mad anthony

Rants, politics, and thoughts on politics, technology, life,
and stuff from a generally politically conservative Baltimoron.

Saturday, August 27, 2005

Why you can hit me on my cell...

We have a contractor who started recently where I work, and he commented that he doesn't have a cell phone but does have a land line. He couldn't understand why people would have cell phones - why they would spend more money to be nagged constantly. He also said that "people say they get a cell for emergencies, but people survived 10 years ago without cell phones".

I'm exactly the opposite. I have a cell phone and no land line. (I actually now have two cell phones, because my employer recently got me a Nextel/RIM Blackberry SmartPhone. I now carry that around with me, and keep my personal cell at home).

Why do I have a cell but no land line? Well, part of it is that I want a cell phone for emergencies. I got my first cell (a Motorola the size of a paving stone) my sophmore year of college, because my parents wouldn't let me take my rattletrap car to college unless I had a cell. It has come in handy a number times - for calling my parents when I've been caught in traffic on my way to NJ to visit them, for calling roadside assitance when I destroyed a tire on a giant Baltimore pothole on Harford Road back when I lived in Hamilton, and for finding my parents outside of the Baltimore Arena when I graduated college, to name a few.

So I find having a cell convinient. And there is a network effect present with cells - not only can I call other people who have cell phones, but because so many people have cell phones, payphones (what people used in emergencies before cell phones) are going bye-bye. When payphones were common, you could survive without a cell, but now that everyone has a cell, you need a cell because there are no payphones.

Third-world nations are discovering the convinience of cells too - insty links this NY Times article about cell phones in Africa. In countries with little land line infrastructre, cell phones are the only way to communicate. They are also good in places where the local POTS phone company is a government monopoly, with the traditional government inefficiencies.

But beyond the fact that I'm willing to pay for the convinience and security of a cell, the free/cheap long distance is the main reason I have a cell. I usually call my parents once a week - and since they are in NJ, it's long distance. Having a cell means that it doesn't cost me anything extra. If I talk for an hour and 15 minutes a week, 4 weeks a month, at 5 cents a minute, that would be $15 in long distance added to the $40 cost of a landline - or about $65, around what I pay for my cell. Same cost, but I 1)can make additional long distance calls if I need/want to and 2)have the convinience of being reached/reaching people away from home if I need/want to.

Of course, the other gripe is that sometimes you don't WANT to be reached anywhere. But I can ignore my cell as easily as I could ignore a land line - and I can turn it off if I really don't want to be bothered.


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