Cell Phones and the End of History

From Stephen Randall, on the demise of landlines and the growth of cell phones:

Bluetooth is ugly and frustrating; no wonder everyone likes it. Bluetooth alone has done more to destroy civil discourse than cable news and talk radio put together.

I’m convinced that the reason so many teens and 20-somethings hate talking on the phone is because they grew up with cell phones. The amount of mental energy it takes to plow through an average cell phone call is deceptively high, and if I’d grown up with cell phones I’d probably hate talking on them too. Doing it more than a couple of times a day is enough to give anyone chronic fatigue syndrome.

But the telephone industry has been conspiring for years to ruin landline phones too. In the old days, phones just worked. Modern phones, however, are dizzyingly variable in delivering simple sound quality.1 I’m not sure why. Do they use 10-cent microphones instead of the high-quality 20-cent microphones that would work better? Do the electronics simply not work well? Is it all down to cordless technology not being able to deliver 64 kbps of bandwidth reliably even at a distance of 20 feet? Or what? Why is the communication industry apparently so intent on making communication so unpleasant?

1And don’t get me started on headsets. I’ve tried at least half a dozen over the years and none of them work well. Is there some reason why AT&T operators in 1940 had headsets that delivered crystal clear voice quality but there’s no combination of consumer grade phone and headset in 2010 that doesn’t make you sound like you’re talking from the bottom of a well deep in one of al-Qaeda’s caves in Tora Bora?

DOES IT FEEL LIKE POLITICS IS AT A BREAKING POINT?

Headshot of Editor in Chief of Mother Jones, Clara Jeffery

It sure feels that way to me, and here at Mother Jones, we’ve been thinking a lot about what journalism needs to do differently, and how we can have the biggest impact.

We kept coming back to one word: corruption. Democracy and the rule of law being undermined by those with wealth and power for their own gain. So we're launching an ambitious Mother Jones Corruption Project to do deep, time-intensive reporting on systemic corruption, and asking the MoJo community to help crowdfund it.

We aim to hire, build a team, and give them the time and space needed to understand how we got here and how we might get out. We want to dig into the forces and decisions that have allowed massive conflicts of interest, influence peddling, and win-at-all-costs politics to flourish.

It's unlike anything we've done, and we have seed funding to get started, but we're looking to raise $500,000 from readers by July when we'll be making key budgeting decisions—and the more resources we have by then, the deeper we can dig. If our plan sounds good to you, please help kickstart it with a tax-deductible donation today.

Thanks for reading—whether or not you can pitch in today, or ever, I'm glad you're with us.

Signed by Clara Jeffery

Clara Jeffery, Editor-in-Chief

We Recommend

Latest

Sign up for our newsletters

Subscribe and we'll send Mother Jones straight to your inbox.

Get our award-winning magazine

Save big on a full year of investigations, ideas, and insights.

Subscribe

Support our journalism

Help Mother Jones' reporters dig deep with a tax-deductible donation.

Donate