A REAL switch for the wireless radio

In the old days electronic gear had on/off switches that were actually physical devices with two positions, like the light switch on a wall. Nowadays these have become a rare sight: with everything computerized, most state switching is done by pressing pushbuttons and keys, with the switching done by the logic circuitry or microprocessor.

The disadvantage of this solution is that (a) you can’t tell the state of a switch by looking at it, and (b) the act of switching can take a while as the computer goes about its activity. Even the basic act of turning a computer off now takes long moments (in the original home computers you hit the switch and power was simply cut off).

Thinkpad T61 wireless radio switch

Here is a delightful exception to this trend: my latest Notebook, a Lenovo Thinkpad T61, has a slide switch on its outside for switching the Wireless radios on and off. Slide it to the right and the radio pops on instantly (as indicated by a green spot that becomes exposed under the slider). Slide to the left and the radio shuts down. Besides being fast and convenient, this is very useful when flying: if you believe in the inadvisability of having the Wireless on during flight, you can ensure it is off (and will stay off) before even turning the Notebook on. Absent this assertive hard switch, you’d need to turn the computer on, discover you left the radio on when you last put it into standby in the airport, and then you’d need to fumble with soft switches and dialogs to turn it off before the plane crashed. 🙂

3 Responses to “A REAL switch for the wireless radio”


  1. 1 Yoram

    You are right, this is quick and convenient. On the other hand, I rarely find myself shutting off the wifi. I am always afraid I will forget that it is off. Also, I can’t think of any reason why a wifi connection on board a plane could do any harm.

    I am not even convinced cell phones really pose a danger. It might well be that the restrictions are simply excuses to keep the noise level in the airplane down, and to keep people un-distracted during landing and take-off.

  2. 2 Nathan Zeldes

    For my part, Yoram, I do shut off WiFi unless I need it, simply to extend battery life.

    As to whether WiFi or Cellular can crash a plane – I strongly doubt that, although there seem to be some reports floating around of rare suspicious malfunctions in cockpit electronics. And the airlines seem to be pushing for allowing cellular on planes, so I doubt they really care for our quiet…

  3. 3 Nathan Zeldes

    Guess what? Lenovo’s design team held a poll about this switch on tehir blog, here: http://lenovoblogs.com/designmatters/?p=212 and it turns out most readers prefer the switch to be externally accessible just as much as I do!

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