31 May Is traditional voice quality an oxymoron with today's cellular, VoIP?
Something that was always taken for granted was the quality of sound on voice calls. If you remember the old Sprint commercials, they emphasized that “you can hear a pin drop” as they were moving toward fiber in their network infrastructure.
The old Bell system also had very stringent requirements for improving voice quality. It focused on moving from analog to digital lines with digital repeaters (amplifiers) that actually regenerated the square wave signal rather than just boosting it like an analog repeater did to a sine wave. There was a design concept of building in quality through better regeneration of the signal across the copper wires of the network infrastructure.
Subscribers were more fearful of switching carriers because they thought they would be getting inferior quality on voice calls. Quality of service on voice calls was actually a big selling point in the day. Companies wouldn’t change carriers if they felt their call centers and customer service applications would be compromised by poor sound quality.
Somehow we have gotten away from that focus on quality and the new generation of phone users are getting used to lesser voice quality as well as the familiar “can you hear me now?” question from cellular callers.
One Chicago Mercantile Exchange executive recently discussed this phenomenon that is quietly going on in the U.S. We concluded that people are accepting a lesser quality voice service in exchange for all the “functions” they can get. The traditional “phone” function has almost become secondary in comparison with all the neat “extras”. Who cares about quality if you can click a picture with your phone, right?
Some people are also complaining about the actual mechanics of the phone. Some cell phones are even hard to turn on and use. The keypads are not as reliable as they used to be. The bottom line is they just aren’t as rugged any more.
Swiss Army Phones
As I remarked several years ago, cell phones with all their functional options have become like a Swiss army phone. Do you really need an MP3 player or a camera (especially now as more places are banning the use of cellular cameras)? Next you will see a Taser phone come out for those with a priority on personal security.
I’m surprised they haven’t come out with a combination cell phone cigarette lighter. That’s a perfect combination for the driver on the go.
How about a Starbuck’s coffee phone? What about a phone you throw away with 30 minutes of talk time that’s somehow wedged into a thermal cup? It could be great for drivers as a decoy for all their phone calls. While they don’t ticket you for drinking coffee in a car, some municipalities are ticketing cell phone users. Some say cell phones are “distractions” while in a car.
While I don’t want to come off as Andy Rooney talking about the “good old days,” what has happened to a quality phone that’s just a phone? If you’re going to ticket the cell phone user, you should also ticket the person reading a newspaper, putting on makeup, doing a crossword puzzle, stuffing a Big Mac or donut into their face, reading a book as well as all the other distractions that take away driver concentration. It’s not just the cell phone.
No one has even mentioned people watching their favorite television show on their cell phone. Just wait until that becomes more common. You will be ticketed for making a phone call, but if you are watching the latest American Idol episode in the car, that’s fine.
`No Flashing Signs’
The column on electronic signs two weeks ago drew mostly affirmative comments. There was only one person who said “signs are ugly”. He was totally against electronic signs and also said he was against cars. He rides a bicycle all over and claims we have become too dependent on technology. I wonder if he still has a rotary phone or if that’s still too high-tech for him. I didn’t respond to his second letter.
Few people can live “On Walden Pond” any more (for all you technocrats, that’s Henry David Thoreau’s book about the simple life). People are dependent on technology and the next generation of cell phones may be as easy as sewing a microchip in your ear. If that happens, all the boutiques selling those glitter and leopard skin cell phone covers will be out of business.
Carlinism: Soon they will be saying that phone quality went out with nickel beers.
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