This Wi-Fi Too Shall Pass

April 03, 2011

We all share the frustration or disappointment of schlepping our laptops to our favorite coffee shop/rent-free office to multi-task while eating breakfast or other meal and all the outlets and/or chairs are already taken by other laptop users. Or maybe you actually wanted to share some social time with friends but the place was too quiet like a library with all the laptop junkies. That’s what was on Mathew Klickstein’s mind this week. He quotes others who have studied the coffee shop phenomena of the last 15 years, the period during which the coffee shops with Wi-Fi have replaced libraries and offices as the places where work and studying are being done. He reports that during this same period, the government has cut funding for libraries, community centers and schools, creating a need which was filled by the Wi-Fi capable café. The same period also saw the development of portability, which meant that work could be done anywhere if one had a laptop, and even more so with internet. Not so coincidentally, coffee increased in popularity as a gotta-have beverage, and companies started allowing telecommuting to save money in operating costs. This all fueled the growth of the Internet café and the age-old arguments between the café owners as to how to deal with squatters who don’t leave when their coffee cups is empty. They are still debating the methods to use to control the problem. But the bottom line is probably rather obvious. This won’t last long, with the continual growth in technology. We already have the means by which we can say good-bye to the café and take our laptops to the beach or anywhere, as long as we have a personal internet receiver for our laptops. This technology is moving into the realm of affordability for many of us, and as it gets cheaper, Wi-Fi will become a faded memory like the revolutionary car phone of the 1990’s. But wherever we find to hang our laptop bag, we know a coffee shop must be close by to keep us well-stocked with caffeine fuel. Sustainability reminder: While you’re hanging out at cafes, remember your reusable cup. A few good ones are below.



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