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Stop Cell Phones Without Stopping Pacemakers... 552

Posted by CmdrTaco
from the ass-hole-arms-race-escalates dept.
metoikos writes "A company based in Fairfax, Virginia, has come up with a subtler method of preventing cell-phone addicts from using the world as a phone booth than a faraday cage or even those little hand-held jammers. Cell Block Technologies (that name must go over well with law enforcement) is developing a smoke-detector sized device which sends signals of 'no service' to cellphone frequencies, prompting phone to send calls directly to voicemail. Admittedly this is better than messing with everything that uses the same frequencies cellphones do . "
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Stop Cell Phones Without Stopping Pacemakers...

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  • by Requiem (12551) on Thursday April 08, 2004 @03:15PM (#8806843) Journal
    It's too bad nobody's developed first-post blocking technologies.
  • My pacemaker just vibrated - I think I have a voice mail.
    • by ScottGant (642590) <scott_gant@NoSPAm.sbcglobal.netNOT> on Thursday April 08, 2004 @03:31PM (#8807111) Homepage
      I've yet to be disturbed or annoyed by someone using their cell phone. I take mine with me everywhere, but then again, I turn off the ringer and just use the vibrate function when I'm in some place with a lot of people. Of course, I don't disturb anyone because no one really calls me...ever....(sob)

      But are people really annoyed by cell phones so much? Also, what's with these draconian laws with driving and cell phones? They say it's because you'll get distracted. But then again, shouldn't they outlaw radios...and talking to others in your car?

      Just wondering.
      • by gantrep (627089) on Thursday April 08, 2004 @03:42PM (#8807262)
        I see your point about cell-phone driving. I hadn't thought of it that way actually.

        Logically, using a cellphone and driving isn't any more distracting than using one one hand to steer and talking to passengers.

        I suppose the only difference is that if you're holding something, it's slightly harder to go to two hands. I could easily see that someone in the half second before a crash would have a harder time of dropping the phone and then grabbing the wheel than a person who is only using one hand, but the other hand is not holding something.

        I think the reason why the laws have been enacted though, is that it's visible to other drivers. If a driver is distracted and cuts you off because of the radio or their passengers, you might not be able to tell that because it's not obvious and you'll just chalk it up to their being a jerk or a woman driver(just kidding folks). But if they have a phone in their hand, you say AH-HAH! Cellphones! Somebody should make a law! etc...
        • Wrong!! (Score:3, Informative)

          by AltGrendel (175092)
          You need a different level of concentration when talking on the cell phone and driving vs talking to a passenger and driving.

          Read the Study! [njsafety.org]

        • Logically, using a cellphone and driving isn't any more distracting than using one one hand to steer and talking to passengers.

          Demonstrably, it IS more distracting, though.
          Try this test for yourself (which has been used in several studies).

          Crank up any task-intensive video game. Driving sim, FPS or similar. Get the best score you can. Now try that game while having a phone conversation. You can even use your fancy hands free thingy. Do you get a lower score? Do you get killed out faster? br>I'm betti
      • There is significant research to suggest that the concentration needed to have a two way conversation on a cell is > the concentration needed to have a conversation with someone in the car > the concentration necessary to change the radio channel > the concentration necessary to listen to the radio.

        The uproar about it is caused by the experience that 9 of the last 10 near accidents i've been in have all been the fault of a person talking on a cell phone, and in about half the cases that person see
  • RTFA! (Score:3, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday April 08, 2004 @03:16PM (#8806858)
    Block That Ringtone!
    By SAM LUBELL

    Published: April 8, 2004
    T could happen on a train, in a restaurant or during an awe-inspiring aria at a performance of "Carmen": a neighbor's cellphone starts bleating the theme song from "Friends," disrupting the mood and setting nerves on edge. Wouldn't it be great, you think to yourself, if this couldn't happen?

    Others are thinking likewise, including companies and researchers developing or already selling devices that render cellphones inoperable in certain locations. Methods include jammers that interfere with cellphone frequencies, routing systems that mute phones' ringers in specific places, sensors that detect active cellphones and building materials that block cellphone waves.
    Proponents say that such measures are more effective than "no cellphone" signs, "quiet cars" on trains or even legal restrictions (like a law prohibiting cellphone use during performances, enacted by the New York City Council last year).
    The concerns go beyond mere annoyance: casinos are seeking to stop phone-based cheating; prison authorities want to guard against phone use by inmates for drug deals or other forms of wrongdoing. With the rise of camera cellphones have come privacy concerns that have made locker rooms and other areas no-phone zones.

    "At some point the American public will become so frustrated with the abuse of cellphones that it will rise up and yell that something must be done," said Dave Derosier, chief executive of Cell Block Technologies, based in Fairfax, Va., which is developing a transmitter the size of a smoke detector that relays signals of "no service" to cellphone frequencies, prompting them to send calls to voice mail.

    Cell Block's products are slightly more sophisticated versions of what is probably the most widespread method of stopping cellphone use, called jamming, which renders phones inoperable by disrupting the connection between cellphone towers and cellphones. Jamming devices overpower phones' frequencies with especially strong signals and often with loud noise. Such devices can be found on eBay and at Web sites like globalgadgetuk.com.

    That site says it has sold thousands of devices to theaters, businesses, military users and individuals. The jammers range from $200 for a rudimentary hand-held model to nearly $10,000 for suitcase-sized gear sold to governments and the military, with the price usually based on the signal range and the likelihood of disrupting cellular activity.

    Other means are also in development, from devices that merely detect cellphone use (and prompt users to desist) to construction methods that render cellphones inoperable.

    But not everyone finds this trend encouraging. Cellphone industry experts and federal regulators deride jammers in particular as unlawful, unethical and even dangerous.

    "You're not allowed to barricade the street in front of your house because you don't like hearing an ambulance," said Travis Larson, a spokesman for the Cellular Telephone Industry Association, who asserts that blocking systems inhibit customers' rights and can block emergency calls. "Just like roads, the airwaves are public property."

    The Federal Communications Commission points specifically to the Federal Communications Act of 1934, which says that "no person shall willfully or maliciously interfere with or cause interference to any radio communications" licensed by the government.

    "It is the F.C.C.'s authority and obligation to determine which transmissions are lawful," said Lauren Patrich, a spokeswoman for the commission's wireless bureau. "If the F.C.C. doesn't have that authority, then what's its point?" Fines for violations can reach $11,000 for a single offense.

    Mr. Derosier said that devices like Cell Block's are "questionably legal" in the United States, but he added that with proper disclosure and provisions made for emergencies, there is no reason that they should not be used. The devices are legal in Japan, France and Eastern Europe, and in most of
  • Um... (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward
    Just a thought, but wouldn't this be illegal somehow?
  • Cool! (Score:2, Funny)

    by dsmey (193342)
    It would seem this has legal ramifications, but it seems like a genious idea. If only I could shut up all those damn chirping phones that go off in accounting class!!!
    • Re:Cool! (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Throtex (708974) on Thursday April 08, 2004 @03:21PM (#8806933)
      Is it illegal for a business establishment to 'fence-out' unauthorized carrier frequencies? Do you have jurisdiction over the entire spectrum within your own property?
      • Re:Cool! (Score:3, Insightful)

        by U.I.D 754625 (754625)
        If I decode TV signals broadcasting through my own skull while standing on my lawn I will get sued by DirecTV and probably lose the case. You don't have jurisdiction over what you RECEIVE, so I doubt you have jurisdiction to transmit anything you want. I think it's real fucked up.
    • Yes, won't it be great when we're at the point that you can only place phone calls when you're a) out in the wilderness or b) at home. That is true progress!
  • Legality (Score:2, Interesting)

    by DarthVeda (569302)
    What is the legality of these devices? Isn't this sort of like wireless DOS?
    • They are illegal in the US and probably elsewhere. Listen to the latest episode of off the hook [2600.com]... something about interfering with others' right to communicate. Though it's all relative - you have to accept destructive interference with, say, most 2.4 GHz devices (cordless phones & non-wimax wi-fi) because they are unlicensed under a certain output power. But due the the licensed allocation of mobile phone bw, you're technically protected by the good ol' FCC.
  • Lawsuit time (Score:3, Insightful)

    by strictnein (318940) * <strictfoo-slashd ... m ['hoo' in gap]> on Thursday April 08, 2004 @03:17PM (#8806880) Homepage Journal
    with a subtler method of preventing cell-phone addicts from using the world as a phone booth

    What about business people, doctors, police, etc. who need these devices to work?

    And talk about lawsuit material. Someone gets hurt, but can't call 911 on their cell phone because it is being jammed by this (or a similar) device.

    Hell, aren't devices like these illegal anyways?
    • Re:Lawsuit time (Score:5, Informative)

      by andih8u (639841) on Thursday April 08, 2004 @03:22PM (#8806953)
      Typically, in other countries, devices like this (jammers)are already used in theatres, concert halls, etc to stop cellphones from ringing during performances. A device like the one in the article would not interfere with a pager, which is typically what doctors, police, etc use. If you have a grinding need for your cellphone to work, its typically posted that a jammer is in place, so you always have the option of not going to see that movie or that concert.
    • Re:Lawsuit time (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Sheetrock (152993)
      That's a good point. I don't know why people have a problem with people receiving calls on cellphones when they're in restaurants, for example -- it's a public place, and there are all sorts of other potential irritants (screaming kids, cigarette smoke, someone yammering about the colonoscopy they had that morning) that there's simply no point in singling out the one irritant that could save a life in an emergency.

      Besides, it is illegal to deliberately block radio transmissions as you point out. Jamming

      • I can see two sides of this - dire emergencies can happen anywhere, including a movie theater, opera, whatever. Need to call 911?

        OTOH, a movie theater or opera or whatever is not an acceptable place to have your ringer on. I'm not going to "relax" and let some jackass answer his annoying ringer and chat it up. I'm a lot more likely to pluck it from his hand and crush the thing. Better the phone than his face, I say.
      • Re:Lawsuit time (Score:3, Insightful)

        by prockcore (543967)
        I don't know why people have a problem with people receiving calls on cellphones when they're in restaurants, for example -- it's a public place, and there are all sorts of other potential irritants (screaming kids, cigarette smoke, someone yammering about the colonoscopy they had that morning)

        Move to Tucson, where there is no smoking in any restaurant, and many classy restaurants will ask you to step outside if your baby is crying.

        If you need to have your cellphone with you at all times, eat at home.
      • Re:Lawsuit time (Score:5, Interesting)

        by jeffkjo1 (663413) on Thursday April 08, 2004 @03:31PM (#8807122) Homepage
        That's a good point. I don't know why people have a problem with people receiving calls on cellphones when they're in restaurants, for example -- it's a public place, and there are all sorts of other potential irritants (screaming kids, cigarette smoke, someone yammering about the colonoscopy they had that morning) that there's simply no point in singling out the one irritant that could save a life in an emergency.

        I finally figured out why people find cell phones so much more annoying in restaurants than say, other people talking and clinking dishes. First, in the case of a screaming kid or dropped plates, the noise is typically brief, which cannot be said for cell phone conversations.

        The second problem is that people always talk louder on cell phones. I personally do not understand this, however, IDNHACP (I do not have a cell phone.) So, the restaurant is already loud, and people are trying to talk over the din, which leads to point 3.

        It's only one side of the conversation. Don't get me wrong, I'm not evesdropping, but it is jarring for me (and many others) to hear half of a conversation in my perhipheral hearing. It's easy to block out people talking back and forth, even if they're being loud; however, blocking out someone who is loudly seemingly talking to themselves is much more jarring to your brains white noise filter.
      • Re:Lawsuit time (Score:4, Insightful)

        by Le Marteau (206396) on Thursday April 08, 2004 @03:58PM (#8807528) Journal
        That's a good point. I don't know why people have a problem with people receiving calls on cellphones when they're in restaurants,

        I don't know, either, but it's a fact. Not logical, but it's a fact. There are few things more annoying, and don't bother telling me it's illogical; emotions are BY DEFINITION illogical.

        I think it may be a Pavlovian response. Nine time out of ten, in the past, whenever I've seen somebody yakking it up in a restaurant, it was at the top of their voice, talking bullshit (and don't EVEN get me started on those yahoos who do it walkie-talkie style at Starbucks). So we get used to it - "cell phone in public" = "rude behaviour". This expectation becomes ingraned. People become so used to equating "cell phone in public" with "rude person" that the response becomes automatic. What happens, then, is even though a person may be politely using a cell phone, because of past experiences, the immediate knee-jerk response is "rude SOB".
    • Hell, aren't devices like these illegal anyways?

      I'm thinking the same thing. Doesn't FCC certification (formerly known as type acceptance) prohibit a device from interfering with other electronic devices?
    • Re:Lawsuit time (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Kainaw (676073)
      You make the assumption that regular non-cell phones are never available. You also assume that pagers will be blocked by the same service. These devices are developed to combat human stupidity that keeps a large portion of the population ignorant of the fact that there are other people in the world too - and sometimes they like to hear the movie that they just paid over $10 to see.

      I must admit, that is my answer after a lot of yoga-like deep breathing. My initial response is that all we need are more
    • Hell, aren't devices like these illegal anyways?

      Maybe we'll try reading this straight from the article. What a novel thought!:

      The Federal Communications Commission points specifically to the Federal Communications Act of 1934, which says that "no person shall willfully or maliciously interfere with or cause interference to any radio communications" licensed by the government.

      "It is the F.C.C.'s authority and obligation to determine which transmissions are lawful," said Lauren Patrich, a spokeswoman fo
    • Re:Lawsuit time (Score:4, Insightful)

      by the pickle (261584) on Thursday April 08, 2004 @04:06PM (#8807635) Homepage
      What about business people, doctors, police, etc. who need these devices to work?

      Gee, whatever did these people do before the cellular telephone? I can't possibly imagine. Heaven forbid that someone in these professions should have to use a telephone with WIRES, or tell someone where they're going to be for the next couple of hours.

      Besides, doctors still use pagers, policemen aren't typically "on-call" when they're at the movies, and "business people" who "need these devices to work" can go conduct their business somewhere else, thank you very much. You wouldn't bring your laptop to the movies to work on a bit of code during boring parts, so why should it be OK to conduct disruptive business on your cell fone?

      And talk about lawsuit material. Someone gets hurt, but can't call 911 on their cell phone because it is being jammed by this (or a similar) device.

      Gimme a break. Anyone who needs to call 911 on his cell but can't because he's in a "no service" area inside of a movie theatre, concert hall, etc. is going to have approximately 200 people in the immediate vicinity who can come to his aid and/or go fetch the paramedics USING A LANDLINE.

      p
  • No Service (Score:2, Funny)

    by jmpoast (736629)
    ...sends signals of 'no service' to cellphone frequencies, prompting phone to send calls directly to voicemail. Admittedly this is better than messing with everything that uses the same frequencies cellphones do .

    Does this mean my pacemaker will get 'no service' messages as well? That can't be good.
  • Department (Score:4, Funny)

    by Anne_Nonymous (313852) on Thursday April 08, 2004 @03:18PM (#8806886) Homepage Journal
    >> from the ass-hole-arms-race-escalates dept.

    I guess somebody is having a bad day.
  • Better idea... (Score:2, Interesting)

    by lpangelrob2 (721920)
    Can someone make one of these so that I can stop checking Slashdot every 5 minutes all day long? Thanks.
  • by Tuxedo Jack (648130) on Thursday April 08, 2004 @03:19PM (#8806899) Homepage
    I can see churches and assembly halls getting them, as well as theaters and restaurants, just to lower the asshole quotient, but this raises issues.

    What if an emergency call is blocked, or a call about something incredibly good?

    What if it were Darl's call to Linus apologizing for the lawsuit that was blocked? (Hey, we can dream.)

    This shouldn't be used except in controlled circumstances, although personal-sized models of this will be fun to play with.
    • If the call was blocked, it would bounce to voicemail and would be exactly the same as missing a call on a land line- if you're in a disrupted area, you're "out of the office", so to speak.

      Personally, these should be installed in movie theaters. Depending on price and portability, I'd buy one just for personal use, and keep it in my backpack. Nothing is more obnoxious than someone on the bus with an annoying atonal nasal whine bitching out their kids or their mother or their whatever on a cel while you'r
    • What if an emergency call is blocked

      If you're a doctor on call, or a businessman expecting a call about the deal of a lifetime, don't go into places like theaters where you are expected to muster the courtesy of turning your phone off. It is that simple.

      ...or a call about something incredibly good? What if it were Darl's call to Linus apologizing for the lawsuit that was blocked? (Hey, we can dream.)

      That is why the phone companies invented voicemail. Use it.

    • If you have an emergency, you shouldn't be calling someone out there in the world on their cellphone - you should be calling 911.

      If it's important you be reached, put your phone in silent mode, or get a pager (with a silent mode).

      It'd be the best of all worlds if the phones could be remotely PUT into silent mode while in theatres, restaurants, etc. Then all this nonsense could be done away with, and people truly in NEED of being reached anywhere still could. It's in the hands of the phone companies. You k
  • Praise be! (Score:2, Funny)

    by Dracolytch (714699)
    So how soon can my movie theater get these things installed???

    ~D
  • by ClippyHater (638515) on Thursday April 08, 2004 @03:20PM (#8806918) Journal
    "Doctor, he could've been saved if only you'd have gotten the phone call!"

    "That doesn't matter, nurse, the ring was destroyed and Sauron defeated!"


    I truly hope folk don't use this on the sly. Should be law that where they're in use, HUGE signs in obvious-to-see places let you know you won't be getting any calls.
    • by adolf (21054) <flodadolf@gmail.com> on Thursday April 08, 2004 @04:13PM (#8807756) Journal
      Isn't the flashing "No Service" light on your phone a good enough indicator that the thing isn't going to be working?

      I mean, it's not implicit that a cell phone is going to work anywhere at all, anyway. They are completely unreliable unreliable communication mediums, no matter what Verizon says.

      If one is really stupid to have someone's life depend on their bloody cellphone, they'd better be diligent enough to notice when there's no service. And if they think they're too busy to notice, then their phone calls are plainly not very important to them.

      Why do we need more signs to limit people's liability for other people's inattentiveness? Isn't the signal-to-noise ratio bad enough yet?

  • ObLink (Score:5, Informative)

    by OldManAndTheC++ (723450) on Thursday April 08, 2004 @03:20PM (#8806924)
    No-reg link here [nytimes.com]

    In Soviet Russia, link follows you!

  • This is a good idea if its only for incoming calls. By only blocking incoming calls people can still make their emergency phone calls. And if someone is making an outgoing phone call at the Opera then that is an offense punishable by castration. So I say block the incoming calls.
  • Only blocks GSM (Score:5, Informative)

    by RobertB-DC (622190) * on Thursday April 08, 2004 @03:22PM (#8806951) Homepage Journal
    The NYT article (available here [nytimes.com] reg-free (thanks, guys [blogspace.com]!)) is short on details, but the manufacturer's web site has much more detail.

    Some interesting notes:

    * Their technology currently only works on GSM phones, so here in the US, it'll only block T-Mobile [t-mobile.com] customers. No more Catherine Zeta-Jones hollering "Stop!" in the middle of your bowling tournament. I hate it when that happens.

    * The company is Canada-based, so they're outside the reach of Ashcroft & co. The NYT article quotes the company's founder as saying that the technology is useful in mosques... if the founder is indeed Muslim, he's probably wary of landing on Ashcroft's little Enemies List. Heck, I'm worried myself, 'cause I'm not sure what he thinks of Methodists [nwsource.com] these days!
    • Can't believe I forgot to link the manufacturer's web site [cell-block-r.com] in my post! Here it is again:

      The NYT article (available here [nytimes.com] reg-free (thanks, guys [blogspace.com]!)) is short on details, but the manufacturer's web site [cell-block-r.com] has much more detail.

      Some interesting notes:

      * Their technology currently only works on GSM phones, so here in the US, it'll only block T-Mobile [t-mobile.com] customers. No more Catherine Zeta-Jones hollering "Stop!" in the middle of your bowling tournament. I hate it when that happens.

      * The company is Canada-based, so
    • Re:Only blocks GSM (Score:3, Informative)

      by radish (98371)
      Their technology currently only works on GSM phones, so here in the US, it'll only block T-Mobile [t-mobile.com] customers

      And AT&T, and Cingular.
    • Re:Only blocks GSM (Score:3, Informative)

      by metamatic (202216)

      Their technology currently only works on GSM phones, so here in the US, it'll only block T-Mobile customers.

      ...or AT&T customers (except those with old analog phones), or Cingular customers (except those with old analog phones), or Pac Bell customers, or Powertel customers, or BellSouth customers.

      In case you hadn't noticed, everyone's switching to GSM except Verizon and Sprint.

  • but... (Score:4, Funny)

    by grub (11606) <slashdot@grub.net> on Thursday April 08, 2004 @03:22PM (#8806955) Homepage Journal

    ... what if I want to stop pacemakers?
  • From the article:The concerns go beyond mere annoyance [snip] prison authorities want to guard against phone use by inmates for drug deals or other forms of wrongdoing.

    WTF? I've been to prison (class trip for a criminal justice class). We were required to leave just about everything on the bus - money, credit cards, pack of smokes, car keys, etc. Cell phones were included on the list. (It would've been easier to list what we were allowed to bring)

    Inmates are already prohibited from having a cellphone
  • phone companies (Score:3, Interesting)

    by musikit (716987) on Thursday April 08, 2004 @03:25PM (#8807000)
    how long until phone companies start paying off contractors to use these special anti cell phone materials so they can sell more land lines?
  • DOS? (Score:2, Funny)

    by alfal (255149)
    You know someone will use this as some sort of Denial Of Service gadget.... Walk down Wall Street with one and watch the craziness begin.
    • Re:DOS? (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Ichijo (607641)
      I want one that does a different kind of Denial of Service attack: one that would simultaneously ring every cellular device in the vicinity until people turn their phones off. Call it a port scanner for cell phones.

      I'd use one in the theater right before the show starts.
  • I see lots of people (mostly women) walking, driving and shopping with their cell phone glued to their ear. Not only do I think this is rude, but distracted users could easily walk into oncomming traffic. WTF is so important that you cannot put down that stupid phone and pay attention to what you are doing?

    I for one welcome our new cell phone jamming overlords
  • What I like best about these jamming/countersignaling devices is that the person with the cell phone, unless told otherwise, really has no idea that he/she is near one of these devices and thus has no way of retaliating. One of the posters below insists rather vehemently that we "better not take away my rights [to use cell phones]". Well, we can take it away, and he won't know about it, and there is nothing he can do about it either.
  • Who is going to draw the line of where these jamming devices can, and can't be used. What if the next step is to have devices that broadcast a "free" advertisment on your cell phone inside stores. It seems to me that someone else using what I own is stealing. In this case they are stopping me from using a product I own. Same thing, theft by denial of use.

    The proper way to regulate cell phones is for buisnesses and private properties to develop policies, and post them. Most theaters I go to have signs that

  • This device would be illegal in the US (unless they've somehow received FCC aproval).

    The FCC will crack down hard on people using this device. All it takes is one complaint from a cell customer or provider to the FCC, you don't have to file a lawsuit.

    The fines for transmitting in unauthorized bands are pretty hefty and I doubt that anyone who is attempting to block cell traffic would be willing to put up with repeated large fines and/or jail time for not complying.
  • Doctors (Score:4, Interesting)

    by phorm (591458) on Thursday April 08, 2004 @03:28PM (#8807053) Journal
    And what about the doctor, who is always on call, but had his pager/cellphone on "vibrate" to avoid disturbing those around him. Is he not allowed to go in these areas, or perhaps he will just miss the call that a 12-year-old-girl is dying at the hospital while waiting for a transplant.

    Yes, cellphones disrupting public events are definately a growing problem, but you know what: the last movie I saw was more interupted by the girls talking/swearing a few rows up than by cellphones. The solution to either problem: kick 'em out.

    Disruption is not the solution to disruption... especially if this device were to become to everyone who has a grudge against cellphones.
    • Re:Doctors (Score:3, Insightful)

      LEAVE IT WITH THE HOUSE MANAGER AND/OR USHER, WITH INSTRUCTIONS TO GET YOU IF IT RINGS.

      Exactly the same way that on-call doctors worked prior to the advent of pagers and cellphones; they let the hospital know "I will be at the theater from 9 to midnight" and if the call was for them, the house manager would (quietly) find them and tell them.

      Sorry to shout, but isn't it bleedingly obvious?
    • Re:Doctors (Score:4, Insightful)

      by LetterJ (3524) <j@wynia.org> on Thursday April 08, 2004 @04:02PM (#8807582) Homepage
      If you're a doctor with a 12 year old girl dying in the hospital, what in the world are you doing in the theater watching "Hellboy"?

      I've had movies interrupted probably 20-30 times in the last year or 2 and it has NEVER been a doctor. Nor has the conversation EVER been important on the scale that everyone talks about in these discussions. Over half of the conversations have started something like this,

      "Oh, nothing much, just watching a movie.".
      "Yeah, we can bring the beer."
      "No, it's no big deal. Some a**hole is telling me to get off the phone, so I'll have to call you later."

      Most doctors carry pagers as their notification devices for medical emergencies. It allows them to be notified, but not have to drop what they're doing to know what's going on. Same with on-call ambulance drivers, firemen, etc. In almost every single emergency profession, all they really look for is notification that they need to get to the hospital/ambulance shed/firehouse immediately. They don't need to have an actual conversation.
      • Re:Doctors (Score:3, Insightful)

        by STrinity (723872)
        If you're a doctor with a 12 year old girl dying in the hospital, what in the world are you doing in the theater watching "Hellboy"?

        Well, presumably the girl wasn't dying when the doctor left the hospital.

        I've had movies interrupted probably 20-30 times in the last year or 2 and it has NEVER been a doctor.

        So does that mean doctors never receive emergency phonecalls at the movies, or that they keep their phones on vibrate, talk quietly, and leave the theater if have an important call without you ever k
  • Ok, so they are developing something that can be seen as acceptable in an otherwise unacceptable field of technology: a device that makes cell phones not recieve calls so they don't ring. So, what stands to question, is can the cell phones still make outgoing calls? Remember, from the description in the article, it's not a normal jammer, although those are mentioned.
    • by NanoGator (522640) on Thursday April 08, 2004 @03:59PM (#8807538) Homepage Journal
      " So, what stands to question, is can the cell phones still make outgoing calls? Remember, from the description in the article, it's not a normal jammer, although those are mentioned."

      If you're phone is saying "no service" then outgoing calls probably won't go through. Depends on the phone, maybe.

      I agree, though, this is a dumb solution. It's a social problem, not a technical one. Make it unacceptable to disturb somebody. I can't speak for the entire country, but in the last couple of years, cell phone obnoxiousness has gone down. I have witnessed a number of people pull their cell phones out when a movie starts to turn them off. So if all these people are doing that, why punish them by killing service to their phone?

      Frankly, I think a better solution could be developed. Cell phones are digital now. Down the road, I can imagine that service will be set up where phones automatically go into silent mode depending on the building you are in. I like this solution. It removes some of the accidental bs from happening.

      The most insulting part is that these places think they're more important than a call you might recieve. Imagine a guy leaving the theater, getting out of range of the jammer, and then getting a voicemail that his father's been in an accident. "Oh man! I could have left the theater an hour ago!! nO!!"

      I don't mind finding a way to make the audible phone ring go away, it's the "no service for you" attitude that is just the wrong way to solve that problem.
  • by zerosignal (222614) on Thursday April 08, 2004 @03:43PM (#8807285) Homepage Journal
    Manufacturers could be encouraged to build technology in phones which detects when the user is in a 'quiet-zone' (by a particularly encoded low-power radio signal). The owner could then have the option to pre-set the phone to be silent, or vibrate, or even just to ring as normal when in a quiet zone (meaning the user still has full control).
  • dubious legality... (Score:3, Interesting)

    by emtboy9 (99534) <jeff&jefflane,org> on Thursday April 08, 2004 @04:00PM (#8807547) Homepage
    this just makes me wonder about the legality of this... Not that I disagree... few things irk me more when out at a restaurant or movie than a cell phone ringing... I leave mine in the car or turn it off out of courtesy, why cant everyone else?

    anyway... the way I see it is this:

    This is a device which transmits on the same frequencies as cell phones. Now, Cell phones are FCC licensed devices licensed to transmit in that range (800MHz range). This device, AFAICT is NOT licensed... which means, that If I were a cell user, the cell company's FCC license rights extend to me in one form or another, I could, under part 15 rules, require that the restaurant using such a device turn it off due to its direct interference with my licensed device. Failure to comply could be met with a complaint to the FCC, followed by an investigation, fines, etc etc.

    SO, I guess the question is, since technically any jamming device is illegal (which is why true radar jammers are illegal in your car) AND having this device, or any cell-phone jamming device is against part 15 rules unless licensed by the FCC, what is to stop cell phone companies from suing restaurants, movie theaters, etc who employ these devices. After all, if the FCC finds that the device is not licensed AND caused harmful interference, the people using the device could face severe fines, and jail time even, AND would be open to civil litigation...

    it seems like a big can of worms, but I just wonder about the legality of these things, AND whether or not they can be sued for any interference to the licensed cell signals...
  • by stienman (51024) <adavis@u[ ]ics.com ['bas' in gap]> on Thursday April 08, 2004 @04:21PM (#8807918) Homepage Journal
    Legality: In theory if your radio transmissions do not exceed your property boundaries then you can practically transmit anything you want. Practically, though, radio transmissions are 'infinite' in distance, so they are regulated by the FCC to a specific power level at various frequencies, and a license is often required when the power exceeds the regulation. In other words, these devices may or may not require a license, but I doubt they are 'illegal' already according to current regulations.

    Safety: Yes, they will prevent emergency phone calls from being received or made. With well posted signs this could be mitigated (ie, you can't be held liable if the doctor or liver transplant candidate were aware of the cell phone blocking upon entering the establishment) However, I wouldn't want to be the owner when the place is taken hostage, landlines cut, and no one from inside can use their cell phone.

    Ideally such a technology would allow ring signals to get through, but would disable call initiations (answering or dialing). This is not impossible, but technically expensive (snoop on all frequencies, short jamming bursts on specific activity types)

    This is a social problem which can really only be taken care of in a social manner. Theaters, restaurants should alert guests to turn off or silence their phones. If they must use them they should leave to a cell-phone allowed area (near pay phones, for instance) or be escorted out if they forget to do so. They should not be allowed to re-enter if it will prove an interruption to other guests (ie, during intermission only, if one is available). If there are no penalties and immediate actions taken against anti-social guests, then they will assume their behavior is allowed in that establishment.

    Very short text messages and pages would work very well for many emergency situations. One-way text pager coverage in the US exceeds cell phone coverage significantly, and those who have to deal with unexpected emergencies know this and use it, relying on the cell phone as a contact and status device only.

    -Adam
  • by LuxFX (220822) on Thursday April 08, 2004 @07:29PM (#8810156) Homepage Journal
    Why is there a "no service" signal in the first place? Do phones really rely on a special signal to tell them they don't have a signal?
  • Idea... (Score:4, Interesting)

    by verbatim (18390) on Thursday April 08, 2004 @08:08PM (#8810531) Homepage
    You know what might be really cool? If, instead of jamming, the device could communicate with cell-phones and force them into vibrate-only mode. Eg. the cell phone sends out a signal and the "jammer" responds and instructs the phone that this is a vibrate-only area. Communication with the cell phone network would not be interrupted and any activity wouldn't bother people. That would take care of ringing... and people talk through movies anyway - even without cellphones.

    There could even be a "no conversation" signal to instruct the phone to not allow the user to converse. You could set it up so that the "jammer" would be able to recognize emergency cell phones (eg. doctor, fire fighter, etc) or calls to emergency numbers (eg. 911, local police, etc) and allow those but block all others. Of course, that might lead to privacy issues..

    Oh wait. Nevermind what I just said. I'm off to the patent office. ;)

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