So it looks like I'm going to be living without a cell phone for a month. I can't find the damn thing, and since I'm going to buy an iPhone on July 11th, it doesn't make sense to replace it.
The experience has already been interesting. I'm working around the absence with Skype, IM, and Twitter, and a modest amount of piggybacking on friends cell phones by getting them to text other people.
It triggered and interesting conversation this morning with the ever-brilliant Tim Lee of Cato and Ars Technica, who is staying with me for a few days. The old landline networks were designed to be extremely robust and keep working during emergencies. The new technologies are nowhere near so reliable--the New York cell phone network was overloaded to the point of uselessness during both the blackout and 9/11 (not helped by the fact that most cell phone networks had big antennas perched on the roof of the World Trade Center). Even the internet, with its fault tolerant distributed architecture, is vulnerable, because so many people get their service through their cable provider, and until now no one has focused on making sure that people have uninterrupted access to Law and Order reruns during a crisis. Though perhaps we should. It certainly soothes me to know that at any hour of the day and night, I can see Sam Waterston using morally ambiguous coercive tactics to secure a conviction.
With so many people in my generation off the land line network, what happens to us in a big emergency? One possibility is that I have to wander around northwest DC making sure everyone I know is all right--even my Mom has Vonage rather than a traditional land line. On the other hand, the fact that we have so many channels of communication may actually make us better off--even when the WTC collapse had severed New York's major phone trunk, and the cell phone networks were out, email kept all my graduate school classmates in touch.
More thoughts on the cell-less existence as I have them.
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