Reassurance You’re Being Heard

If I could change one thing in the world, I would reengineer cell phones so the person talking could hear their own voice in the earpiece of their phone…as someone who grew up with landlines, I can tell you: Hardwired phones were engineered and designed to give you the confidence that you were being heard—which is why people would whisper into their phones and know that they were being heard because they could hear their whispering voice in the earpiece as loud as they could hear their regular, full-volume speaking voice. It was compressed and loud and audible. And it’s a little bit of a reassurance that you’re being heard. The limitations of cell-phone technology are such that your voice would be delayed if you heard the actual, real signal. It’s not coming back in real time. So they just make the receivers dead, like you only hear the other end of the line, which is why everybody shouts into their cell phones. Nobody shouts into landlines. You can be in a phone booth by a highway and you can just talk and you can tell that people can hear you. But when you’re holding this dead object that is the cell phone, it makes you scream. And this is a very low-cost engineering solution to the problem of cellular telephony. I’ve thought about it a lot.”

– John Flansburgh, from this great interview

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