The Americans have need of the telephone, but we do not. We have plenty of messenger boys. — Sir William Preece, chief engineer of the British Post Office, 1876 I think there is a world market for maybe five computers. — Thomas Watson, chairman of IBM, 1943 Everything that can be invented has been invented. — Charles H. Duell, Commissioner, U.S. Office of Patents, 1899. “I confess that in 1901 I said to my brother Orville that man would not fly for fifty years. Two years later we ourselves made flights. This demonstration of my impotence as a prophet gave me such a shock that ever since I have distrusted myself and avoided all predictions.” –Wilbur Wright, Scientific American, Jan. 2 edition, 1909 We don’t know where the future is headed. We don’t know what the products of the future will look like. Computers, more than any other technology, have taught us about the disposability of expensive consumer goods. We know that in three to five years after their purchase, they will be useless to us and need replacement. We know that eventually our car will be replaced with one that has new features which were previously unavailable. We know that most of the material goods in our lives will not last our entire lives. Houses are different though. Many of us will live in the same house for long periods of time and, even if we move, we will not discard the old one. In fact, most of us expect our houses to hold their value and even appreciate. The problem with this is that homes are built to address the needs of their occupants at the time they are built. As time passes, they simply become more obsolete. The telephone wiring for a house built in the 1940s does not meet our standards today. So how do we solve these problems and build a house that will meet the needs of the future? The “structured wiring” market appeared within the last 20 years to solve these problems, but most of these products concentrate on the needs of today. For example, Ethernet cable has evolved significantly since its inception. Initially, it was referred to as “ThickNet” and used a coaxial cable that was almost an inch thick. This was gradually replaced by “ThinNet” that used standard RG58 coaxial cable. Then, 10BaseT was developed which used a 4-pair telephone-style cable. Then, 100BaseT was developed which required a higher-grade telephone-style cable commonly known as CAT5. Recently CAT5 was replaced by CAT5e. And now, to meet the requirements of Gigabit networks, CAT5 and CAT5e are being replaced by CAT6. What’s next? CAT7? CAT8? Fiber? If you installed a network during the ThinNet days, it would be obsolete. If you install CAT6 now, how long before it is replaced by something else? In other words, whatever you install will eventually be obsolete. The Structured Channeling Solution The best solution to this problem is to not commit to any one type of wiring. If you install a channeling system through which you can run new wires when they come out and remove obsolete ones when you no longer need them, you can truly future-proof your home. Ideally, this might consist of narrow walkways behind walls that enable you to always make changes to your home, but this consumes a significant amount of square footage and potentially doubles material and labor costs. Fortunately, there are combinations of products that are available today that will provide structured channeling for new and existing homes. Using these products enables people to invisibly upgrade wiring at any time. If set up properly, new homeowners will be able to run wiring from a central wiring closet to almost any location within any room in the house. This is accomplished through the use of standard conduit and WireTracks wiring channels. WireTracks are removable wiring channels that install behind baseboard molding, in plane with the wallboard. The baseboard molding attaches the channel cover and they become an integrated unit that can be removed and reattached at any time. In the following example, a wiring closet in the basement is connected through conduit to six access points throughout the house. Installing WireTracks wiring channels enables easy access to any wall within the house. If you want fewer access points (but with longer WireTracks wiring runs), you could reach every wall in the house except for one wall in the dining room with only three access points. If this were a retrofit application, you could reach most of the house without any access points at all. As you can see, structured channeling prepares you for the future and allows you to install new technologies wherever you want. By embracing structured channeling, you not only meet today’s needs, but tomorrow’s as well. For information about conduit products, visit your local home improvement store or the Carlon website at www.carlon.com. For information about WireTracks products, visit the WireTracks website at www.wiretracks.com.
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