These old phones I'm talking about were sometimes wall mounted, and sometimes just sat on a desk, or end-table, with a thin and somewhat discreet wire running off to a wall-jack that was generally pretty close-by. The seemingly universal; kitchen, family room, and parent’s bedroom set-up was the one that immediately comes to mind for me. Those are the places the phones were, because those are the rooms that the phone-jacks were located in. I don't remember a phone in my bedroom initially, but after we moved to a new house when I was in High School, I know that my sister and I each had phone-jacks (and phones) in our rooms, and it was wonderful.
Those old phone-jacks were (are still I guess...) called RJ-11 connectors, you know the ones, they look like smaller versions of the much more common everyday Ethernet connectors we’re all used to now which are called RJ-45 connectors. The POTS (Plain Old Telephone Service) RJ-11 jacks had four wires in them and they used two of them per line, one to transmit and one to receive. The Ethernet RJ-45 jacks have eight wires in them, and for the most part use four of them, two to transmit, and two to receive (we're gonna be talking about using all eight here shortly!). What's with all of those wasted wires there?
They weren't being wasted, and they aren't really being wasted any more these days (though I will admit that four of them in the Ethernet cable were for a while, and maybe two in the phone cord were for a bit). If you remember using the wall phone, or the desk phone, anything other than the "phone-in-a-bag" early version of the cell phone because it cost like $3/minute or something crazy like that, then you will likely remember call-waiting.
*BEEP* "Can you hang on a second? I have a call on the other line."
See, they weren't being wasted after all, they were your "other line". These days the extra ones in the Ethernet cable have been given a job to do as well. When we used two of the eight for transmitting, and two for receiving we were typically using 10BaseT, or 100BaseT speed internet. It was a 10Mbps (megabits per second), or 100Mbps data transfer rate. These days we have Gigabit Ethernet as an option, and that's a pretty big jump from 100 Mbps, to 1000Mbps (or 1000BaseT), a jump which was made possible by utilizing the unused wires in the existing Cat5e cables.
Now, this is apparently a topic that really excites me, as I'm more in the realm of a history of networking lesson than I am in that of what this blog piece is supposed to be about, but hey, we'll just consider all of that up there to be a prelude to the pure awesomeness that is to come!
What I am suggesting, and what I have done for a couple of customers now, is to run Cat6 cable (better than Cat5e, not really necessary, but more like future-proofing) in much the same way that the old phone-lines were run in your house. In some cases, if you use the wired phone in your home for example, it is possible to upgrade the face-plate (where you plug the jack into the wall) so that it accommodates both RJ-11, and RJ-45 connectors and run new Cat6 alonside the existing lines. In other cases it might be more convenient to run the new Ethernet lines through your home's duct-work using a plenum-grade (fire-retardant) cable. Either way, the process is fairly painless, and in all likelihood a combination of both methods would be used to get the connections where you want them.
What kind of devices are we talking about using like this though? (AKA the “I'm pretty happy with wireless” question) I know, I know, wireless really is great, and super-convenient. I have a wireless router in my house also, but I'm also an IT professional and change my passwords and network names a little bit more often than the average end-user. Simply put, the biggest difference between wired and wireless networks is the inherent level of security, a wired network is more secure. I talk about that all the time though, and there are blog pieces on here that address those concerns, back on topic, and let’s finish this thing up!
We're talking Gigabit Ethernet running to your TV’s, or to your child's video game console machine that you're not sure is the savior of your sanity or the devil that has dragged your child's grades to hell. We're talking about high speed internet in any room you want it in. You want to move your Office? Move it! We're talking about wired IP security cameras so that you can check in on your home from anywhere there's an internet connection, centralized file sharing, and other things I'm simply not thinking of at the moment. The possibilities are there though, and as a bonus, we might even be talking about adding value to your home (wired for Ethernet, can your friends say that?). Using a Modem and Ethernet Switch, plus a couple hundred feet of Cat6 Cable, your existing Network setup could be super-charged, and ready for the next 25 years, maybe even 50, how long did that old land-line telephone reign for anyways?