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AT LARGE: Fully operational

AT LARGE: Fully operational

Mobile telephones are the technological scourge of the closing days of the 20th century. I believe I'm using the term "scourge" correctly - I'm sure someone will tell me if I'm not. I mean that they are a punishment for human arrogance and that most common of human errors - overreaching our boundaries.

Since the Age of Exploration, when humanity sought to discover the ends of the earth, our primary concern has been communicating over the increasingly long distances over which we spread ourselves. We used smoke, we used messengers, we used pigeons, we used post, we used radio, we used TV, we used telephones. And as we discovered more of the earth, we found ways to communicate with each and every point on the globe, 24 hours a day.

And that's what we're being punished for. We wanted to be able to communicate with each other, anywhere, any time, and our punishment is that we can. Human beings need peace and quiet occasionally. We need time to contemplate our world without interruption. We need, in short, to be uncontactable occasionally. Through the evil device of mobile telephones, it is now impossible to go anywhere, anytime, and not be contactable. When will we learn?

I got my first mobile phone a few weeks ago - congratulate me, I've finally caught up with the 1990s. I've avoided having one until now because I truly believe that last paragraph. It's not natural to be contactable by telephone every damn place you go.

Think about this: if you had a friend who was pretty cool, fun to have around and so forth, but whose mode of conversation was to start yelling "excuse me! Excuse me! Excuse me!" in the middle of whatever conversation you were having, you would not keep this friend around you for long. Certainly you would not merely interrupt whatever else you were doing to chat with your cool friend. It would be rude to everyone else around you.

But that is standard procedure with mobile phones. Whatever you're doing, the phone starts playing some infernal tune, and you calmly interrupt whatever else you're doing to chat with your cool friend. And to underline the rudeness, you tell everyone within earshot that you're choosing to interact with your cool friend instead of respecting their needs (think about how many mobile phone calls you have where one or both parties uses the phrase "I'm on my mobile").

This is the hell I've joined. I have a mobile phone. When it rings, it plays "The Imperial March" from The Empire Strikes Back. It rang on the train the other day, and I answered it. The guy on the other end asked if I was at home, and I told him I was on my mobile (note: he called me, on my mobile number, and asked if I was at home - go figure). Three weeks ago I thought people who answered their phones on the train were jerks. I still think so. I'm a jerk.

Now, I'm not very happy with having my phone play "The Imperial March" when it rings. Not because it defiles a great piece of music, but because it doesn't do it well. I want to have it play the song the band is playing when Luke and Obi-Wan enter the Mos Eisley Cantina in Star Wars (the first tune, not the one that's playing while they talk to Han and Chewie). I want this because I have crossed to the Dark Side.

The company that manufactured my phone operates a "club" for users of its products to, I don't know, get more "fun" out of their phones. Because not enough aspects of our lives have been invaded by telephones so now we have to dedicate our "fun" time to them also.

Part of this "club" is a web site where you can find new ring tones or, using a little Javascript application, create your own tones. Fun. I tried this, and my Web browser produced a log of Javascript errors longer than I cared to read through. I tried it again, and the browser crashed. Reboot, try again, same result.

I contacted the company. The site is new, so I figured they'd appreciate some feedback about poorly-parsed Javascript, right? Wrong.

"We appreciate your valuable comments on the current performance of the Club Nokia website," the reply began, filling me with false hope. "However, we have received feedback that the site is fully operational." So my feedback that the site functions like a disoriented goat is "valuable", but they'd prefer to take the feedback that it's "fully operational" and leave it at that.

Obviously, I'm being punished.

Matthew JC. Powell still needs a better ringtone. Tell him where to get one on mjcp@optushome.com.au


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