What Could Replace 'Airplane Mode'?

How about Zen Mode, Freedom Mode, or Radio Silence? 

The Federal Aviation Administration lifted the ban on using portable electronic devices in planes during takeoff and landing last month, thanks to efforts of critics like the New York Times' Nick Bilton

The FAA's ruling is a little more complicated than all phones, all the time. Rather, they'll be "allowing passengers to use their devices from gate to gate, including takeoff, taxiing and landing. Cellphone calls will still banned," Bilton explained. "People will probably be asked to turn their gadgets to 'airplane mode' when they fly."

But it is probably only a matter of time before the airlines and the FAA give up on regulating their customers' gadget usage. They are on the wrong side of history. And someday soon, the term "airplane mode" will likely become a true anachronism.

But what will become of the interface element? More to the point: "What will they call 'airplane mode?'" asks Bloomberg's Eric Roston

Airplane Mode turns off a phone's radios, so calls cannot be placed or taken, nor can data sent or received. The mode has never been used exclusively in flying tubes. Perhaps you want to focus. Or send a call straight to voicemail. Or just have that feeling that you were alone. Airplane Mode let you hide from the world's expectations of you with the flick of a (virtual) switch. It was freeing. And if you switched it on while driving, maybe it made you a liiiitle less likely to want to text and drive. 

So, with all those ideas in mind, allow me to present our list of possible new names for Airplane Mode with many thanks to my colleagues Derek Thompson and Megan Garber. 

Replacement Names for Airplane Mode

  • Freedom Mode
  • Off-the-Grid Mode
  • Focus Mode
  • Zen Mode
  • Invisible Mode
  • Out-of-Pocket Mode
  • Brick Mode
  • Road Mode
  • Lone(r) Mode
  • Useless Mode

I will confess that I am partial to Zen Mode, as our current crop of devices traces its legacy back to Steve Jobs. And Steve Jobs studied under the Zen Buddhist priest, Kobun Chino Otogawa, after what people often call his "exile" from Apple in 1985. It'd be a tiny homage: click here when you want to simplify.

But perhaps you have better ideas. I'd love to hear them.

Update! Some readers have suggestions. So far, the most beautiful is Radio Silence, I think. That's artful.

Other readers say that we'll just stick with the anachronism as we do with "hanging up" the phone. And yet others say we should call it "Offline Mode." But that's no fun.

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Alexis C. Madrigal

Alexis Madrigal is the deputy editor of TheAtlantic.com, where he also oversees the Technology Channel. He's the author of Powering the Dream: The History and Promise of Green Technology. More

The New York Observer has called Madrigal "for all intents and purposes, the perfect modern reporter." He co-founded Longshot magazine, a high-speed media experiment that garnered attention from The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, and the BBC. While at Wired.com, he built Wired Science into one of the most popular blogs in the world. The site was nominated for best magazine blog by the MPA and best science Web site in the 2009 Webby Awards. He also co-founded Haiti ReWired, a groundbreaking community dedicated to the discussion of technology, infrastructure, and the future of Haiti.

He's spoken at Stanford, CalTech, Berkeley, SXSW, E3, and the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, and his writing was anthologized in Best Technology Writing 2010 (Yale University Press).

Madrigal is a visiting scholar at the University of California at Berkeley's Office for the History of Science and Technology. Born in Mexico City, he grew up in the exurbs north of Portland, Oregon, and now lives in Oakland.

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