Silencing Cell Phones in Public Places
Aug. 16 -- Ring, ring… These days, it's almost impossible to catch a movie or grab a bite to eat at a restaurant without having the experience interrupted by the sound of a cell phone ringing.
"Sometimes I go into a restaurant and I want to enjoy a meal or coffee and quietly read, and someone begins talking really loud on their cell phone. It's obnoxious," said Oakland, Calif., resident Charles Crowder.
With more than 100 million cell phones worldwide and growing, the problem is likely to get worse. In the United States alone, it's estimated that in five years 84 percent of U.S. citizens will have a mobile phone.
But a backlash against the cellular nuisance has already begun. In restaurants across the United States, signs asking diners to turn off their phones are becoming increasingly common. In Maine's Baxter State Park, mobile phones are illegal except for emergencies. The resistance has even reached the White House: President Bush has reportedly banned cell phones from staff meetings.
In fact, several governments across the world are now considering imposing etiquette on mobile gabbers in public spaces by legalizing technology that blocks cellular signals.
Quit Your Yapping
Cell phone jammers have been around since 1998. The devices, which cost around $1,000, can block signals in a room about the size of a movie theater. The jammer sends out a low-power, encoded radio signal or modulated radio wave.
Jammers work in one of two ways. Some devices set their signal to the same frequency as pagers and mobile phones, cutting off communication between handsets and base stations. Others work as electronic filters that fool mobile phones into thinking there are no frequencies available to make or receive calls. Manufacturers of the devices say the jamming only affects the designated area (most radii are a couple dozen to several hundred feet) and works only on cellular transmissions.
Sounds like the perfect solution to pesky phones, right? The problem is, except for Israel and Japan, cell phone jammers remain illegal in most developed countries, including the United States, Great Britain, Canada, Switzerland, and Australia.