Posts Tagged ‘it’

The Death of the Phone Call

January 6th, 2011 1 comment

I recently came across this interesting article on about the decreasing use of phone calls.  It wasn’t long ago that many of us (such as Tia) were not at all into texting (SMS) and thought that it made more sense to just pickup the phone and place a call:

According to Nielsen, the average number of mobile phone calls we make is dropping every year, after hitting a peak in 2007. And our calls are getting shorter: In 2005 they averaged three minutes in length; now they’re almost half that.

Consider: If I suddenly decide I want to dial you up, I have no way of knowing whether you’re busy, and you have no idea why I’m calling. We have to open Schrödinger’s box every time, having a conversation to figure out whether it’s OK to have a conversation. Plus, voice calls are emotionally high-bandwidth, which is why it’s so weirdly exhausting to be interrupted by one.

The telephone, in other words, doesn’t provide any information about status, so we are constantly interrupting one another. The other tools at our disposal are more polite. Instant messaging lets us detect whether our friends are busy without our bugging them, and texting lets us ping one another asynchronously. (Plus, we can spend more time thinking about what we want to say.) For all the hue and cry about becoming an “always on” society, we’re actually moving away from the demand that everyone be available immediately.

In fact, the newfangled media that’s currently supplanting the phone call might be the only thing that helps preserve it. Most people I know coordinate important calls in advance using email, text messaging, or chat (r u busy?). An unscheduled call that rings on my phone fails the conversational Turing test: It’s almost certainly junk, so I ignore it. (Unless it’s you, Mom!)

Source: Clive Thompson on the Death of the Phone Call (

Categories: Technology Tags: ,

Texas Advanced Computing Center at UT Austin

October 23rd, 2010 No comments

Last week I joined a few colleagues at work on a field trip to the Texas Advanced Computing Center at UT Austin.

A few of the highlights of our tour:

  • Ranger – a supercomputer which was ranked fourth fastest in the world in June 2008.  Ranger accurately predicted the path of Hurricane Ike 3 days before it hit Houston in 2008.

  • Visualization LaboratoryStallion, a 307 megapixel tiled-display system.  They’ve taken 23 Dell gaming machines and combined them with a grid of 75 Dell 30 inch flat panels to produce an amazing unified screen.  Also on display was a 3D HDTV demo.

  • Fluid Immersion Cooling System – Apparently it’s more cost effective to cool servers with mineral oil than it is with conventional airflow (fans).  TACC had a complete rack of servers submerged in mineral oil.  It was quite strange to see computers, immersed in liquid, turned on with lights blinking.  The system is made by Green Revolution Cooling.

Fluid Immersion Cooling System (by Green Revolution Cooling)

TAAC Visualization Laboratory