The flip side of cellphones
For example in the case of cell phones their many advantages are obvious, many having come about incrementally with time, such as the ability to send pictures and so on. However some disadvantages of cellphones are that crooks can use them to make crime more efficient. In the early days muggers stood in banking halls and phoned their buddies outside to tell them who had just drawn a large amount of cash.
After a number of muggings, banks introduced rules such that one cannot phone from the banking hall, or if you must then you have to go and stand in a wooden enclosure. The cellphone technology guys should have been able to have predicted this downside, and have warned the banks long before the muggings took place. The same is true of the cash-in-transit heists in which a military-grade cellphone communications network is set up by the crooks to guide the attackers in on target.
But now I want to moan about another issue that to me is becoming a problem, and that is this ability to send an sms message to a number that has a premium call rate.
This whole thing is now like a plague. Every second TV ad now tells viewers to sms some word or other to win something or other. I am getting really tired of these things getting flashed on the screen all of the time. One also finds the same thing in every magazine and newspaper. This whole thing is now like some sort of pollution and the cellphone folks need to convene study sessions on the magnitude and variations of the potential problem before it gets so out of hand that major remedial action is required.
I am now also seeing a further development, and this is unwanted sms messages arriving on one's phone inviting the phone owner to sms some word back to win a house or whatever. The house one says that the sms message is charged at R30! There are bound to be a number of people who, in a fit of excitement, send back a dozen sms messages only to realise at the end of the month just how much it cost. Is this reasonable?
I also received a message on my phone inviting me to sms back my star sign so that I could get my horoscope for the coming year. I don't want these messages. I find that I am working and concentrating when my phone bleeps a message signal, I stop to read the message only to find this horoscope thing. I am irritated. I can imagine this escalating to the point that my phone is bleeping every 10 minutes with such nuisance messages. It seems to me that it is a piece of cake for anyone to go and get one of these message facilities and to start advertising anything, including pornographic pictures and messages.
Someone I know told me that his phone went off at 2am which scared the daylights out of him because he immediately assumed bad news. But it was one of these horoscope-type things.
Another development that is now happening is incoming telephone calls that have an automatic voice message inviting you to take out someone or other's insurance, or to take up the offer of a loan. Heaven forbid that I start to get one of these every ten minutes as well.
Something needs to be done now about this growing phenomenon before it
really gets out of hand. I am going to do my nut if I get an sms at 2am
inviting me to win a braai or a holiday in Mauritius.
Dr Kemm's column Techtrack appears each week in Engineering News. Engineering News can be accessed at www.engineeringnews.co.za.Back