Monday, April 18, 2016

A place without cellphones

Most Americans don't realize that cellphones, like CocaCola, are present in the most remote areas of the world.

My friend in rural Zimbabwe has had access to one for a couple of years, so I can email her and she can read the email on her cellphone without having to travel to town to the local internet cafe.

In Africa, they are used for banking, buying and selling purposes.

Here in the Philippines, our farmers and maid have also had cellphones for years. You buy one at the Palenke kiosk and then get a "load" for fifty cents (25 pesos) which lets you text quite a bit.

Indeed, I think I am the only one in town who refuses to use a cellphone: I know how to use them (I had one in the USA even before they became common), but they are small and I find using the tiny buttons hard. True, I could have bought my tablet with a cellphone connection, but then, who would I call?

Here, teenagers text all the time, and one Presidential candidate is a heroine among our hipster types because she tweets etc. all the time. She won't win, of course: here, Duterte and Poe have most of the ads and more importantly, most of the spontanous bumper stickers on the tricycles.

But in the future, even in the Philippines, cellphones will be a force in politics.

Some areas are "cellphone free", partly because they are distracting (e.g. our church) but mostly for security reasons: anyone watching Homeland knows that cellphones are used to set off bombs.

But that is not a one way street: StrategyPage has noted several times that cellphones let civilians text authorities where the bad guys are. And when the bad guys take the towers down, the locals get mad.

This is an improvement, since when I worked in Africa in the 1970's, the local bad guys had to cut the landline to farms and clinics before they robbed them.

Most rural areas have the USA, in the 1990's, when our hospital landlines and cellphones went out, my personal cellphone, that used an alternative tower, still worked for an emergency transfer.

And in the Philippines, when we had a terrible ferry disaser during a typhoon that had changed course, the officials couldn't confirm what had happened, but relatives reported "goodbye we are sinking" texts from their loved ones. (apparently the captain didn't change course, the company insisting they weren't required to have radios that if the captain didn't have access to weather reports on a cellphone...but that's another topic for another time.).

Well, anyway, one wonders if there is really an area without all those microwave towers spreading information and LOL texts back and forth.

Yes, there is: a place called Green Bank West Virginia.where there is a huge microwave telescope.

David Reneke reports:
Well, the GBT doesn’t look at the stars we can see, it looks for stars we can’t see. It’s a radio telescope that scans the heavens for stars that give off very little light to us, but can be picked up with radio waves instead. That means making a tuna melt in a microwave oven too close to the telescope will result in some very angry scientists, wondering why their readings are suddenly off.
Technological Blackout
It’s not just Wi-Fi that people are going without in Green Bank. There are incredibly strict restrictions on what can and can’t be had in the area. Some of the things that are banned include cellphones and Wi-Fi, but other things are banned or strictly monitored as well.

Somewhere to move if you are sensitive to electronic stuff.

No comments: