Thesis: Evolution of the Cell Phone in America

Pages: 13 (4013 words)  ·  Style: MLA  ·  Bibliography Sources: 12  ·  Level: College Senior  ·  Topic: Transportation  ·  Buy This Paper

Cell Phone Growth & Resulting Issues

Millions of young people are growing up today in American using cell phone wireless technologies in ways that can properly be termed obsessive. And many of those same youths figure cell phones and wireless technologies are the way life has always been. A lion's share of 17 and 18-year-old high school students -- and millions of college students -- walk out of class or out of school are not looking up to see what the weather is like, or looking around them to see what friends might be around. They are most likely looking down at their hand, and in their hand is that ubiquitous cell phone with text messages waiting to be quickly read and answered.

Where and how did this begin? Where is it leading? What are the positives and the negatives of cell phone technology? Are cell phones dangerous? Do cell phones cause cancer? All these issues and more will be covered in this paper.

Literature Review:

Brief History of Wireless Technology: The modern cell phone -- with its amazing versatility -- may be relatively new, but wireless technology is not new per se, according to authors James B. Murray and Lisa Dickey. Their book, The Frenzied Launch of the Cellular Revolution in America, points out that Girglielmo Marconi was the first person to "successfully transmit Morse code via invisible waves in the air" (Murray, et al., p. 15) in the late 1800s. Marconi was helped by the discoveries that German inventor Heinrich Hertz had made as to the existence of wireless waves (radio waves) in 1887. And just at the turn of the 20th Century, American professor Reginald Fessenden "figured out how to transmit the human voice across radio waves," which was the marriage of two technologies, wireless and telephony, the "earliest seeds of the modern cell phone industry" (Murray, p. 15). It was Marconi's wireless technology (Morse code) that was used on board the sinking Titanic (in 1912) to call upon the Carpathia vessel -- 50 miles away -- to rush to the scene and save hundreds of Titanic's passengers (Murray, p. 16).

Meantime airplanes began to fill the skies in the 1920s, and wireless radios were a huge help in communication ground to air. Also, the Detroit Police Department began using mobile radios in squad cars in 1921, albeit the radios only worked one way; the dispatcher could call the cars, but the police had to pull over and use a pay phone to get back to the dispatchers (Murray, p. 16).

However, by 1933 police radios became two-way (even though the radio phones required a truck-full of heavy communication hardware) and the benefits were obvious. During World War II Motorola developed the "first two-way communicator, dubbed the 'Handie-Talkie'" (Murray, p. 16). This freed soldiers up from having to lay wire between the front lines and rear-line commanders; the cumbersome (by today's standards) "Handie-Talkie" batteries needed frequent recharging, but nevertheless this was a huge advantage for combat forces.

A "milestone" in the development of the cell phone was achieved on April 3, 1973 in New York City. According to WirelessWeek.com the very first portable cellular phone call was made by Marty Cooper -- he was then the general manager of Motorola's Communications Systems Division and today he is chairman and CEO of ArrayComm. As he walked along a busy New York City street, Cooper spoke with individuals at several land-based phone sets, and "sophisticated New Yorkers gaped at the sight of someone actually moving around while making a phone call" (WirelessWeek.com, 2003). The writer of this article mentions that there were no cordless phones at that time, "let alone cellular phones," so it was an eye-popping experience for witnesses to the first cell phone call in America (or so it is promoted as such). Ten years later, Motorola began selling the first commercial cell phone, called the DynaTAC (WirelessWeek.com, 2003).

Obvious Dangers of Cell Phone Use: Using a cellphone while driving is not a safe practice. Some states such as California have banned the use of cell phones except when the driver is using "hands-free" cell phones, also known as "blue tooth" technologies. The American Automobile Association's (AAA) 2008 research shows that "half of U.S. drivers report having used a cell phone while driving" in the thirty days previous to being interviewed (Hannan, 2009). For drivers aged 18-24, sixty-five percent reported using a cell phone over the previous thirty days, and for that same age group about 48.5% reported having sent a text message" while behind the wheel over the thirty days prior to being interviewed by AAA (Hannan, 2009).

Hannan's article in the Florida Times-Union (Jacksonville's online newspaper) references two other cell phone studies, one in Canada and another in Australia, and both report that "using a mobile telephone while driving quadruples a driver's risk of being involved in a crash" (Hannan, 2009).

Tom Watkins reports in the Cable News Network (CNN.com) that the National Safety Council (NSC) has called for a ban on cell phone usage while operating a vehicle (Watkins, 2009). According to Watkins' article, six states have laws on the books that ban the use of hand-held phones (requiring "hands-free" technologies), but there are no states that have placed a ban on cell phone use per se (Watkins, 2009). The National Safety Council's statistics estimate that cell phone use in automobiles results annually in "six percent of crashes," and those accidents result in 330,000 injuries to passengers or drivers (Watkins, 2009). Of the 330,000 injuries, the National Safety Council reports that 12,000 are "serious" and 2,600 are "fatal" (Watkins, 2009).

While the NSC has called for a ban on cell phone use by drivers, the Cellular Telecommunications and Internet Association (CTIA) promotes education instead of legislation banning cell phones. "Laws aimed just at wireless use create a false sense of security with regard to the issue of distracted driving," the CTIA stated on its Web site (Watkins, 2009). The CTIA's vice president of public affairs, John Walls, believes there can be a "safe, sensible, responsible use for a brief period of time" for cell phone conversations while driving (Watkins, 2009).

An article in Monitor on Psychology (Novotney, 2009) reports on a survey by University of South Wales psychologist Julie Hatfield; female pedestrians who speak on cell phones are "less likely to look for traffic before stepping into the street," and also those same women cross streets more slowly, "increasing their risk of colliding with a vehicle" (Novotney, 2009). The article goes on to point out that most people have little problem when I comes to watching videos while jogging on a treadmill, or chewing gum while walking. Hence, those people believe it should be no problem to drive and do other tasks, like eating, putting on makeup, adjusting their music player or speaking on a cell phone.

However, research by cognitive scientists at the Center for Cognitive Brain Imaging at Carnegie Mellon University indicates that when it comes to driving and using a cell phone, things get more complicated than just eating and driving. Indeed, several psychologists examined brain activity during the same time participants were performing two high-level tasks -- responding to true-false questions that were given verbally and "mentally rotating three-dimensional objects -- both separately and then concurrently" (Novotney, 2009). The findings of this experiment suggest that when performing the above-mentioned actions together, "brain activation, primarily in the temporal and parietal areas of the cortex, was substantially less than the sum of the activation when participants performed the two tasks alone" (Novotney, 2009).

What does that mean in laymen's terms? Dual tasking requires that the brain pull information from "some shared, limited resource, slowing reaction time" (Novotney, 2009). In other words, reaction times, which of course are pivotal to the driver's ability to avoid a collision, are slower when the brain is doing more than one important function. It doesn't take brainpower to eat and drive, but it does require brainpower to carry on a conversation, think about what is being said and what will be said next, and negotiate a difficult road or a street with hazards at every corner at the same time.

In another study, Novotney reports that 29 undergraduates were asked to drive a simulated auto along a curvy road. While they were doing this, MRI images of their brains were being monitored. The research checked their brain patterns while they were undisturbed, and also while they were listening to "spoken sentences that they judged as true or false" (Novotney, 2009). The upshot of the research showed that listening to true and false questions (which obviously requires more serious brain work than just thinking randomly) "reduced driving-related brain activity…by almost 40%" (Novotney, 2009). Still another study (from the Journal of Experimental Psychology: Applied) that Novotney references shows that cell phone users are "more likely" to miss the exit on the freeway they had intended to use and more likely to "drift out of their lanes" on the freeway.… [END OF PREVIEW]

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