Rutgers Lore: A Blast from the Past
Back issues of Rutgers Magazine remind us that the university has always been a leader in the advancement of knowledge.
Rutgers Magazine is the university’s flagship publication, delivered three times a year to more than 350,000 alumni, faculty, staff, and friends. It began in 1914 as Rutgers Alumni Quarterly then became Rutgers Monthly in 1921 and Rutgers Alumni Magazine in 1969. In 1987, the Department of University Relations began publishing Rutgers Magazine, which today is jointly published by the departments of University Relations and Alumni Relations.
A hallmark of Rutgers Magazine is its coverage of cutting-edge research at the university. This includes feature stories on discoveries in medicine and technology, thoughtful articles about groundbreaking theories in education and philosophy, progressive commentary on the origins and the future of the universe, and much more.
Rutgers Magazine and its predecessor publications are a wonderful historical record of the pursuit and advancement of knowledge—at Rutgers and in the world around us. An example of this lies within the pages of the magazine's Winter 1991 edition, published 20 years ago—when cordless telephones and personal pagers were just hitting mainstream America, and today’s omnipresent “smart phones” were still figments of researchers’ imaginations. Read on for a reminder of what was on the research horizon a mere two decades ago, and remember that Rutgers helped to make it a reality. And, be on the lookout for the Winter 2011 edition of Rutgers Magazine, arriving in your mailbox this month! All alumni receive every issue of the magazine, so be sure we have your correct contact information: Ralumni.com/update. You can also read Rutgers Magazine online at magazine.rutgers.edu.
From Rutgers Magazine, Winter 1991:
Creating the Superphone
By Pam Orel
Today’s consumers can equip their homes with cordless telephones, their cars with cellular phones, their businesses with cordless communications networks, and their bodies with beeper systems for locations in between. But they haven’t seen anything yet, says David J. Goodman, head of Rutgers’ electrical and computer engineering department.
In the 21st century, he predicts, the telephone will be transformed into a personal communications device that can be carried at all times and will give the user instant access to a range of information services. Picture a handheld personal computer that would allow the consumer to check appointments, reach out for emergency assistance, consult local area maps, find a nearby hotel or a good Italian restaurant, and tap into dozens of business or personal services—anytime, anywhere. And because people would have a single telephone number given them at birth, consumers could be reached instantly, whether they were working, driving, or relaxing.
“This will really change our lives,” says Goodman, who is the founder and director of Rutgers’ Wireless Information Network Laboratory (WINLAB). “People want the information technology to be part of themselves.”
But to achieve that goal, advances must be made in wireless technology. Today’s cellular telephones send messages that are picked up by a network of radio towers. As the user moves, the message moves from one area, or cell, to another, somewhat like a stone skipping along the surface of a pond. The problem is, the signal must reach its destination without getting lost or being confused with other signals while the sender or recipient moves within the network.
The Rutgers laboratory is a world pioneer in a new approach to solve this problem. A recent five-year, $250,000 grant from the National Science Foundation (NSF) will fund joint research by Rutgers and industry into wireless communications networks. WINLAB is looking at computers that can store information before sending it to ensure that messages won’t be lost if they don’t make the switch among radio transmission facilities on the first try.
“This grant shows that the NSF regards the wireless communications industry as strategically important to the U.S.,” Goodman says, pointing out that WINLAB’s research may one day permanently liberate the telephone from its cord. “Everyone realizes that this is the way to go, but we’re the first with the concrete technology.”