Simon Says » communiqué 040/February 2020

Simon Says: communiqué 040/February 2020

Hello everyone

Are you getting used to 2020?

I’m not sure we’re living in the futuristic world that 2020 implies, but we do have some really small phones…

Staying in Contact

In the last decade or so, the smartphone has become prevalent.

While we call these devices phones, many people don’t make (voice-to-voice) telephone calls with them. Instead these tools are used as portable computers where people can check their email, browse for cinema tickets, pay for a coffee with one tap, and read the news, all the while taking selfies to record the day’s activities.

However, there are still many people for whom conventional phone calls are their prime means of communication and the “smart” functionality offered by many phones is unimportant (or less important). And for some, the choice of how they communicate—whether voice-to-voice or through a text app or email—is determined by what kind of phone they can access.

Prison Phones

If you head over to Amazon and search for “prison phone” or “tiny phone”, you’ll find something for around $20/£20 which looks like a phone from the 1990s. And while at first glance the phone looks old fashioned, in truth, what you are seeing is a miracle of miniaturization.

If you’re looking at this photo on a computer screen, the image is likely bigger than the actual size of the phone. In real life, these phones are tiny—this phone is about the size of my thumb or (for those of you who have never seen my thumbs) about the size of a lipstick tube.

While the phone is tiny, it is fully functional and takes a regular SIM card. However, dialing on the phone is not an easy matter—it really needs a stick or similar to press on the keys.

If you’re wondering why the phone is so small, the answer is straightforward: it is intended to be easy to hide. I’m not going to spell it out—you can use your imagination as to where such a device could be hidden on and in the human body. In that context, you’ll understand that the market for these phones is prisoners.

However, what I haven’t figured out is where the charger gets hidden.

If you want a better idea about the size of this phone, head over to my website where you can find some more pictures.

Prevalence of Phones

For the author, the prevalence of phones—and the ability for characters to be able to communicate from anywhere at any time—changes the nature of the stories we tell.

As readers we are used to the many scenarios where a character will take action while not having the full facts. With the prevalence of phones, these scenarios are far less believable since someone would likely have called the character to alert them to the missing piece of information.

Equally, there are many scenarios where a character can bring in reinforcements by making one call, and for the reader, it will seem odd if the character doesn’t make that call. Of course, for the author, there will be a desire to keep the pressure on the character and this is why it became so common in fiction for phones to go flat, break, be lost, get taken, or just lose their signal immediately before they were needed.

These scenarios were usually implausible and I think now most authors have got over this and will find other ways to keep the pressure on their character.

For me, I wanted to make life tough for Leathan Wilkey. He needs his phone, but a permanent phone number could make him traceable. So instead, life is inconvenient for Leathan—he has to receive messages through an answering service and he is slowed by having to change phone number every day.

And to Close

That’s me until March.

If you’re going to jail, be sure to put in your order for a phone quickly. And remember, Amazon deliver everywhere, so they may deliver to a jail near you. Whether the warders will then pass on your package is another matter…

All the best