Archive - Nov 17, 2004

You'll Never Guess Where I'm Calling You From

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Memo to Sprint: YOU ARE DUMB.

On Monday, I extolled the virtues of science and technology, which, on average, has enriched and ennobled all of our lives over the centuries in ways that phlogiston, witchcraft, and orgones cannot complete with. The key phrase being ON AVERAGE. As anyone who owned a Coleco Adam can tell you, some pieces of technology should never have made it out of science's fecund womb.

Some technology solves problems we knew we had. Indoor plumbing, for example, solves the problem of Not Having Our Own Shit Everywhere, and I am eternally grateful to it. Some technology solves problems we didn't know we had, but we actually had.

I mean, when I was a tender young lad in my formative years, I never could have imagined that one day, I would need to instruct a box on my shelf to make a purely digital recording of a pay-cable talk show so that I could, the next day, transfer that digital recording over to a super-powerful "thinking machine", so that I could take that video, separate out seveal dozen frames of it, and string those frames back together in a compressed image animation format so that, using a packet-switched network of fiber optics, I could broadcast the image of a man picking his butt to hundreds upon hundreds of strangers. But science and technology solved that problem for me years before I knew I'd have it.

Which brings me, in a roundabout, space-filling way, to the fine people at Sprint, who have managed to solve a problem that nobody knew they had, because NOBODY HAD IT. They've invented a box that lets you use your home phones over Sprint's cellular phone network.

The last time I checked, HOUSES DON'T MOVE. Even so called "mobile homes" only actually move when they're picked up by a tornado and flung headlong across the Kansas landscape. So the biggest acvantage to cellphones, the thing we get them for, is completely moot. So why the hell would people want to do it?

It might e good for stutterers, actually. Cell phone technology has been a boon to the stuttering community, because the average person can't tell the difference between a wireless phone signal randomly cutting in and out and your average, non-Bachman-Turner-Overdrive-lead-singer stutterer. But the fact is, when I'm talking to the nice man who called me about my current vinyl siding needs, I can't have bits of words dropping out of sentences. It's 2004, goddammit. We were supposed to have VIDEOPHONES by now. And instead Sprint's spending its time making boxes that can barely handle audio.

Sprint wants you to think it's about cost. So did the local reporter from whom I found out about this device, which is odd, because the reporter then proceeded to outline a series of facts that, when taken together, show the box to be a complete fucking ripoff. But since I'm on a bit of a shaky moral high ground when it comes to "not reading what one is writing", we'll just move on to those facts.

You can, according to Sprint, convert your home to a giant cell-phone for just $20 a month, local and long-distance included. And as we all know, when a phone company quotes a price, that price is SOLID. There are never any catches or conditions that may suddenly send the real cost skyrocketing, right? Right.

You have to buy the box, of course. All it really is is some cell-phone hardware that plugs into your wall. Unlike most $100 cellphones, it doesn't have a screen. It doesn't take pictures or play Ja Rule songs or run crappy versions of Tetris or store phone numbers or calculate your tip. But it does cost a hundred bucks.

On top of that, you have to already be spending at least $40 a month on a Sprint cell-phone plan, whose allocated minutes the home phone also uses up. The plot thicks! And if you're buying a hundred dollar box to make cell-phone network calls from your home when you already have a cellphone that works JUST AS WELL IN YOUR HOUSE as this box will, "thick" is being too kind. And Sprint somehow expects the people stupid enough to go for their plan to be smart enough to hook it all up themselves and physically disconnect their homes from the phone system, too.

It is possible to save money with one of these boxes, though. I know this because the intrepid Star Tribune reporter found one! Guy's saving about ten bucks a month! That ain't chump change! Of course, he bought the converter box froma third company, not from Sprint, and just has it linked with a cheap AT&T cellphone account. Here's a hint. If your best example of a technology comes from guy who's not actually using what you're reporting on, maybe you should rethink your first paragraph. And your career choice, while you're at it.