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First Click: The agony and ecstasy of wireless everything

Our fascination with wireless eventually extended to television. As bizarre is it sounds, the first TV remote controls were actually tethered. Then in 1955 Zenith introduced the “Flash-matic” wireless remote. It was terrible because indoor light bulbs and even a bright sunny day could interfere with its operation. But when it worked it was like the devil’s magic, necessitating Zenith to note that it was “absolutely harmless to humans!”

The newfangled wireless technologies of my own childhood were phones. First the analog cordless phone used at home and then the cellphone. They were shit. The battery on my first cordless phone would die mid-conversation, and the range and sound quality was utter crap. But it was still a better option than snaking the landline across the house and into my teenage bedroom. As a bonus, if I held the phone just so I could eavesdrop on the conversations of neighbors. Then came the cellphones. Comically large at first, heavy, and incredibly expensive. Still, everyone had to have one. More people now have access to cellphones than toilets.

The first of many wireless gadgets I’d own in adulthood was the Ericsson HBH-10 — the world’s first Bluetooth headset. The year was 2000 AD and everyone was disappointed when they awoke to the dullest version of the future imagined. I guess that’s why my employer willingly spent £199.99 on a wireless headset that was ridiculously large and too uncomfortable for extended wear, prone to dropped audio, and required all-too-frequent charging. But I used it anyway because I could have hands-free conversations from my Bluetooth flip-phone (an Ericsson T28s) anywhere in London. And I looked fabulous wearing it.

In all of history, wireless derivatives of existing products that yielded “just good enough” functionality were justified when the act of cutting the cord added significant value. But what value has the inclusion of Bluetooth in this keyboard and mouse brought me? None. In fact, it detracts from the value since they’re both more expensive than the USB-cabled originals and require a fresh set of batteries that I must recharge or recycle every few months. So, please, anyone, remind me again why I bought them?

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