Yesterday's dirt clouds give way to APs among the ivy.

February 16, 2006

2 Min Read
Tracking Technology

Full disclosure requires that I reveal that, like our last three presidents, I graduated from Yale. So the story I filed today on Yale's wireless network is not entirely unbiased. (See Case Study: Yale University.)

When I wasn't hung over, I ran track for a few years at Yale. The indoor facility, Coxe Cage (where we trained through New Haven's abysmal winters) was a vast brick shell with skylights in the roof, about one-third of which were broken out. Pigeons fluttered and cooed high above, occasionally splattering the lanes. The surface of the track and the infield was dirt, and a perpetual brown cloud hung low during periods of heavy use. When the lacrosse team was practicing on the infield and we were doing laps, you literally couldn't see across to the other side of the track.

Last year, Yale installed a banked, synthetic track (to match the one put in by Harvard earlier, natch) in the Cage, of the sort on which many U.S. and world records have been set. That, plus the fact that the whole starlets-in-the-Ivy-Leagues thing showed up after my time, has always made me think I should have taken off a few years between high school and college. (Forget the gap year -- how about a gap decade?)

The same thing, more or less, happened with information technology. Being an English major, and something of a Luddite, I never touched a computer in four years in college. When I recall hunting-and-pecking on my electric typewriter in my dimly lit dorm room, sometime after midnight, I console myself with the thought that George W. Bush never won a Rhodes Scholarship either.

Still, it's hard to fathom -- sitting in an office at the foot of the Rockies, where my laptop picks up three or four surrounding wireless networks -- how far we've come in the couple of decades since I fled New Haven, never to return. My wife's nephew, currently studying history and economics at Yale (also quoted in the story -- we'll all be working for him one day), can't conceive of doing his undergrad work without a laptop and a high-speed Internet connection any more than I can conceive of being a journalist without same.

My son, 6, just started kindergarten last fall. What common technologies will he take for granted in college that we haven't conceived of yet?

God knows. But I'll bet the athletic facilities will be sweet.

— Richard Martin, Senior Editor, Unstrung

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