We’ve all got cell phones, so come on — let’s get real.

July 17, 2008 at 3:17 pm | Posted in Technology | 3 Comments

It’s no secret — I carry a cell phone in my pocket.  Most of us do.  In fact, even my parents have one.  When our youngest daughter was born, within twenty minutes I was talking to my father, cell to cell, to share the good news.

But the phone does so much more.  My wife regularly “texts” me so we can keep in touch while still going about our daily activities.  (Yes, “text” is now a verb according to The American Heritage Dictionary.)  I think of it as a remote control for the family — press a few buttons, and another disaster is averted.  How did we ever get along without it?

But the power of the cell phone reaches much more farther and wider than I think any of us realize.  Mobile is a truly disruptive technology that I feel will make the advent of the personal computer and the Internet seem like child’s play.

Surely none of us will forget the poignant but surreal conversations on September 11 that people had with loved ones fated to die, courtesy of their cellular phones.  A happier news story detailed how a hiker lost for six days was saved when she had a strong enough signal to call her mom.  Even climbers on Mt. Everest will be able to call for help, trade stocks, or order a pizza, though the delivery may be some time in coming.  Someday soon there will be no wilderness anymore, only varying bars of reception.

The nations are vanishing as well.  A few days ago, I got a call on my cell phone.  The voice on the other end made a few noises that I could not recognize as any language I knew.  It had to be a wrong number, but I mused that it could have come from just about anywhere in the world.  A whopping 97 percent of people surveyed in Tanzania have the ability to place a cell phone call.  With that kind of connectivity, how long will it be before the average African slum dweller will call me to talk to me something more important than that I am the last remaining relative of a deceased Shell Oil executive – maybe he would want to ask for help in starting a legitimate business, get some advice for his son looking to study abroad, or just tell me about life in his country.  Even the Pope has taken to texting his messages.  When everyone in the world can talk to everyone else, that’s a small world indeed.

And it just gets more complicated from there.   Recently, a teacher was assaulted in her own classroom, and a video of the attack was posted on YouTube … yes, you guessed it, via cell phone.  Anything that happens anywhere is now available almost instantly to a worldwide audience.  This begs the question — if I can’t find it online, did it really happen?  Which is more true: my experience, or what’s on the Internet?  Which is more real: the world around me, or the one I access through my cell phone?  I’m starting to wonder.

We’ve all got cell phones, so come on — let’s get real.

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3 Comments »

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  1. Only you would actually find video of that song taken on someone’s cell phone…I have a cell phone too so let’s get real!

  2. My boss is part of a group that goes regularly to Africa on medical missions. While there a few months ago to deliver rice and tools to create rice fields for women left alone due to aids and other misfortunes, he noticed something. No power in the the area but everyone had cell phones. They would take them to a charging station each night. A charging station consists of a diesel generator and multiple surge protectors. Kind of crazy if you ask me. I forget what the charge for cell phone usage was or what the cost of a charge was, but do these folks really have money for this in such abject poverty? Just a thought

  3. My guess is that the phones are one of the secondhand or thirdhand models that we toss into the bin at the cell phone store every two years or so. So, the phones are essentially free, the electricity is cheap, and the service cost is whatever the amortized cost of the capital equipment infrastructure would be — probably secondhand as well. So, I can see that service could be fairly affordable, at least for local calls.

    I think the real question is: in an increasingly globalized and connected world, can they afford NOT to have them?

    Hey, thanks for the comment!!


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