At the International Wireless Engineering Conference in Las Vegas two weeks ago, a panel examined the current and future role of IP technologies in public-safety communications. At one juncture, the discussion centered on the friction that exists between IT and RF professionals as their worlds collide. The friction stems in large measure from the inability of IT folks to understand the inner working of RF, and the animosity felt by the RF community towards these perceived interlopers.

The conversation brought me back three decades. I remember well when my father had to be retrained in his job because technology had changed. He was working for the Chicago Tribune at the time as a printer. When he started, newspapers were produced using what was known as a "hot type" method. Stories were retyped on a contraption called a Linotype machine, which spit out chunks of lead that contained the words. It was my father's job to place the lead type in trays — corresponding to a page layout provided by the editors — that were then used to produce the plates for the printing press. Afterwards, the lead was tossed down a chute that led to the aptly named "hell box." Once there, the lead was melted so it could be used again.

Then technology changed, and newspapers were produced using the "cold type" method. Instead of lead, the words now were output on paper galleys that then were waxed and pasted onto art boards. The boards then were used, via photo-engraving, to produce the printing plates. This watershed event forced my father to trade in his steel-toed shoes — a necessity when working with lead type — for a t-square and Exacto knife. He did this with aplomb. From the time I was a child, I would occasionally visit the Tribune's composing room floor and saw my father in action. The chefs of Benihana had nothing on him in terms of speed and accuracy when wielding a knife.

Unfortunately, that's not where this story ends. Technology continued to evolve. Computers arrived on the scene in the early eighties, and artists took over the task of page make-up, making my father obsolete. I had mixed feelings about this. It was difficult to watch a man lose his livelihood — not because of poor performance but rather because something better came along. At the same time, I had started my career in publishing by that point and could understand management's perspective. This made for some interesting conversations with my father.

I don't have a crystal ball, so I can't predict whether the IT and RF worlds ultimately will find a way to coexist. But I am certain they will be forced to try. IP is coming, and in a big way. If ever there was an unstoppable force, progress is it.

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