Broadcast: February 25, 2004
This is Faith Lapidus.
And this is Steve Ember with EXPLORATIONS in VOA Special English. Today we tell about new technology that makes communication faster and easier.
Our report begins high in the mountains of northern California’s Shasta-Trinity National Forest. A man and his son have reached an area called Little Mount Hoffman. It is more than two-thousand meters high in the beautiful mountains.
The two are camping. They carry all their clothing, food, water and other things they need on their backs. They have come to this area of the great national park to enjoy the outdoors.
It is late in the day and both are hungry. They build their camp for the night and cook their evening meal.
After their meal, the man reaches into his pack and pulls out a special kind of telephone. It can be used from anywhere on Earth. It does not use wires. It links with a system of satellites in orbit high above the Earth.
Minutes later, the man talks to a business partner in Japan. They discuss developments that are important to their company.
A few minutes later, the young boy uses the telephone to talk to his mother. She is at home, in Miami, Florida. He tells her not to worry. The two of them are having a good time. He tells her he will call again tomorrow night.
Satellite telephones are not really new. But now they can be used anywhere in the world. Also, satellite telephones were once very large. Now, they are not much larger than any other small telephone. And, they are no longer as costly as they once were.
A company called Iridium produces a satellite telephone. It also supplies the link to satellites. The Iridium company uses more than fifty satellites that provide communications for their telephones.
Iridium and several other companies in the United States offer satellite telephones for less than four-hundred dollars.
Most satellite telephone companies charge money each month for the service. They also charge money for each call made on the telephone.
The satellite telephone is without equal as an emergency communications or business tool. It is possible to link a satellite telephone with a computer. The computer can be used to send large amounts of information very quickly to anywhere in the world.
The telephone can also be linked with cameras and video cameras that can link with computers. People who travel to Tibet to climb Mount Everest use this kind of technology. These mountain climbers have made the satellite telephone an important part of their equipment. They often use these special telephones to send photographs and videos and to talk to family members from the highest mountain in the world.
The satellite telephone is only one of many new telephones that have recently appeared on the market. Perhaps the most changes have been made to the wireless cellular or cell phone. A cell telephone is very different from a satellite telephone. It can not be used in areas that do not have the necessary receiving equipment.
New cell phones can send voice communications, color photographs and written information called text messages. They can even receive electronic mail. Like the satellite telephone, the newest cellular telephones keep getting smaller.
In fact, the N-E-C Corporation announced recently that it will soon market the smallest camera-equipped cellular telephone. It is eighty-five millimeters wide and only eight-point-six millimeters thick. It weighs only seventy grams. It has a color screen to show the photographs it takes and to show photographs that have been sent to it.
Critics of such devices say they can be used to take photographs of people who do not know they are being photographed. However this has not stopped the sale of cell phones equipped with cameras.
Gartner Dataquest is a research company in Amsterdam, the Netherlands. Recently, Gartner Dataquest reported that more than five-hundred-million cell phones were sold around the world last year.
This number is far higher than what industry experts had expected. The Gartner company says they expect more than five-hundred-sixty-million new cell phones will be sold this year.
Cellular telephones have become extremely common throughout the world. You can see people talking on cell phones as they walk along the street. You can see others talking on cell phones as they drive their vehicles.
They have become extremely popular in Asia. In two-thousand-two, Business Week Magazine reported that India had fewer than eight-million cell phone users. However, the magazine reported that the market for cellular telephones in India was growing at more than eighty percent each year.
The magazine said India will have forty-four-million cellular telephone users by two-thousand-six. India is reportedly becoming the third largest market for cell phones in Asia after China and Japan.
Communication industry experts say Americans spent about one-hundred-thirty-thousand-million dollars on all wireless communications last year in the United States. Wireless means communications devices that are not connected or linked to anything using a wire. This includes computers, cell phones, satellite telephones and other devices.
The experts say that by two-thousand-seven, Americans will spend more than one-hundred-ninety-thousand-million dollars each year on wireless communication.
The experts say wireless communication will continue to expand in the future. They say people will use wireless communications devices to play games and send fast messages. They may also be able to watch movies with a small hand-held device.
One company says it already produces a device that experts say will be part of the future. The device is called a Blackberry.
A Blackberry is a cellular telephone. It can also send and receive written messages. It has four different ways to send and receive electronic mail from the Internet communications system. A Blackberry has the same kind of keys as a typewriter to enter information. It has a memory that holds names and address information. It has a calendar and space for a list of tasks. It will immediately tell you if you have a phone call or e-mail message.
The Blackberry’s cell phone can be used in almost any country. The newest Blackberry costs about three-hundred dollars. It costs about seventy dollars a month to be linked to the services that a communications company provides.
Radio technology has also improved recently. Many people have problems listening to the radio while driving long distances in their cars. They lose the broadcast signal when they drive too far from a radio station.
Two American companies have solved that problem. They have made it possible to drive a car across the country and listen to the same radio station during the whole trip. The Sirius and X-M Satellite Radio companies broadcast their signal from a satellite in orbit.
The two companies provide more than one-hundred different programs. The choices include many kinds of music, like jazz, country and western, classical, hip-hop, rock and bluegrass. Their satellite communication system also provides news broadcasts twenty-four hours a day. The car radio that receives the satellite transmission costs as little as one-hundred dollars. Both X-M and Sirius charge a small amount of money each month for their service.
Communications experts say satellite telephones, cell phones, devices like the Blackberry and satellite radio are just the beginning.
The experts say new cell phones permit users to watch television and to record and send video pictures. Still other devices will provide any kind of music on demand. These new devices are changing the way we do business, have fun and communicate with each other.
This Special English program was written by Paul Thompson. It was produced by Mario Ritter. This is Steve Ember.
And this is Faith Lapidus. Join us again next week for another EXPLORATIONS program on the VOICE OF AMERICA.