Along with Erik Blood Axe and Hagar the Horrible came Bluetooth, the marauding Viking king. His name has now been taken for a computer standard for wireless personal area networking. Focused on a transmission range of up to 10m, it complements the global mobile picture that wap- phones (Wireless Application Protocol) are moving us towards.
Putting Bluetooth modules in devices could replace many local cables with short-range radio communication between pcs, laptops, mobile phones, printers, plotters and more. The first Bluetooth-enabled devices are now appearing, such as hands-free wireless headsets for phones.
How might Bluetooth affect design? Larger devices will remain tethered in position by power cables, though will be more easily relocated. Already some local radio data systems are used in critical locations such as historic buildings where cabling can be problematic, but they are relatively expensive, proprietary systems. The open Bluetooth standard should encourage a mass market, reducing prices and improving interoperability between different manufacturers' devices. How far Bluetooth will go in replacing local cabling in buildings remains to be seen and will depend on cost, functionality and security. Communication will sometimes require authentication, say with a pin, and encryption.
Health concerns may also affect Bluetooth's take-up - a range of 'wearables' are envisaged - though radio frequency emissions are of much lower power than mobile phones.
Applications will include devices automatically reconciling diaries and other data sets as you enter a room, easier local broadband Internet surfing, information kiosks and local location-specific messaging such as guidance information in buildings.
So there will be more wap-enabled and Bluetooth-enabled devices around.
Barrie Evans is editor of www.ajplus.co.uk