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Letter: Front-porch visits better than cellphones

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Note: The statements, views, and opinions contained in this letter to the editor are those of the author and are not endorsed by, nor do they necessarily reflect, the opinions of The Republic.

From: Noel Taylor


A friend of mine is considering early retirement from the phone company. He explains that there are plans in the works to replace all copper wire connections with fiber optics and wireless by 2020, which means the job he and thousands of other folks do won’t exist any more.

That’s a significant issue to him, since he’s barely 50 and 2020 is less than six years away.

It’s an issue to me for a different reason: bandwidth. Wired phone lines traditionally have carried only one signal per line, but that signal can carry a lot of information. Cellphone towers and fiber-optic communications can carry many signals, but there’s a trade-off due to our current practice of squeezing as many signals as possible into one section of bandwidth.

That squeeze requires a significant reduction in the amount of information each separate signal can carry. Anyone who has compared listening to music on his own stereo system to trying to listen to a friend’s stereo through two cellphones knows what I’m talking about.

Information loss affects me. When I’m talking with someone through my copper-wire-connected home phone and theirs, I hear a lot of information that I don’t hear when one or both of us are using a cellphone — tone, breathing and background sounds, for starters.

Cellphone bandwidth is often so narrow that we lose even some of the words.

No matter, you say? We can always text, where tone, breathing and background are completely eliminated.

I remember that my friend has a nice porch, so maybe in the long run this new technology will bring back front porches, drop-in visits and better listening in person. One can always hope.

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