Bring On The Hush-A-Phone!

We've all read about the studies being conducted on the airlines, that perhaps one day soon we will all be forced to sit cheek-by-jowl with people who will conduct loud conversations on their cell phones in mid-air, with no chance for escape. Isn't there some way to fend off this disaster? We need the Hush-a-Phone!

I first encountered the Hush-a-Phone in a 1940 novella by Robert Heinlein - The Roads Must Roll. I assumed that he had created the (rather catchy!) name. However, in researching the technovelgy article on the Hush-a-Phone, I found that there was a real-life Hush-a-Phone manufactured in 1921. The civilized goals of the device are summarized in the ad below:

(From Hush-a-Phone Advertisement)

The device itself was simple; it had no electronic components. A larger photo is shown below.

(From Hush-a-Phone Closeup)

More than 100,000 of these devices were sold. In his novel, Heinlein suggested some (1940's style) high-tech solutions; use a rubber mouthpiece for noise suppression on this end, and a bone conduction receiver.

What can we do with cell phone users in the modern era? In an article on The Society for HandHeld Hushing, one group suggests that you print small cards to hand to loud cell phone users. However, I was thinking about something a bit more proactive.

Sculptor Nick Normal has created a Portable Cellular Phone booth that is retractable; it is carried on your back and slides up and over your head to make your conversation private, just like it should be.

(From Portable Cellular Phone Booth)

Normal remarks:

"The Portable Cellular Phone Booth provides a visual image of social sacrifices and opportunities to interact with one another lost due to our own self -involvement...Historically the iconic phone booth represented a place where one could go to be alone for a private conversation. By delivering my sculpture to an unsuspecting public, anyone who notices the piece receives a myriad of messages from self deprecating humor to the neglecting of friendship in real time for the hope of something better.

Okay, so maybe the Portable Cellular Phone Booth is not the practical solution that we need. But somewhere out there, there's an engineer who can solve this problem. Preferably before I'm stuck on a coast-to-coast flight between an accountant and an insurance salesman.

Scroll down for more stories in the same category. (Story submitted 1/3/2005)

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