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February 17, 2020

Justine Haupt's sublime rotary cell phone

Screen Shot 2020-02-16 at 11.10.00 AM

From Wired:

Justine Haupt never expected that a project she'd been working on for the past three years would suddenly cause her website to crash.

But when Haupt published photos and schematics for her handheld rotary cell phone [top] last Tuesday, that's exactly what happened.

Haupt, who works as an astronomy instrumentation engineer at Brookhaven National Laboratory in New York, detailed how she took the rotary mechanism from an old Trimline telephone, paired it with a micro-controller and an Adafruit FONA 3G cell transceiver, put it all into a 3D-printed casing, and built something that could replace her daily flip phone.

Correct: A flip phone.

Haupt is firmly anti-smartphone, she told WIRED in an interview, and for a long time she's used an LG flip phone for her basic mobile needs.

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[Above, the custom board Haupt created for her phone]

But even that felt like too much, so Haupt's goal with the rotary cell was two-pronged: She wanted to strip a mobile phone down to its absolute essentials, while giving her an even more legitimate excuse for not text messaging her friends.

"The point isn't to be anachronistic," Haupt wrote on her website. "It's to show that it's possible to have a perfectly usable phone that goes as far from having a touchscreen as I can imagine, and which in some ways may actually be more functional."

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[Testing the circuits on breadboards]

"... this wasn't intended to be a product or an invention or anything like that. I just thought for a long time that rotary dials are so cool, they don't have a use in modern society, and I'd love to make myself some device that uses it for data entry. And then I thought, Well, it might as well be a phone. And if I'm gonna do this, it should be something that I could really use. It wouldn't just be a novelty. It would be something I could actually fit in my pocket, that I'd want to use as my primary cell phone."

"That would probably be a tough sell for most people who live with their smartphones. But I'm anti-smartphone, despite working in technology development. All of my friends know that I have a flip phone, or have had a flip phone until now, and that I don't text. I don't. I just don't like being that connected. I don't want to have to respond to people at any point of the day. So this is kind of a way of downgrading my flip phone even more. And then if people say, 'You don't text? Why don't you text?' I could just hold up the phone and say, this is why!"

"And also, you know, smartphones are one thing — you have this finicky annoying touchscreen interface, it drives me crazy, it really does. But then even my flip phone does things that I don't ask it to do, unexpectedly, because some weird button got pushed. I wanted physical keys or buttons I could push for every function and not having to guess whether or not it was actually going to do what I told it to do. You know, when you hold down the power button — is it turning on right now? Is it turning off? I have a switch on my rotary phone. It's a toggle switch, it's either on or it's off. That's it. I just wanted to control the technology. I think people have gone too far acquiescing to the standards of dealing with smartphones."

February 17, 2020 at 02:01 PM | Permalink


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