vrijdag, januari 31, 2003

New Telephone Call Algorithms in NYC

"It is possible that the telephone has been responsible for more business inefficiency than any other agency except laudanum.... In the old days when you wanted to get in touch with a man you wrote a note, sprinkled it with sand, and gave it to a man on horseback. It probably was delivered within half an hour, depending on how big a lunch the horse had had. But in these busy days of rush-rush-rush, it is sometimes a week before you can catch your man on the telephone." - Peter Benchley

As if the new ban on smoking in public places due to take effect March 30th wasn't enough of a hardship on New Yorkers, beginning tomorrow, we're all going to have to start dialing "1" plus the area code before making any local phone calls. That's right sports fans. 11 digits instead of the usual 7 to call across the street to order a pizza or some chinese food.

Admittedly, this may not sound like much of an added burden until you put it in the proper perspective: this is a 57 PERCENT INCREASE in the number of digits to use to make a simple local phone call! Lest you think, bah, 57 percent, that's nothing, think of 57% in this vein:

According to 2000 census information, there were 83,286 people per square mile in Manhattan. Increased by 57% would mean there would be about 130,759 people per square mile in Manhattan, more than one and half times the amount of people currently squeezing themselves together in Manhattan. You think it's crowded now? Imagine almost twice as many people squeezing into the same number of apartments, standing in front of you in lines, crowding the sidewalks, talking loudly into their cellphones, taking up twice as much space in subway cars, making garbage, coughing, spitting and pissing in public places, killing each other and taking up available cabs. Think Calcutta.

The act of nearly doubling the amount of daily dialing New Yorkers will have to perform will likely result in a new wave of repetitive strain disorders like digital flexor stenosing tenosynovitis, flooding the offices of orthopaedic surgeons throughout New York. This doesn't even consider the type of mental and emotional strain and perhaps even tidal wave of new forms of clinical insanity brought on by the type of matrix theory required for figuring out the new system; reprogramming speed dialing lists, dial-up modems and call forwarding programs, etc.

If you thought the Y2K hysteria created problems, just wait until tomorrow. It was bad enough trying to disseminate the glut of long distance carriers and media personalities, the Terry Bradshaws, Emmitt Smith, Mike Piazza and Alf commercials for 10-10-220 predials for long distance savings and the 1-800 COLLECT AT&T and 800 CALL ATT commercials featuring people like that unyieldingly painful red-headed human pez dispenser, Carrot Top and the distractingly provocative traffic-stopper, Eva Savealot.

Now try to figure out, once you've dailed the prerequisite 1-212 or 1-646 or 1-347 or 1-800 or 10-10-220 prefix, just who the hell it is you were trying to call to begin with. Was it a local call? A long distance call? A prank call? In the end, I'm afraid I'll have so many numbers and possible combinations in my head, just picking up the phone to begin with is going to turn into some sort of horrific LSD trip nightmare with the demons of celebrities and algorithm mathematicians and AT&T operators and incalculable number strings all shouting inside my head for attention.

The etymology of the word "telephone" is that it is a combination of the Greek "tele" ("distant") and "phone" ("sound"). Sure, an instrument that converts voice and other sound signals into a form that can be transmitted to remote locations and that receives and reconverts waves into sound signals sounded like a good idea once. But if I have to dial millions of combinations of numbers to enjoy this technology, I'm just not interested. From now on, I'll just stay within shouting distance of everyone I want to talk to.

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