hand-held models in conjunction with the new operating system.

PDAs have a definite advantage over cellular MiniBrowsers in that mail is much easier to send. Touch-screen technology, coupled with the variety of software available for the hand-held devices, gives them a versatility advantage over the phoneís MiniBrowsers.

Cellular MiniBrowsers are more accessible to the publicómore people carry Web-ready cellular phones than carry Web-ready hand-held computers. That, however, is changing, as the new technologies unfold.

Just a few years ago, getting connected to the Web was best done at a desk with a top speed of 9,600 bps. Tomorrow, we will be able to reach the Web via our phones at 144 kbps. And hand-held computers weighing mere ounces will allow more connectivity at faster speeds.

The information is out there. And now, it is easier than ever to get.

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