By Frank J. Romano February 9, 2004 -- Convergence gets used a lot. It means "moving towards union or uniformity." The term was used in 1974 for a 30-year old conference by Ford Motor Company to discuss the integration of electronics and the automobile--radar brakes, powertrain controls, diagnostics, interior sensing, drive-by-wire, and electric vehicles themselves. The term then reared its head during the Internet boom of the late nineties. The dream was to connect items in the physical world to the Internet. Scientists have used the term to describe the union of biology and IT. Einstein's Unified Field Theory involved convergence. In information technology, convergence is a term for the combining of personal computers, telecommunication, and television. Convergence is also an issue of culture and life style. In general, TV is visual, not very interactive (except for changing channels), oriented toward entertainment and news. Personal computers tend to be text-oriented, highly interactive, oriented toward business and education. PC displays are smaller. Convergence is already underway with WebTV, which pipes the World Wide Web to a slightly modified TV set with a set-top box from a phone line and provides a degree of interactivity. Today convergence has a host of variants: Convergence of telecommunication, media, and information. Convergence of cell phone, TV, camera, PDA, and even PC. Convergence of the Internet and telephone. Convergence of analog and digital photography. Convergence of analog and digital printing. Convergence of electronic and paper documents. Convergence of entertainment and information. Convergence of transaction and marketing printing. Convergence of POD and office printing. Convergence of e-mail and direct mail. Convergence of print (static) and dynamic media. Convergence of the book and the e-book. Convergence of video via TV, PC, PDA or cell phone. Most players in the print, media, phone, cable, radio, and television industries realize that convergence of some kind will become a reality. The chairman of AOL once said that the services that will ride over a single line into your home are "telephone services, your video, your television services, your connection to the Internet." McLuhan said it best: "The medium is the message." Call it cross media or multimedia if you want, but the trend is toward "data packaging"--converting content into any form, for anyone, anywhere. It is ultimately about the convergence of content and communication, or data and delivery. For the printing industry, it has been a challenge to deal with multiple forms of media. We know one medium very well but we are learning fast. The next time someone mentions convergence--have them define what exactly is converging with what.