Skip to comments.Cell Phones and Ingratitude
Posted on 04/06/2010 4:26:52 AM PDT by Sherman Logan
When I was a kid in the 1960s and we came back from a visit to my grandmothers, my mother used to call my grandmother, let the phone ring twice, and then hang up. It was important for my grandmother to know that wed arrived home safely, but long-distance telephone calls were too expensive to indulge in unnecessarily. When I entered Vanderbilt University in 1971, my parents had to decide whether to pay for a telephone in my dorm room. They decided to do so, but most of the thoroughly upper-middle-class students on my floor did not have phones. Phones cost real money back then. Then came the breakup of the AT&T monopoly in 1984. Phone technology and competitive service provision exploded. In 1982, Motorola produced the first portable mobile phone. It weighed about 2 pounds and cost $3995. Within a very few years they were much smaller, much cheaper, and selling like hotcakes.
Today there are some 4.6 billion mobile phones in the world, and counting, or about 67 per every 100 people in the world. The newer ones allow you to carry in your hand more computing power than the computers that put Apollo 11 on the moon. You can cruise the internet, find your location with GPS, read books, send texts, pay bills, process credit cards, watch video, record video, stream video to the web, take and send photos oh, and make phone calls from just about anywhere. Unimaginable just a few years ago.
And to celebrate this incredible achievement, Slate and the New America Foundation are holding a forum titled Can You Hear Me Now? Why Your Cell Phone is So Terrible.
This is an old story. Markets, property rights, and the rule of law provide a framework in which technology and prosperity soar, and some people can only complain. I was reading some of Deirdre McCloskeys forthcoming book Bourgeois Dignity this week. She points out that the average person lived on the equivalent of $3 a day in 1800. Today there are six and a half times as many people, but the average person earns and consumes 10 times as much, far more than that in the most capitalist countries. And yet some people, most leftist intellectuals, continue to ignore what McCloskey calls the gigantic gains from bourgeois dignity and liberty and to denounce the markets, economic liberalization, and globalization that have liberated billions of people from eons of back-breaking labor.
Now dont get me wrong. Im a big fan of consumer reporting and analysis, which is an important part of a robust marketplace. Competition and consumer reporting both help to keep prices low and quality improving. And theres plenty of room for criticism of cell phone pricing, contracting, and service. But when a discussion like this is held by a public policy research organization and a public-affairs magazine as part of a program on public policy, then its not just consumer advice. It is presumably a discussion of what the sluggish, coercive institution of government can do to improve or more likely impede a fabulously dynamic, constantly improving consumer-directed industry. And that usually ends in tears.
Maybe we should hold a forum titled Can You Hear Me Now? And Watch Me on Video? And Read My Book on Your Handheld Device? And Check Your Blood Pressure and Glucose? How Markets, Innovation, and Entrepreneurs Have Taken Cell Phone Technology from Clunker to Computer in Barely a Generation.
This is, of course, the opposite of reality. Stuff falls apart by itself but requires assembly by an intelligence.
It looks like we as a people have decided that after 70 years of what is by historical standards truly remarkable prosperity based on free markets, we're going to blow up the truck because it hit a pothole.
Cell phone penetration in the US must be catching up with Europe ansd Asia. They used to cite the fact that mobile use in the US is somewhat lower as proof of the fundamental inferiority and rottenness of the American system.
—good one—and even though I don’t have to use any of it yet, the advances in the medical field in my lifetime, thanks to electronics and the “evil” drug companies, are incomprehensible to the average “young” person-—
Vouchers are the answer. What do we expect after a century of government schooling; a population that delights in the liberty and wealth of the free market?
Generations have been systematically trained that government is the answer, markets are inherently dangerous and liberty takes too much risk.
The Welfare State breeds ingrates.
People are too stupid to live with happiness and prosperity. I give up on humanity. Sterilize the whole species.
A those same stupid foreigners didn't understand the fact that the land line systems and switches in the USofA were light years ahead of theirs. Let's also forget the fact that the technologies that allowed them to go from caveman phones to a state of the art digital system came from the USofA.
Most people my age think that scientists build drugs in their basements and then big pharma steals them, sells them at exorbitant prices to get free wealth.
...and then these idiots vote.
The welfare class can now get free cell phones and minutes from Uncle Sugar. I guess that is a right mentioned in the Constitution.
“People are too stupid to live with happiness and prosperity. I give up on humanity. Sterilize the whole species.”
Speak for yourself. You sound like an earth firster.
My dad could easily maintain his own first car (a 1949 Chevy). I can't maintain mine, I can't even reach the spark plugs without disassembling part of the engine.
Our first washing machine could easily be repaired with hand tools (there was even a book on how to fix any malfunction) and parts from the hardware store. Today's model has four (4!) digital modules none of which can be repaired, only replaced, at monopoly prices from the manufacturer.
We are building a house on country property next year and one of our main goals is "everything analog and mechanical, except computers and entertainment hardware".
That is why we used to call "person-to-person" collect and ask for ourself, then Grandma would say "they are not here right now". Solved the problem, no one got charged and Grandma knew we made it home safely.
My cell phone is an older version that suits me just fine without all the bells and whistles. Just like the rest of my life, I keep my electronics uncomplicated, it suits me just fine.
Reminds me of the line from the commercial "Will you accept a call from wehaddababyitsaboy?"
This is true, if by 'American system', you mean 'American political system', specifically the Clinton Administration and the PCS auction.
I view the mobile phone system in the states as primitive at best. And grossly overpriced.
Most Eastern Europeans who are dirt poor have a mobile phone that works better and cheaper than anything in the states. I have seen farm kids with a horse and wagon and a mobile phone hanging on a cord around their neck. We got every capability you can imagine a mobile phone could have.. and it costs nothing to receive a call. Only the caller pays. We got text messaging, multi-media text messaging, internet, text to email and functions I don’t even know about. I have a mobile phone based modem “stick” about the size of a cigarette lighter that plugs into a USB port on my laptop..and I have high speed internet for about $12 a month unlimited usage anywhere in the country, or I can access the internet on my Motorola GSM phone. I spent about $10 last month on phone..and have nights and weekends free.. and all calls to two favorite numbers on my same supplier for almost nothing.
I was in the village this weekend...we are talking real village...about 15 km of gravel road off the highway..no inside running water... an outhouse that is simply a stall with a roof and a door...and a wedge shaped opening in the concrete floor...not even a seat...The kitchen is an outbuilding with a 2 burner propane camp stove, pigs and chickens and duck, and turkeys and goats in the back yard and they have 20megabit up and down DSL internet on a laptop for about the same 12$ a month. Also the best red wine ever crossed anyones lips...drank plenty of that too..Its the same in Russia, Ukraine, and all of eastern europe...and western europe also the same type system. All the phones are sold unlocked..and you pick a supplier and buy their sim card. Great system in Amsterdam.. and France..and Romania.. have had cards for all those places at one time or another.
Mobile phones in the states are a racket almost as bad a politics..
I’ve heard elsewhere cell phones are better in other parts of the world.
That doesn’t invalidate the author’s point that we take for granted the capabilities we do have.
So why don't you buy a 1949 Chevy and maintain it yourself? Because you don't want to give up the vastly increased reliability and luxury created by the components you complain about?
Actually, I identify with your complaint. I used to tuneup and otherwise maintain my first car, a 1972 Pinto.
“I was in the village this weekend...we are talking real village...about 15 km of gravel road off the highway..no inside running water... an outhouse that is simply a stall with a roof and a door...”
I am on prepaid. I’ve spent about $40 in the last 8 months. But even if it wasw $40/month, I would gladly pay that to get the running water and flush toilets.
“I have high speed internet for about $12 a month”
“I spent about $10 last month on phone”
Just out of curiosity, what is the median local monthly income?
“My dad could easily maintain his own first car (a 1949 Chevy). I can’t maintain mine, I can’t even reach the spark plugs without disassembling part of the engine.”
They sure don’t make them like they used to. Thank God.