"Any sufficiently advanced technology," said 2001 author Arthur C. Clarke, "is indistinguishable from magic." By that standard, those of us who carry wireless phones and palmtop computers have been running around with more magical devices than the average character in a Harry Potter novel. How Wireless Works aims to strip wireless of its mystical characteristics, and succeeds wonderfully with illustrations and highly modular text. The proven How It Works series format suits wireless technology very well, largely because wireless services can be explained as stories (the handset sends the dialed number to the nearest base station, which contacts its switching center, which routes the call, and so on). Preston Gralla, a great explainer of technical subjects who's written several fine books, makes great use of the "enhanced comic book" style to show what talks to what, when, and why. He doesn't oversimplify, either. Though reading this book won't fully prepare you for a job at a wireless service provider, it will enable you to speak intelligently about the differences among various mobile telephony standards.
It's very hard to find fault with this book. All the latest technologies receive attention, including the emerging Voice XML (VXML) concept and the General Packet Radio Service (GPRS) standard that sees widespread Japanese use in NTT DoCoMo's i-mode service. Gralla also does his readers a service by explaining activities like mobile-phone service theft. --David Wall
Topics covered: Ways of communicating voice, data, video, and pretty much anything else over distances, without having a wired connection. This covers the whole range of technologies, from old-fashioned AM radio to swanky new services like third-generation (3G) mobile and location-based services. Internetworking is explained in the context of the unplugged Internet, and short-range wireless specifications like Bluetooth get attention, too. [via]