The Cellular Chronicles

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By Robert MacMillan
washingtonpost.com Staff Writer
Thursday, July 28, 2005; 10:21 AM

Did you know that July is National Cell Phone Courtesy Month?

Yeah, I know, just in time for August.

This one took me by surprise. I devote more time to writing about the way cell phones affect our daily lives than any other topic. And why not? It coaxes bucketfuls of e-mail from readers eager to share their stories. (I wish I could tell you more about the Brazilian bikini wax incident, but alas, it must remain private.) You figure someone would have told me what was afoot.

Cell phones are this year's tech version of the 2001 shark attack story, and there is no shortage of ink -- or bytes -- on their use and abuse in the public sphere. I'd like to share a "greatest hits" from my special "column ideas" e-mail basket that I've been saving up. I wish I could say they led me to some great insight on the human mind and its adaptation to pervasive technologies, but who am I kidding? What I really want is to present some fun articles to amuse and annoy you.

Enjoy and have a good weekend.

Crash Course in Phone Usage

Hamburg, N.J., resident Joseph H. Italiano, 20, crashed his Jeep into an oncoming car in Warwick, N.Y., on Monday. The Times Herald-Record reported that Italiano "was driving his Jeep south on Route 17A just after 7:30 a.m., when he dropped his cell phone. He leaned down to pick it up, veered into a ditch, then overcompensated, crossed the center line and drove into a Ford F150, Warwick police said. Italiano was flown to Westchester Medical Center. The driver of the pickup, Sean D. Wilson, 26, of West Milford, N.J., had head injuries and was taken to a local hospital, Warwick Sgt. Chris Cockburn said."

I got your dropped call right here.

The Philadelphia Inquirer , meanwhile, reported that a cell-phone-and-Global-Positioning-System combo could help people stuck in rush hour:

"Alain L. Kornhauser, a longtime professor of operations research and financial engineering at Princeton University, says he can help. The 100-person company that he and his wife, Katherine, founded in 1979, ALK Technologies Inc., of Princeton, is bringing his idea to market, joining the ranks of larger rivals with other approaches," the Inquirer reported. "Here's how Kornhauser's idea works: Smart phones, small cell phones equipped with tiny computers, use signals from 24 orbiting [GPS] satellites to compute precisely where the phones are. That information is sent over the phone's wireless data link to computers that analyze data from thousands of smart phones and determine the traffic velocity on virtually all well-traveled roads. Information about the road ahead is then sent back to individual smart phone users, helping them decide whether and how to alter their routes."

But how are you supposed to use it while driving? The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety earlier this month that said cell-phone use of any kind while driving is equally dangerous. Something tells me that more than one of us would cause an accident trying to use this system while driving. Then we'd have a real traffic jam on our hands.

Teed Off by Cell Phones

Not one but two golf tournaments are taking a strict line against cell-phone conversations this year. The Flint (Mich.) Journal reported that golf fans were not allowed to bring cameras or cell phones (and presumably, camera phones) to the Buick Open at the Warwick Hills Golf and Country Club this year.

The Rockford Register Star in Illinois reported: "Because the Rockford Pro-Am isn't a straight-laced PGA event, they've had a relaxed position when it comes to cell phones on the golf course. That will change this year. 'We're going to put a sign up this year,' said James Griffin, chairman of the marshalls. 'It's going to say, "When using cell phones, please use common courtesy."'"


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