May 27, 2005 -- In this week's "Cybershake," we take a look at the effort to honor the nation's veterans by preserving their wartime stories online. Plus, we note how some companies think you can never be too young to own and use a cell phone.
Preserving Wartime Memories Online
For many Americans, the Memorial Day holiday means more than just the unofficial start of the summer season and planning for recreational getaways. It's still a time to remember and honor those who served and fought in the nation's military.
And to help ensure that the memories of those veterans -- and the millions of civilian workers who supported them during times of war -- remain available to future generations, the Library of Congress has been slowly building a physical and virtual archive of wartime memories.
Under its Veterans History Project, volunteers from the Library of Congress have been sitting down with veterans to record their stories and experiences in combat, as well as reflections of their life after war. In addition to audio and digital video recordings, the national archive also includes personal photos, documents, and other memorabilia collected by the vets during their time of service.
For now, the project has collected more than 35,000 personal accounts, mostly from veterans of the two World Wars. But there are reflections from those who fought in more recent conflicts such as the Vietnam War. Many accounts, such as those of Nebraska Sen. Charles Hagel, detail the horrors and fears they faced during battle.
Recalling a night where he was wounded by a booby trap, Hagel says in his personal account: "I was as afraid that night as, I think, I've ever been because it was dark. And when it gets dark, it is dark. How many more booby traps [are] you going to walk into, that you really can't see?"
Officials with the Library of Congress are also getting "grassroots" help, appealing to veterans and others interested in preserving these personal bits of wartime history to become involved with the project. On the project's Web site, http://www.loc.gov/vets, visitors can find information on how to contribute their own stories and request a kit to send wartime-related memorabilia.
By opening the project to all, the Library of Congress hopes that the national veterans archive and Web site will become a living memorial, where people who have no war experience can understand what it's all about.
-- Jon Bascom, ABC News
A Cell Phone for the Pre-Teen Crowd?
It seems like almost everyone is walking around with a cell phone now. Adults and teenagers in the digital age can't seem to live without the mobile device that keeps them connected and chatting with each other.
But what about those "tween-agers" -- kids older than toddlers, but younger than a teenager? Robin Abrams, chief executive officer of Firefly Mobile, believes that it's a market that's just ready to bust.
"Ninety percent of kids aged 8-12 don't have cell phones, but both they want them and their parents want them to have them," says Abrams.
But the problem, she says, is that ordinary cell phones can be too costly to give to preteens. And like their older siblings, preteens might abuse the privilege of being able to reach out and touch someone -- or have some one else connect with them.
"Parents don't have enough control -- either control over the numbers calling in and calling out or financial control," says Abrams.
Her company's pre-teen phone, however addresses that concern. It operates and looks like an ordinary phone -- except that it lacks a standard dial pad. Instead, two large buttons allow the child to dial only phone numbers pre-programmed and stored in the phone by the parent. And while unauthorized incoming calls can be blocked, the phone can dial 911 emergency services.
"It's designed so the kids want to carry it, but it delivers that level of control to the parents," says Abrams.
Other companies are joining the fray to reach out to the kiddie market too. Mattel plans to introduce this summer a Barbie cell phone for girls age 8 to 14. The $50 phone will have 30 minutes of talk time and can be controlled by parents using the Web.
For now, the FireFly Mobile phone is available through SunCom Wireless cellular service provider in the southeast portions of the United States. But parents can also buy the phone online from FireFly for $100, which includes 30 minutes of talk time. The company hopes to roll out the phone nationwide in Target stores by July.
Detractors are still debating if giving a preteen their own, limited use mobile phone is a good idea to keep kids safe or will simply encourage them to become cellular addicts. And industry analysts question if there really is a market for such handicapped phones -- especially with the major cellular service providers offering "family plans" that include free phones.
-- Karen Chase, ABC News
Cybershake is produced for ABC News Radio by Andrea J. Smith.