Columbus Unstrung?

Picture the momentous scene. From high-up in a crow's nest, a lone sailor -- his eyes red with the strain of watching the endless blue horizon -- yells out the words that the rest of the crew has waited months to hear:

    LAND HO!
Now, imagine how infinitely more dull that scene would have been if Columbus had found his way to the new world using a network of satellites and a GPS receiver, instead his own faulty calculations and the stars.

Yep, that's the gee, what-if premise of a press release issued this morning by the Cellular Telecommunications & Internet Association (CTIA) in celebration of Columbus day. It speculates on just how different life might have been for Columbus and his merry band of cutthroats if they'd had all the latest wireless technology to plot their course and keep them entertained on their voyage.

The idea is so preposterous, so arse-clenchingly naff, that we needn't detain ourselves with it for long. Suffice to say, there's a thousand things Columbus might have asked for before wireless: Steam power rather than a rickety sail-boat, a refrigerator to keep provisions fresh rather than enduring a daily diet of sock-wash and rat heads, or general anaesthetic so that his sailors didn't die of shock after the most minor surgery.

And gosh, kids! What if he'd had a Megascope Space Prober?!!

The CTIA even suggests that wireless phones could have helped Columbus and crew keep "the natives from getting restless." Hmmph! As if muskets and smallpox weren't more than good enough!

The real kicker is that, if we humor the idea for just one second, Columbus would never have actually discovered the Americas if he'd have had wireless.

As the release acknowledges, Columbus wasn't even searching for the Caribbean islands when he set out from Spain. Today's modern technology, the release burbles: "Might also have guided him to his intended Asian destination."

Is it happy hour yet?

— Dan "Rum, Sodomy, and the Lash" Jones, Senior Editor, Unstrung

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