As gadgets become more wireless-enabled, it frees society from the electronics tethers that we have become accustomed to. I thought it would make for an interesting subject to look back at the hands free revolution. I also wanted to provide insight as to the current hands free offerings and how they improve life for us all. As with any improvement, there are negative issues. We will mention a few here.
Wireless evolution really hit home with the TV controller. We no longer had to get up and change the channel. This made for a society of freedom. One could finally lower the volume of obnoxious commercials that always seemed louder than the program. Communications companies would never resort to that kind of trickery, would they? Yeah right. And we would never pay a cable company to watch commercials. One memorable remote control situation was in the movie, “Grumpy Old Men” where the adjacent neighbor keeps changing the channel and frustrating the viewer. Encoding has changed that potential problem. It did make for a chuckle.
In the mid 80’s wireless technology made its way to the music stage. This freed up guitarists like Eddie Van Halen to jump and perform all kinds of acrobatics while playing. There was some adjustment. When Sammy Hagar became the front man, he mentioned how a wireless headset caused confusion in concert. By not holding a microphone, nobody could tell who was singing. Of course this also led to lip syncing accusations of Milli Vanilli and Janet Jackson. If you watch old YouTube videos, you can see people such as Bobby Goldsboro lip syncing to songs such as “Honey”. This explains why the live version never included a backup band and always sounded like the original.
Bluetooth has enabled hands free like never before. One area where this is an advantage is in wireless ear buds. I have burned through so many ear buds that failed due to the beating the connection takes when my phone is in my pocket. The transition to wearable wireless ear buds has been a welcome one. The added functionality of volume control as well as microphones for taking a call is a welcome benefit. I can leave my phone in a safer place and not worry about it getting submerged. The smaller USB connection and power electronics have enabled recharging while keeping the design compact and comfortable.
A Google search for “advantages of hands free” yielded nothing in relation to personal mobility on the first page. Instead, the results focussed on hands free cell phone use while driving. After several years of laws related to hands free cell phone use, there has been little evidence that it reduces accidents. Personally I have used a cell phone while driving only to hang up and realize I remembered nothing about the drive; whether I had noticed the traffic lights, making the turns, or any vehicles in particular.
It was almost as if I inquired, “How did I end up here?”
I was also a driving instructor for a while. In Colorado, cell phone use is restricted for young drivers. Smart phone use is restricted to taking a call. Data input is not allowed while driving. Therefore you can take your eyes off the road to look at a display. This to me is a distraction. Sound based instructions limit the distractions somewhat over visual observance. They are tougher for law enforcement to judge too. Still, I prefer the windy, whiney road noise of my 71 Scout over the quiet of a new car as a method of limiting distractions.
Linking up to a car’s hand’s free system has various results. First and foremost, I’m careful what I say as I never know who is listening or recording my conversation. Rental cars want to access my contact list. I choose not to allow this however like any phone application; I don’t trust this is prevented from occurring whether or not I choose the option. Second, I believe I pay much more attention to an in-car wireless than with a phone plastered to my ear. This was one advantage that was listed. Having two hands on the wheel is an advantage.
Thus wireless freedom does benefit driving. Still, I feel distracted. There is an amusing negative that takes place due to syncing a phone with a car. Two teenagers stole a car in my neighborhood. This lit up the Facebook community to be on the lookout. When the perpetrators were finally caught, it was revealed that they had both linked their phones to the Bluetooth system. This means that technology might have eventually provided the evidence with which to catch them. Idiots.
The wireless freedom that engineers have enabled is mostly good. Shrinking components and charging systems in addition to improved quality is enabling “All Signal and No Noise”, the Planet Analog by-line. As we continue to improve functionality, the results will be even more freedom; and more use of the bandwidth. That however is the subject of another blog.