Cell Phones Turned Into Student Aides

In this week's "Cybershake," we take a look at how colleges are opening their arms to their students' best friends: cell phones. Plus, we note how one company wants to give old videogames the "pay-per-view" treatment.

Keeping On-Campus Students Well-Connected

Think of "channel surfing kids" and you'd probably come up with an image of youths mindlessly lounging in front of TV sets and rapidly flipping through hundreds of stations using the remote control. But "channel surfing" takes on a whole new meaning for thousands of students at one particular school.

At Montclair State University in New Jersey, school officials are handing out to incoming freshman living on campus free cell phones. The $250 Motorola phones will help students keep in touch with friends and family but also, and more importantly, act as mobile, wireless terminals to school-related information and news.

The school has partnered with Rave Wireless, a wireless software provider based in New York City, to create "channels" of information that are vital to student life on campus.

"It connects them to the campus in various ways – for safety purposes, for academic purposes and for social purposes," says Rodger Desai, founder of Rave Wireless. "They can get access to homework assignment changes … All the shuttle buses on campus are tracked by satellite so they can see [them on] interactive maps from their phone."

"It's pretty cool," says freshman student Ron Chicken. "So you know if the bus is coming right around the corner or if you're going to have to wait 10 minutes."

And since the mobile phones are part of the cellular network offered by Sprint-Nextel, they can also be used as regular cell phones for voice, text-messaging or even e-mail.

"I can be across campus and I can check my e-mail," says Chicken.

The school can set up and manage its own set of channels – so a teacher can instantly update an entire class about changes to schedules or syllabus. But students can create their own channels as well. Updates to channels can be made from any Rave phone or any computer on the Internet.

More colleges are signing up for Rave's services. The company claims seven other universities – including Baruch College of the City University of New York and the University of South Florida – have agreed to develop similar services.

"We believe that youth find this device as the preferred way to communicate and the preferred way to manage their lives," says Desai.

— Larry Jacobs, ABC News


A Site for Old Games

Sure, there are plenty of new and exciting videogames slated to hit store shelves this holiday season. And with the increasing capabilities of PCs and new game consoles, such as Microsoft's Xbox 360, they're sure to be stunningly detailed and provide hours of engrossing entertainment.

But what about game players who yearn for the simpler times, when some of the most addictive games were nothing more than simple geometric shapes and still provided hours of addictive fun?

Enter GameTap.

"GameTap is a broadband service that allows the consumer to have access to hundreds and hundreds of great video games," says Blake Lewin with Turner Broadcasting. From "Pong to Sonic the Hedgehog … Tony Hawk, Splinter Cell … We've got everything."

The online game service hopes to do for games what specialty cable-TV networks did for old movies: Let fans relive – or replay – classics that aren't available on store shelves anymore.

"GameTap allows you to play an arcade game and then a few minutes later … an early console game," says Lewin. "There has never been a network that allows you to play this huge catalog of games that has been building up over the last 20 years."

Moreover, the online service wants to be much more than just another game site. GameTap plans on hosting other content such as "behind-the-scenes documentaries" that explain the development of widely anticipated videogames. The company plans on also developing its own videogames – ones that will be played on mobile devices and by thousands of players simultaneously across the Net.

Visitors, for now, will need a PC running Microsoft Windows 2000/XP and a broadband Internet connection (DSL, DSL light or cable modem, minimum 384k) to use the service. When it debuts on Monday, Oct. 17, subscribers will be given a two-week free trial to the games. After that, players will need to pay $15 per month to keep their thumbs happy.

— Larry Jacobs, ABC News

Cybershake is produced for ABC News Radio by Andrea J. Smith.