AT LARGE: Mobile microwave

AT LARGE: Mobile microwave

My mobile telephone is cooking my brain. Oh, sure, you may say that the scientific evidence linking mobile telephones to cancer, brain tumours and the rise of Britney Spears is inconclusive and highly speculative, and that therefore I shouldn't make such accusations so rashly. But I need no science to know the truth.

For a start, when I use my mobile, my eyes hurt. Not my head, not my ears (which tend to feel eerily warm after any phone call), but my eyes. Now, I know what you're thinking - don't stick the phone in your eye while you're talking. Good advice, to be sure, but it hurts even when I don't do that.

Then there's the badda-bip, badda-bip, badda-bip noise that my computer makes if I point the phone at it while in use. I'm sure you know the one. You'll be working away, when suddenly it sounds as if the Lone Ranger is approaching. Then the mobile phone rings. And, disappointingly, it isn't the Lone Ranger.

I have to admit a degree of ignorance here. I don't know enough about how mobile phones work to explain the noise. I don't know by what mechanism the phone is alerted that an incoming call is imminent, nor how it conveys to the network that it is ready to receive the call. I do know that my normal non-head-cooking telephone also makes such a noise when the mobile is about to ring, and sometimes the speakers on my stereo do too.

I also know that anything that's putting out enough radiation to make my speakers go badda-bip, badda-bip - from several metres away - cannot possibly be doing good things when I hold it up against my head.

But that is not the most conclusive evidence I have. The worst thing of all is that, despite all of the above, I want a new mobile phone. I have a Nokia 6210 - top of the line in its day but, like all technology, its day was brief. It has no colour screen. It has tinny, monophonic ring tones. It has no Bluetooth and uses IRdA to communicate with other devices - how 1990s is that?

I can't take pictures with it and send them to my friends attached to text messages along with voice annotations. The games I can play on it are rudimentary at best, and no external controllers are available. It can't play MP3s, and it has no FM radio tuner.


A few months ago at the launch of the Handspring Treo, which is a phone with a PDA built in (or vice versa), the visiting exec doing the launch asked if anyone in the room had ever placed a three-way telephone call with their mobile phone. I was the only person in the room who had (aside from the American exec, who then placed a three-way call on his Treo so expertly that I presume he'd done it before).

What that made me realise is that, in the short period of time that I have owned and used a mobile phone I've gone from reluctantly surrendering to the need for the thing to being a "power user".

Remember, the device we are talking about here is a telephone. It is used for communicating with other people over long distances. It does this more than adequately. The fact that I can carry it about in my pocket is nothing short of miraculous (and please, don't make me think about what the badda-bip radiation may be doing while the phone is sitting in my pocket).

Now I want more. Unrealistically more. Bear in mind, I don't own a Walkman, so why do I envy people who can listen to music on their mobile phones in ultra-compressed distorted-up-the-wazoo MP3 format?

If I'm so worried about radiation, why do I want to put a 2.4GHz Bluetooth hands-free thingy in my ear so I can walk around talking to the air?

A clockwork apple

The answer is obvious. I'm being reprogrammed. Buried deep within the signals my phone is receiving, there is code designed to control my mind and make me think that the above gimmickry counts as "innovation" and "worth having". Programming my brain, of course, requires it to be burnt and manipulated in ways both subtle and not, but that is a small price to pay, so far as the telephone manufacturers are concerned.

Badda-bip, badda-bip, badda-bip.

Matthew JC. Powell thinks Bluetooth is cool. Protestations to the contrary to

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