Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Cellphones - No!

I spent the last two weeks on an island in Maine. Miles from the mainland, cellphones don't work on the island (with rare exceptions).

Things change relatively slowly on the island. Social networking is done the old-fashioned way, face-to-face. But, change there is not limited by economic considerations. There's plenty of money. The community can afford cellphone service; people don't want it.
Smart with money doesn't (always) mean smart with IT... VHF radios have been used in Maine's waters for years for ship-to-ship and ship-to-shore communications. Even thought it is easy to eavesdrop on VHF conversations, people use them instead of secure cellphones, even though cellphones work in many near-offshore waters. Once I overheard a vacationing investment banker call his office on ship-to-shore radio to discuss deals that were being worked.

I don't believe you would be guilty of insider trading if you heard about an acquisition on VHF before it was announced and decided to make a quick killing.

Technological changes come to this island slowly, after some form of consensus is reached on the desirability of change. So, it is perhaps informative to know that broadband Internet access has arrived via point-to-point wireless transceivers in many places on the island while cellphone towers are nowhere to be found. In this community, it appears that cellphones are not essential, but high-speed Internet access is.

What's the significance of this finding? It is hard to say, but if this sophisticated society regards cellphones as undesirable, perhaps the day will come when no one sees cellphones as status symbols.

Want to know what other technologies are in vogue and which are louche on the island?

What's Hot?

What's Not?

  • Boston Whalers with big engines.
  • GPS for marine navigation.
  • GPS for determining how far from the hole your golf ball is (e.g., SkyCaddie).
  • Notebook computers for teleworking
  • Netflicks, DirecTV, HDTV for watching TV on rainy days and quiet nights
  • Digital cameras for Christmas Card shots of the family.

  • Drug boats and jet skis are nowhere to be found.
  • GPS for in-car use.
  • Bentleys, Maseratis, Aston Martins, etc.
  • PC workstations.
  • Video cameras.

Conspicuous consumption is limited to some degree by the year-rounders practicing aggressive wage/cost inflation and by passing ordinances and taxes on the summer folk. The summer folk police themselves using gossip and by ostracizing those who do not conform to certain unwritten and flexible standards.

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