July 02, 2005


Technology against technology

Street hawkers, auto rickshaw-wallah, house maids owning a cell phone is not taken with surprise anymore. But the downside of this pervasive toy is most visible in movie halls, theatres, restaurants, concerts, places of worship, etc. (See, how restrained I am not to mention office!)

These are the places where you realize that showing off latest ring-tone at its loudest is in vogue. So is answering your phone during movie, play and concert. Typical conversation in movie halls goes something like this - "Hello.... I in movie hall watching [insert-some-trash-movie].... [insert a terse review of the movie]... baad mein phone karunga/karungi". I have snipped a large amount of typical conversation since you already know some variation of it.

The technology has shown the manners-challenged and uncivilized side of even the educated and, otherwise suave. If technology creates problems, there must be technological answer to it. (One can easily make such blindingly obvious statement with some trivial knowledge of technology.)

Yes, there is a solution called "cell phone jammers". Before I write anything on this, let me put a disclaimer. USING JAMMERS IS ILLEGAL in major part of the world. I am not aware of Indian laws, but I err on conservative side and assume that it is unlawful in India. I have not used any of these solutions and I don't think law (and my pocket!) permits to do the same. Neither do I endorse use of these devices in any way.

In this post, I am going to have some vicarious, devilish and sadistic pleasure by analyzing possible ways to counter the annoyance.

To quote from howstuffworks.com, "Jamming devices overpower the cell phone by transmitting a signal on the same frequency and at a high enough power that the two signals collide and cancel each other out." Now what are these frequencies? GSM (Airtel, Hutch, Idea, BSNL,..) operates at 900 MHz and 1800 MHz, whereas CDMA (Reliance, Tata,..) operates at 800 MHz. India, probably, is one of very few countries, where both technologies have sizable market share. GSM and CDMA dominate in Europe and US, respectively. So most of jammers available are either meant for GSM or CDMA.

Some jammers I looked at, were very similar to mobile phones, with a price tag of Rs 13k and effective in the radius of 15 mts. Sounds good for a small movie hall in multiplex. Now if you want to block an area equivalent of cricket stadium, I can imagine the device big, like radio sets of old days, and expensive. Another device I stumbled upon is available for Rs 18k which blocks CDMA and GSM up to distance of 20 mts. Good stuff!

One of the sellers, based out of India, made me wonder if Indian laws really approve use of jammers. In that case, all the places deserving fair share of silence must install these devices.

The above solution is (probably) unlawful and expensive. How about some solution which is perfectly legal? There are gadgets which detect the presence of active cell phones. These gadgets cost approximately Rs. 13k. Expensive, but lawful! Such device can be very effectively used to embarrass people who keep their cell on in spite of repeated requests.

How about something lawful and "Cheap"? Use the cards of Society for HandHeld Hushing. Make sure these cards are exchanged in presence of bunch of people.

Another idea is financial punishment, say Rs. 1000, for every buzzing cell phone. Somehow I am confident that material punishment acts as the biggest deterrence, if implemented without making any exceptions. This is non-tech solution but probably the best one. More ideas, please!

What next? Well, I am looking for gadgets to over-power instant mobile paparazzi.

If you it is not mannerless to speak in a restaurant why is it mannerless to speak in a restaurant into a phone? Duh!!
I don't think my statement can be interpreted as "Talking on phone in restaurant is tantamount to being mannerless."

In case of restaurants, it is more of annoyance. Have you ever experienced a bunch of people sitting at the next table playing their entire ringtone gallery just for fun? I am all for personal freedom, but with due respect to others' freedom.
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