Wired at JSU: Binding or Freeing?
By Sherry Kughn
JSU News Bureau
18 March 2005 — Charles Bryan is wired. His cell
phone and laptop computer stay within close reach throughout his 14-hour days. His electronic devices are
almost an extension of his body. He says they are necessary because he both studies and teaches in the
Department of Mathematical, Computing and Information Sciences at Jacksonville State University.
Bryan commutes each day, also, from Birmingham. When he returns home each evening, he relies even more on
electronic devices and services, such as his home computer, his cable TV, and his Internet service. Bryan
juggles multiple electronic devices on a daily basis, an act that, although stressful at times, allows him
to pursue his master’s degree.
“Don’t get me wrong,” said Bryan, as he recently paused in the hallway of Bibb Graves Hall and shifted the
shoulder strap of the heavy laptop. “Even though being wired is efficient, the best place and the most
relaxing place I could be is on a beach with a nice book.”
Today’s best-wired consumers use plenty of devices, either wireless or hard-wired, and they spend lots of
money on them. In addition to those mentioned above are the e-mail-only computers, such as a Blackberry,
$150-300; digital personal planning devices, like Palm Pilot $150-400; television remotes, $10-2,000 (
yes, $2,000 believe it or not!); digital music devices, such as the Ipod, $300-500; cable TV, $40-70;
and satellite radio, installation $100.
Consumers who are not savvy in electronics probably wonder if they should embrace the complexity and expense
of becoming wired or simply be proud that they own only a telephone and a television.
Bryan returned from running an errand to engage in a short interview.
“I have no life right now,” he said. He set his baggage on the floor, sat down on a burgundy couch, and
took a breath. He is originally from Piedmont, he said, but he bought a house in Hoover after obtaining
his bachelor’s degree. He loves the house, and wants to keep it instead of moving back home to family.
He relies on his cell phone, instead, to stay in touch with them.
His laptop computer stores the grades for his 80 or so students, and it holds written assignments for his
own professors. His home computer connects him to the Internet, which he uses on weekends for homework,
and his “In-Demand” movie service on his cable television relaxes him during the brief moments at home.
His one regret is that he lacks another wired device – a satellite radio system for his car.
Bryan sounds typical of a person using electronics to increase his efficiency, according to Chris Newsome,
“This is not unusual, for people to get dependent on being wired,” says Newsome. “It allows them to
multitask from the classroom, office, home, and even the car. It also allows them to stay in contact
with friends and co-workers while on the go.”
Bryan said he does not mind the expense of staying wired. His bills, which run $130 each month ($40 for
cell phone and $90 for everything else) include luxury items on his cell phone -- a camera, and the
capability to send text messages and access the Internet. The satellite radio service he wants would
only cost him $15 more each month.
“I just don’t have time to go get it when you add in the fifteen hours a week driving,” he said.
Those costs sound reasonable, said Newsome. “It’s not unusual for some people to have a bill double or
triple what Bryan pays. Going over the allotted minutes on a cell phone or adding optional features to
existing services, like downloadable ring tones, can increase monthly charges. Text messaging and sending
movies or photos from the cell phone could also increase the monthly charge.”
Bryan says his tight schedule works fine except for when unusual things happen, as they did the day before
“I drove over something and burst the rim of my tire,” said Bryan. “I spent the entire day looking for one
As he made phone calls and arrangements to have the rim and tire repaired, his class work piled up. He later
used his laptop and home computer to catch up.
All of Bryan’s studies, plus his plans to pursue a doctorate, point toward a career as a college professor, he
said. He contends with the stress of being wireless and tireless, networked and overworked, because it is
“If my life stays this stressful after I get my degrees,” he said, “there will be a new career in my future.”