Can You Hear Me Now?*—Five Billion Mobile Phones and Counting


Hello. Hello. Shiva are you there?

This month may not actually see the 5 billionth mobile phone subscription, but earlier this year a Singapore research firm estimated that that happy threshold would be passed sometime before the advent of 2011. Keep in mind that total world population is just 6.8 billion. The first commercial cell phone network began operation in Japan in 1979 and the Federal Communications Commission finally authorized the operation of the first cell phone system in the U.S. in 1982. Motorola's first phone weighed two pounds and cost $3,995 ($8,800 in today's dollars).

In 2009, the population of the U.S. was around 308 million and there were 285 million cell phones. I have two—I got a second one because I am working in Montana this summer and AT&T threatened to turn my iPhone into brick if I continued my excessive data use. By "brick" I mean the company would lock my phone so that it could only contact AT&T cellular towers. When I asked the company representative where the closest AT&T tower was located, I was told "about 300 miles away." Hmmm. Jailbreaking.

Anyway, it's never been easier to reach out and touch someone*, in fact, almost anyone, anywhere in the world than it is today. That's something to celebrate.

*References to the ad taglines of Verizon and Ma Bell.

NEXT: Reason Morning Links: Pentagon Downplays WikiLeaks, DoD Lost Track of Iraq Oil Money, President Wyclef?

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  1. Beep-beep! The light’s green. You can move now.

    1. I’ve got an app for that!

  2. ahh Ma Bell… now those were good days.

    1. The important thing is I had an onion on my belt, which was the style at the time.

      1. That never gets old.

    2. GOM, I believe you’d enjoy checking out these folks.

  3. Caption Contest!

    “Thank you for calling Dell technical support, this is Fred.”

    1. “Excuse me sir, but your fingers are too fat, please mash the keypad and an operator will be with you shortly.”

    2. Are you there Shiva? It’s me, Margaret.

  4. “We’re going to have to end this call quick. I worry about the cancer, you know.”

    1. Not bad, that was funnier after I looked again and saw the cigarette and char broiled skin.

      1. Evidently, India has no ban on tanning beds.

        1. They’re lucky enough that they get Universal Tanning Beds. Sure, its just the sun, but that doesn’t mean the gov’t can’t take credit for providing it.

  5. I’m sure Frank Rich is working on a column which will explain why this is a tragedy. Maybe he can produce a 2500 word swoon about the the “special scent” of an old-fashioned wooden pay telephone booth in a train station. And how his grandmother made him feel special.

    1. Laugh all you want, but one of the best days of my childhood was when I accidentally unjammed a jammed pay phone and watched the coins pour out like a Vegas jackpot. I ate candy like a king. Try doing that with a cell phone.

      1. Try doing that with a cell phone.

        I’m on it!

    2. how his grandmother made him feel special.

      Thanks for the visual.

  6. Oh wow, OK that makes a lot of sense dude. Well done.


    1. Oh shut the hell up you odious creep.

      1. I have your connection. Please go ahead.

  7. For any old phreakers out there.

    1. 2600 is a great mag. It reminds you how much of hacking and identity theft is good old fashioned social engineering.

  8. “Hello, Supercuts? I think you may have missed a spot.”

  9. Cellphones really fucked me over.

  10. “Hello? Is this the Chamberpot Addicts Anonymous helpline?”

    1. That’s his beardbath, you fool.

      1. Maybe it’s both. And it’s beardbidet, you smoothfaced freak.

        1. “Why yes, I do have a pot to piss in.”

        2. Heh. That guy certainly does not have the most trustworthy of all facial hair, does he? It’s looks in the realm of Manson, actually.

          1. Definitely an Unkempt Beard (a.k.a. The Homeless Beard), which is fully into “Threatening.”

            1. That’s a big weakness if he wants to break into bumfighting.

  11. This article will make the Chads of the world weep. Cheap Chinese crap!! ARRRGGHHH!

    1. But he only pays 5 EXTRA DOLLARS for all his electricity to come from wind. 5 EXTRA DOLLARS ONLY!

      1. Shit, that’s only 10years salary for that guy, how can he afford NOT to save gaia?!

  12. When I asked the company representative where the closest AT&T tower was located, I was told “about 300 miles away.”

    I wish ATT would extend coverage to Montana, just so I wouldn’t have to listen to people whine about not being able to have an iphone.

    1. I was at an island in Lake Michigan that had only AT&T. It was weird to have other folk envying my reception.

  13. “Hello Mahatma Ghandi, can you please be asking if Amanda Huggenkiss is available?”

  14. “You know, it’s really nice of the Salvation Army to let me keep the kettle all year.”

  15. he’s got a phone, a cigarette, and a motherfucking pot to piss in. why no shirt?

    1. So as to show off his rockin’ bod to the chicks, man.

    2. He’s got abs of steel – he don’t need no shirt.

      1. Besides, he has a blanket for those frigid, 110-degree nights.

  16. We can thank the strict regulation of mobile phones world wide for this great news.

  17. “Are you hearing me now?”

  18. “Ringo? George here. Tell John that if that bitch Yoko shows up in the studio again, I’m braining her with my bucket.”

  19. You guys are all missing the point. Bailey has non-leaden alt-text!

    1. I was gonna say. Kudos again Ron.

  20. “You have the list? Okay, check it twice for me, and tell Mrs. Claus that I’ll be back around mid-November.”

  21. “Excessive data use” – so that’s the current euphemism for pr0n nowadays, right?

  22. Can You Hear Me Now?

    Would you shut your goddam mouth already?

  23. Anyway, it’s never been easier to reach out and touch someone*, in fact, almost anyone, anywhere in the world than it is today. That’s something to celebrate.

    Last vacation I got a call inquiring about a CHL class while rafting down the Grand Canyon. (The easy trip, starting from the upper dam. And for family reasons I couldn’t turn my cell off.) Being that connected isn’t always something to celebrate.

  24. Well Ronald just might grow him some bees, but he’ll leave the sweet stuff to somebody else.

  25. “Apple’s goal has always been to ensure that our customers have a great experience with their iPhone and we know that jailbreaking can severely degrade the experience,” Apple spokeswoman Natalie Harrison said in an e-mail. “As we’ve said before, the vast majority of customers do not jailbreak their iPhones, as this can violate the warranty and can cause the iPhone to become unstable and not work reliably.”

    Right, because people who jailbreak their phones want shitty experiences by, among other things, having an unreliable and unstable product. As for voiding warranties. No shit, Sherlock.

    PS. You’re holding it wrong.

  26. “Did you reboot?”

  27. More information about the biological effects of non-ionizing radiation from wireless technology is coming out every day. Enough is not being done by cities, counties, states and the Federal Government to protect us from the potentially devastating health and environmental effects. Through the 1996 telecommunications act the telecoms are shielded from liability and oversight. Initially cell phones were released with no pre-market safety testing despite the fact the Government and the Military have known for over 50 years that radio frequency is harmful to all biological systems (inthesenewtimes dot com/2009/05/02/6458/.). Health studies were suppressed and the 4 trillion dollar a year industry was given what amounts to a license to kill.
    On it’s face, the 1996 telecommunications act is unconstitutional and a cover-up. Within the fine print city governments are not allowed to consider “environmental” effects from cell towers. They should anyway! It is the moral and legal obligation of our government to protect our health and welfare? Or is it? When did this become an obsolete concept? A cell tower is a microwave weapon capable of causing cancer, genetic damage & other biological problems. Bees, bats, humans, plants and trees are all affected by RF & EMF. Communities fight to keep cell towers away from schools yet they allow the school boards to install wi fi in all of our schools thereby irradiating our kids for 6-7 hours each day. Kids go home and the genetic assault continues with DECT portable phones, cell phones, wi fi and Wii’s. A tsunami of cancers and early alzheimer’s await our kids. Young people under the age of 20 are 420% more at risk of forming brain tumors (Swedish study, Dr. Lennart Hardell) because of their soft skulls, brain size and cell turn over time. Instead of teaching “safer” cell phone use and the dangers of wireless technology our schools mindlessly rush to wireless bending to industry pressure rather than informed decision making. We teach about alcohol, tobacco, drugs and safe sex but not about “safer” cell phone use. We are in a wireless trance, scientists are panicking while young brains, ovaries and sperm burns.

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