This week on DC news I found that the last Motorola 8000, known as The Brick, a cell phone that looked like an Army field phone was turned in. It was leased by the owner of a construction company who made all his calls analog, this phone was not digital and he paid a monthly lease and almost 5 dollars a minute for air time.
Well Mr. Construction Company owner, welcome to 1995.
You mean, an Army field phone looks like a brick phone...
Anyway, analog gets a bum rap that it doesn't deserve. With analog, you could have a dying signal and still understand the conversation, it just got fuzzy. Range was much better, you didn't have to have towers everywhere...with digital having taken over, I can see two towers from my rural house.
Digital is great, but analog's not quite as bad as people make it out to be.
I have one of those in my collection of cell phones. I also have a really cool Nokia of similar design. The Nokia is in a black anodized aluminum housing, and I've modified it to be used as a bluetooth accessory so I can walk around and talk on my "brick" even though the analog system is shut down. The analog network has been shut down in many areas for quite some time, and I was actually interviewed by The Washington Post for an article about the Analog system shutdown.
Analog Cellphone Users Are About to Lose the Signal
By Kim Hart
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, January 19, 2008; Page D01 << I was on the front page of the D section!!!
On Feb. 18, Jay Sincavage will make one last phone call to say goodbye.
He'll bid farewell to the network technology that powered his first cellphone, an old StarTac -- once considered the technologist's model of choice -- that's bulkier than his wallet. At midnight that day, wireless networks across the country will start shutting down the old analog networks that launched the cellphone business 25 years ago. Now, with the vast majority of the country's quarter-billion cellphone users calling and texting over digital networks, only about 1 million customers still use analog networks.
The Federal Communications Commission authorized carriers to phase out those networks to free more airwaves for digital services. So the non-tech-savvy who haven't upgraded their phones in several years, as well as people in areas too remote to receive digital signals, could end up without a lifeline.
Sincavage, who lives in Sterling, plans to summon power to his StarTac and, with a few dozen other analog loyalists, make a final call with the obsolete technology.
"Maybe we'll overload the network and make it crash one last time, for old times' sake," Sincavage said.
The demise of a mainstream technology often happens under the radar, as companies and consumers embrace new formats. The record player and the tape recorder faded gradually. DVD rentals phased out VHS tapes. Now the CD appears to be making a slow exit, replaced by digital and downloadable music.
For the past seven years, mobile-phone companies have pushed people to upgrade their analog cellphones by offering discounts and rebates on new digital phones. Each successive generation of the network was more efficient, sending more calls, pictures, videos, and text messages over the airwaves. Maintaining the old networks became an expensive chore.
The cellular switch-off is the first phase of a larger transition to digital technology that will culminate next year with the end of analog television signals.
Other widely used technologies also rely on analog cellular networks. Older versions of OnStar, the communications system installed in many cars, will stop working next month. General Motors, which owns OnStar, said some cars made as recently as 2005 cannot be upgraded.
About 400,000 security systems use analog networks as back-ups to land lines, according to the Alarm Industry Communications Committee. In homes without land lines, the analog network is the only connection.
Sincavage, for example, recently paid $250 to have the ADT alarm system in his dry-cleaning business upgraded to digital.
AT&T, Verizon Wireless and Alltel say less than 1 percent of their customers use analog services, which the companies plan to phase out over the next year. Sprint Nextel and T-Mobile already use all-digital networks, but their customers may be affected if they roam on other carriers' analog networks.
Over the past year, Verizon Wireless has been contacting thousands of customers using analog phones to offer them digital models. Spokeswoman Debi Lewis said the company hasn't reached some of those people.
"The people most at risk are glove-box users -- the people who bought a phone 10 years ago to use in case of an emergency," Lewis said. "Pretty soon, those phones won't work anymore, and we want to let them know."
Analog signals translate voice communications through a series of radio waves that require a lot of airwave capacity. Digital signals convert voice and data -- e-mail, text messages, photos -- into bits of data that can be compressed, allowing the information to travel more quickly and requiring less capacity.
While digital signals are considered more reliable than their analog predecessors, they don't travel as far and may not reach sparsely populated areas, such as mountains and deserts.
Analog signals rescued Jorge Torralba when he broke his foot while hiking in a remote area east of Seattle. Unable to get a digital signal with his cellphone, a friend climbed a nearby hill and found an analog network for just long enough to call Torralba's wife in Portland, Ore. She gave their location to a rescue squad, which picked up the hikers in a helicopter.
"I was bummed out that we're going to be losing analog because when you're out in the middle of the woods, that's the only way to get help," he said. "I know digital's the way to go, but analog is a lifesaver." Andrew Moreau, vice president of corporate communications for Alltel, which serves many rural areas, said analog towers will be replaced by digital ones before the service is shut off.
Still, some analog-users are afraid they'll be left in a lurch.
Cody Toy lives in Rodeo, Calif., a tiny town tucked between mountains and the Pacific Ocean, and still uses analog signals for every call he makes on his cellphone. He's concerned that digital towers won't keep up with the demise of analog.
"Digital is like . . . a highway with potholes . . . and analog . . . is the tar that . . . patches the holes," Toy said over an analog cellphone, interrupted by frequent bouts of static. "It's good for city slickers . . . but bad for folks in the boonies."
Roger Entner, senior vice president for the communications sector at IAG Research, said he expects few people to mourn analog networks since most new devices do not use the technology.
"It's a nostalgic event because it's the first wireless standard to be put underground," he said. "But nobody will show up at the funeral."
Same is true of over the air analog vs digital TV signals.
Aint that the truth, freaking digital TV. I used to watch fuzzy stations, now they pixelate and I lose sound. Cut that stations I can watch by probably 45%. Looks like I'll have to put an antenna up on the roof before winter sets in.
I thought the digital tv thing was more about band width than anything. they were running out of band width at that part of the spectrum so they went digital to compress the channels so they can fit more channels in the given space.
then again, i may be wrong
Be the change you wish to see in the world
When it comes to digital I have mixed feelings about it. In the home I love it. You either have a perfect signal or you've got nothing, but in the home if you have nothing it's just a cable that's bad. I live close to the mountain where tv reception wasn't that great anyways and digital is even worse. I think I got around 5 channels with my digital receiver, 2 of which were actually watchable.
It's a beautiful picture, when you can get it. But, with Hulu and Moxi you don't even need TV service anymore! It's just too bad there isn't a way to get a decent speed of internet for under $50 a month because they either tack it onto a phone line for an extra $20 a month or a cable 'bundle' for $75-80.
And, I don't know if you've ever heard, but digital has a very significant delay. If you put two cell phones up to your head and make a sound into one of them, it takes about 1/2 second for the sound to come out of the other cell. (This is because it divides the sounds into chunks, then sends a whole packet all at once.) You've probably noticed that on a digital cell phone, both people will start talking over each other all the time. That makes it SO annoying.