Cell Phones and the End of History

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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?

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This is a big one for us. So, as we ask you to consider supporting our team's journalism, we thought we'd slow down and check in about where Mother Jones is and where we're going after the chaotic last several years. This comparatively slow moment is also an urgent one for Mother Jones: You can read more in "Slow News Is Good News," and if you're able to, please support our team's hard-hitting journalism and help us reach our big $350,000 goal with a donation today.

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