To come up to speed you first need to be introduced to a range of new TLAs (three-letter acronyms) to add to your jargon bank: HDR, SMS, WAP and PDA.
High data rate (HDR) is a wireless telecom technology challenging the current mobile phone standard by combining with existing phone systems; the resulting network can transmit data at high speeds of up to 2.4 mega bits per second (Mbps), allowing for more data to be sent over the airwaves. At present this results in bulkier handsets due to the battery size, and there are potential problems with radio interference. However, Sony are working on rechargeable lithium-ion polymer batteries and Hitachi think the cost and speed will be of more importance than the size.
Next out of the bag comes SMS (short message services) hand-in-hand with WAP (wireless application protocol). SMS is a messaging system which lets you interchange messages with other systems such as e-mail and the web. WAP sits on top of this and states how devices can be made to speak to each other. With this you can access the Internet and keep in touch via your micro-browser-equipped wireless phone.
WAP is particularly useful for interactive services while with SMS you use pre-set commands or receivealerts. It means you no longer have a mobile phone for mere talking but a PDA (personal data assistant), which is a messager and scanner as well as a phone.
Now you know the acronyms, what does all this mean in practice? Enter the iMode, sold in the UK by MagicE (www.magic-e.co.uk). Produced by DoCoMo (www.nttdocomo.com) the iMode online information service attracted over 1.4 million subscribers in six months. In addition to a standard phone you have "mobile multimedia", a standard mobile phone with a larger than usual display which lets you transmit e-mail, do your banking, access the news, sports, train times, games and the Internet. Users also check Microsoft Exchange and Lotus Notes Domino servers for mail and appointments with the iMode ringing you when data changes.
Clever, but just before you pop out to order one, why not put your name for the next big thing - the "wearable" computer (a watch or a miner's lamp seem to be the main options under development). Toshiba has a prototype of a keyboardless computer based on a notebook, consisting of a 4x4mm colour display attached to your head, a headphone, an operation button unit, a microphone, and a wireless LAN card. This has a voice recognition dictionary which registers about 5,000 words with 90 per cent accuracy. Is that enough? Try taking out one word in 10 from this article and see if it still makes any sense. But this is only the prototype. To see if they can get to 100 per cent, watch this space.
PAM TURNBULL Pam Turnbull teaches at the Heys primary school in Ashton-under-Lyne, Greater Manchester