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Friday, 16 November 2012






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Madness in a mobile

It was the latter part of the 1960s. We lived in the Maradana police flats as my father was in the service. He had an official telephone fixed at home as he was a section head. It was like winning a lottery for us. There were only a few phones around in all flats. Probably, three or four phones for 150 houses. Although my school friends had my telephone number, I received only a few calls, as not many of them had telephones at home. It was very difficult to get a telephone in those days. It was only a few people we knew and some relatives had telephones. I liked to show off our telephone, by standing near the window, by holding the receiver to the ear pretending to be talking to someone. I also used to call home from the Maradana railway station which was situated a few yards away from our home, using a five cent coin. Things were different in those days.

New communication era

The very first chordless telephone I saw in 1983 belonged to a leading lawyer who lived in Borella. I completed my apprenticeship under him before taking oaths. He also had the habit of using the chordless phone standing by the front door facing Cotta road. That instinct of showing off phones became a norm with mobile phone users when they first appeared on the scene.

A hand held mobile phone was first manufactured in 1973 by Motorola. Before that the mobiles were in small suitcases with a long areal which had to be extended before making a call. A business friend of mine in Colombo had one of those mobiles in the 80s and he also had a person to carry it around with him. The one made in 1973 measured 2.5 pounds in weight, 9 inches in length, two inches in width and 5 inches in depth. It was the size of a brick which also could have been used as a weapon. It had a small areal. Mobiles became small and practical in the 1980s.

Mobile phones can make life easy and it also can be a nuisance. The time when we had no mobiles was not complicated as today. Parents were sure that we would come back home after school ready to eat a horse. Now even five year olds have mobiles to be in touch with the parents. Some parents call their children's mobiles requesting them to come down stairs for dinner. It has gone that far. That's the consequence of the new communication era.

The latest mobile phones are small computers. You can browse the web, send emails, take pictures, do video recording and send them to other phones, face book or any where you like. The communication methods like Skype, Face Time, Viber are totally free. You can see the person you call from where ever in the world. They are free but you need Wi-fi or mobile data system to get connected. But with this type of technology you cannot lie to your other half of your where-about.

Welikda prison riots

Luckily there was no mobile communication or Internet in 1971. If it is not the case the JVP would never have messed up 5th of April for the 4th. Then the history wouldn't have been the same.

My attempt is to discuss two incidents which occurred recently with regard to mobile phones. One was general and the other is my own experience. The first is the riots at Welikda prison. It is said that the prisoners and the detainees were using mobile phones. It would have been more sensible to fix a device which can jam the mobile signals. Then the prisoners would not have been able to make telephone calls. They are available even on line. But it will also have an effect on mobiles use by the prison officers. But some innocent lives would have been saved by this.

The second one was the most appalling, pathetic, undisciplined act I saw for some time. It was last Thursday in our Parliament. I had the opportunity to attend Parliament when the President presented the budget speech. I could clearly see both sides of the Chamber from where I sat. As soon as the President started his speech, a front bencher of the Opposition took his mobile phone out and started using it. He was on the phone for more than an hour and a half on and off throughout the President's speech. He once pretended to be reading a newspaper too. There were Ambassadors, High Commissioners and foreign representatives present in the gallery listening to President's speech. They all could see clearly what was happening in the Chamber.

Are these the people, voters send to represent them in Parliament to look after their interests. I don't know whether he was passing facts of the budget on the phone as it was read, to his constituency. But it looked like that he wanted to show the entire world that he would not give a damn about our country's leader or the budget. Are these the people who plan to run this country if they win. If they can behave like this even in a weak opposition, think of what will happen if they are on the other side of the Parliament Chamber.


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