Gizmorama: Life in the Tech Age

By WES STEWART, United Press International  |  July 1, 2002 at 1:30 AM
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You're in the middle of a serious meeting and somebody else's cell phone starts beeping out a samba tune. Or maybe it's the theme from "The Way We Were." Or somebody wants to broadcast his -- or her -- ambitions with "Hail to the Chief."

Whatever. Suddenly the tone of the meeting evaporates. Daydreams intrude. Instead of 4th quarter projections, now the girl from Ipanema is swaying inside everyone's head.

Let's skip past the done-to-death discussion of the etiquette of the situation. Those silly souls who can't remember to turn off their ringers are the same people who habitually ignore the "For the safety of the performers, please do not take flash-photos during the performance" requests.

Instead, let's examine the notion that your cell phone ringer needs to be somehow cooler or more distinctive than everyone else's.

Nowadays, there are a thousand different tunes with which you can personalize your cellular experience. Nokia even has a tone composer software that, with the aid of several NASA scientists or a seventh grader with PC experience, allows you to program original tunes -- which assumes, among all those pre-programmed riffs, there's nothing that suits your fancy.

The whole idea brings to mind something comedian George Carlin once said about the fake vomit you can buy at novelty shops -- "some grown-up person had to think of that."

Which brings us to something called "vibrate mode." It's one of these ideas that must've seemed good at the time. The problem: when the darn things commence to vibrating, they tend to startle us, because we're not expecting a tingling sensation emanating from our nether regions -- at least, not during business meetings.

Memo to cell phone designers: Making us squirm instead of our colleagues is not necessarily an improvement.

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