We'll be Jammin'

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Listen to this 'Talk of the Nation' topic

Cell phone rants are passe... Now cell phone vigilantes are all the rage (and no, I don't mean people throwing phones at purse snatchers). These are people who stop whining about rude cell phoners on trains, planes, and theaters (among other places) and actually do something about it... Don't get mad, jam their phone signals. It's now as easy to snag a wireless jammer as a bottle of fake V!agra online, and also just as illegal. Still, there's a certain poetic justice to watching a loud cell phone yapper scream, "HELLO!?!" into a useless phone for 30 seconds. Mind you, the technology is not new, but the FCC isn't a fan of people running around jamming wireless signals. So, you can't just head to the local Radio Shack and pick one up. Still, it sounds awfully fun. We'll talk with WIRED's Ryan Singel about the technology.



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It is annoying b/c the person on the bus or the train who insists on using a cell phone does all the talking. The person they are talking to never seems to say a word or more likely, cannot break into the endless stream of blah blah blah blah....

Sent by NYCMIDTOWN | 3:00 PM | 11-8-2007

is the coalition forces using this technology to fight back against the use of cell phones in conjunction with IED's?

Sent by John Keavy III | 3:00 PM | 11-8-2007

Yes, this is the same technology that's being used against IEDs triggered by cell phones.

It seems like so many people have no impulse control regarding their cell phones. Why should people have to be reminded to turn off their cell phones before a wedding or an expensive musical performance? On public transportation, it's impossible to avoid the yakkers--who often have nothing substantive to say. The guys who go through the grocery store asking their significant others about every purchase look pathetic, too. I'm not against cell phones--just people who use them without restraint.

Sent by Heron | 3:08 PM | 11-8-2007

The conversation - one-sided or simply with an anonymous person on the other side - is not the point. You can be just as annoyed with an obnoxious conversation with both people in the room.

What really makes us annoyed about someone talking on a cell phone in public rather than to a person next to them is that the cell-phone talker is disengaged from their surroundings. It's that they're distracted from the here and now. It's another way of checking out, detaching from society and isolating ourselves from a situation. People around cell-phone talkers have a sense of being shut out and turned off. Excluded, intentionally and, therefore, being treated rudely and without respect.

This is from someone who does talk on her cell phone in public and tries to acknowledge that societal and momentary impact and lessen it as much as possible, including abstaining.

Father Elizondo, Kansas City, Mo., said, "People are hurt most when they are not welcome." Talking on a cell phone in public is an unspoken way of excluding those around you and relaying the message, "I'm sorry, you're not welcome into my world at this time. Try again later. Beep." It's like screening your "calls" in person.

Sent by JAG | 3:10 PM | 11-8-2007

As I understand it, the FCC doesn't like unlicensed, unregulated signals causing ANY "active" interference with LICENSED telecomm devices. Therefore, "jamming" will put you in BIG trouble. More wattage, more trouble!

However, fine metal screens,(like the one in the door of your microwave) will "passively" block cell phones.

I think all restaurants should look into installing this metal mesh into the walls next time they redecorate. (What signal? I don't have any signal!)

Can we do this to Wi-Fi next? All that keyboard tapping detracts from my enjoyment of a over-priced cup of coffee.

Sent by Harold | 3:26 PM | 11-8-2007

what about the social obligations of the person being annoyed? How about we just take a deep breath and ask the person kindly to be quieter? Or please hang up? Are we so plugged in that we can't just speak to each other any more and can only communicate electronically?

Sent by debinsf | 3:56 PM | 11-8-2007

Some conversations are more annoying than others. I was stuck on Sacramento Lite Rail next to a gay guy who was breaking up with his boyfriend. He described at top volume intimate sexual details that imparted way more information than I cared to have. Another favorite jamming target - all those black kids who insist on using the n-word constantly. Where could I get a jammer?

Sent by Shorter Rankin, MBA | 4:47 PM | 11-8-2007

This entire scenario seems incredibly bizarre! How can anyone say that it is right to block someone else's phone conversation?! I listened to the show and I think that if you're in a waiting room and it says no cell phones you should not use your phone. This does not mean if someone is talking on a cell phone you have the right to stop their conversation. If their conversation is annoying why not act like the bigger person and go over and point out that they are not suppose to be talking in the waiting room or better yet go and get a employee who can ask the person to stop their conversation. You are not the law enforcement of the bus, waiting room, or lobby.
Also, business like restaurants should not be able to block cell phones in their building. I carry a cell phone to stay in contact to be up to date and incase of emergencies. I can only speak for my self, but if any restaurant would actually use these blockers then I personally will never go to these restaurants again.

Sent by sclough | 7:11 PM | 11-8-2007

"How about we just take a deep breath and ask the person kindly to be quieter?"

It usually doesn't work. I can't count the number of times I've asked someone to take his/her conversation elsewhere or lower his/her voice, and been told to stop being rude!

Sent by Heron | 8:35 PM | 11-8-2007

Dear Neal,

I heard your segment on cell phone jammers and wanted to offer a different reason why we dislike cell phone users so much. It is not so much that we only hear one side of the conversation, but rather, the problem is that the caller loses all touch with local surroundings. How many times have you seen a cell phone user pace back and forth across a crowded sidewalk, oblivious to others? Or slowing the checkout line at the supermarket because they are not paying attention? Or of course, the inattentive driver?

Cell phones have the same affect on people as a good book - they transport them to another time and place. For a good many cell phone users, they have checked out of your reality and are no longer mentally present.

Thanks for the story -- I will be ordering my personal "cone of silence" today!

Sent by Joel | 12:41 PM | 11-12-2007

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