Homemade Mobile

Here’s one I’ve been saving for a DIY Friday. I didn’t believe it at first, but apparently there are people out there making their own mobile phones. And of course, in the age of the internet, they’ve inevitably found one another. 

Matt Hamrick hates standard-issue mobile phones almost as much as he loves tinkering with them to make them better.

The software security expert reckons he’s spent around $3,000 over the past two years trying to get his calendar and e-mail to sync between his Apple computer and his phone.

"The phones aren’t getting any better," he says. "I’ve been looking for a phone that would meet my requirements for 10 years now."

That quest gained new momentum this month when the Silicon Valley Homebrew Mobile Phone Club, a group Hamrick co-founded, attracted about 40 people to its first meeting.

The fledgling organization owes its name and inspiration to the famous Homebrew Computer Club of the 1970s, which many historians now credit with innovations that paved the way for the personal computing revolution. Members hope something equally climactic will arise from their new association.

Hamrick’s even written a manifesto of sorts for his movement, and there’s at least one more out there like it. I’m impressed with anyone who takes on the task of building their own mobile phone. After all, like most people (according to one of the manifestos), I’m still figuring out how to use the one I bought. 

In a recent phone conversation with a friend, I needed a phone number of a mutual acquaintance. My friend had the number in his mobile phone, but it took several minutes for me to convince him that he could review numbers stored there without hanging up. The sad part of this is that upon discussing the incident with friends who are responsible for the software in some phones, they laughed at what they viewed as "stupid user behavior." Tsk. tsk. If your phone software is so good, why do most of your customers persist in erroneous beliefs about it’s function?

Good question. I’m a bit further along than the guy who didn’t know he could view numbers without hanging up his phone, but I’m a little iffy on whether I can record numbers without hanging up phone. And I’ve never tried to synch it with anything either, though I’m sure I could. And I know it’s got voice dialing capabilities, but I haven’t figured out how to use that either. 

If these guys are modeled on the Homebrew Computer Club, maybe they’ll do for mobile phones what that group did for desktop innovation. And maybe I’ll use a few more functions on my phone.

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