Cutting-edge memorabilia

Not too many years ago, as I was entering the world of adolescence, I often envied my next-door neighbor. Eddie was the first kid in the neighborhood to have everything. He bought record albums on the day they were released, was at the front of the line to see Star Wars the first day it was in theaters, and had a video-game collection to die for.

Patrick McLaughlin

Assistant Editor

patrick@pennwell.com

Not too many years ago, as I was entering the world of adolescence, I often envied my next-door neighbor. Eddie was the first kid in the neighborhood to have everything. He bought record albums on the day they were released, was at the front of the line to see Star Wars the first day it was in theaters, and had a video-game collection to die for.

The neighborhood kids would gather around his television, waiting impatiently until it was their turn to take the joystick and indulge in a game of Missile Command, Pac Man, or Asteroids on his Atari 2600 video-game system. I was willing to wait in that line because I was quite sure I would never actually own such technologically advanced equipment. A single game cartridge would easily cost two weeks worth of paper-route money, never mind the loan I`d have to take out to buy the entire system.

I ended up getting the system and the games for free when Eddie moved up in the world from the Atari 2600 to Intellivision. New system, new games, new everything. The games and graphics were more realistic, and Eddie couldn`t resist. He had no use for the Atari 2600 anymore, and told me if I wanted to be bothered with that clumsy, out-of-date game, I could have it. By the time Atari countered with its 5200 system, too many Eddies had already given (or thrown) away their old systems.

As the years passed, several other neighbors were also the beneficiaries of Eddie`s technological maturation. As he went from Intellivision to Colecovision, then through several stages of Nintendo, kids were more than happy to take his leftovers off his hands.

I still have the Atari 2600 system, despite my best efforts. I recently tried to unload it at a flea market, where it got a couple nostalgic grins and nods, but no takers. I could not believe no one would pay two dollars for a complete video-game system and all those games, including the prophetically named Pitfall. After all, they still work.

What do video games have to do with the cabling industry? We as cable installers and cable-plant managers need to keep in mind that the technologies for which we are providing the infrastructure are being born, maturing, and growing old as quickly as the video-game systems of my childhood. When these technologies have become passe, they are worth exactly as much as an old Atari system at a yard sale--and so, probably, is the infrastructure that supports them.

As a consequence, I, for one, would like to see a ban on the term "future-proofing." Future-proofing is a marketing word. As a technical term, it means nothing (because future-proofing is impossible from a technical standpoint), and as a business term, it is very dangerous (because it promises a certainty that cannot be delivered).

In the meantime, rumor has it that today my childhood friend Eddie (I suppose he`s called "Edward" now) owns a small business, as well as a Sega Super CD Something-or-other. I think I`ll give him a call to relive some old times. Maybe I`ll ask him what type of cabling system is installed at his office.

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