Urgent Matters

Extinction is inevitable

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Last month on our Web site, we asked readers how long they thought it would take for mission-critical voice over IP to become a reality, an achievement that theoretically would then render land mobile radio systems obsolete someday. Roughly one-third thought that it would happen inside of 15 years. About one-fifth of the respondents thought it would take longer than that, as much as 35 years. But nearly half of the respondents — 44% — thought that it would never happen, being of the belief that LMR always would be needed for mission-critical voice.

That surprised me a bit. It wasn't because there are some people who believe LMR never will go away. Rather, it was that there are so many people who are of that mindset. It's thinking that I don't understand. Every technology has a lifespan. It's inevitable that technologies ultimately will disappear, regardless of how necessary or advanced they seem to be today.

For example, video-cassette recordings eventually were replaced by DVDs, and someday DVDs will be replaced. Maybe they will be replaced by Blu-Ray, once conventional televisions are pushed out of the marketplace by high-definition sets. More likely, DVDs will be replaced by something that isn't even on the drawing board yet.

Similarly, LP records were replaced by audio cassettes, which were replaced by compact discs, which were replaced by digital-recording platforms, i.e., the MP3 format. In the case of audio recordings, this evolution — which saw three technology platforms completely come and go — played out over just three decades. Be assured that something ultimately will replace today's digital-recording platforms.

All of this reminds me of an editorial that was published in 1939 by the venerable New York Times about the prospects for the fledgling medium of television, which had been introduced at the World's Fair in New York City that year. Arguably, commercial radio was at the height of its popularity then, as millions of Americans gathered around the box every night to thrill to the exploits of the Lone Ranger, the Shadow and the Green Hornet, or laugh at the escapades of Jack Benny, George Burns and Amos and Andy.

The New York Times opined that, "The problem with television is that people must sit and keep their eyes glued to the screen; the average American family hasn't time for it. Therefore the showmen are convinced that for this reason, if no other, television will never be a serious competitor of broadcasting."

Really nailed that one, didn't they?

Commercial radio was forced to reinvent itself after television took off, and perhaps LMR will as well. But just as the radio was overtaken by television as the dominant communications medium in the U.S., I believe that mission-critical IP voice will overtake LMR as we know it today. It's only a matter of time.

What do you think? Tell us in the comment box below.

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Insights from Donny Jackson concerning the most important news, trends and issues.

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Donny Jackson

Donny Jackson is editor of Urgent Communications magazine. Before joining UC in 2002, he covered telecommunications for four years as a freelance writer and as news editor for Telephony magazine....
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