Thursday, December 18, 2008

Do you hear what they hear?

I'm far from the first to report on this phenomenon, but as the old NBC sitcom summer re-run promos pointed out, "If it's new to you, it's new."

Last night, my kids were goofing around with my wife's iPhone. My 13-year-old son would press a button, and ask us, "Can you hear that?", and then he and my 11-year-old daughter would laugh hysterically when we responded "No." The process repeated several times, until finally we heard a piercing high-pitch sound. More laughter.

As any middle school kid can tell you, they were playing the "mosquito ring tone" or "teen buzz." I won't belabor the science, which you can Google or read about in this New York Times article, but the basics are that it's a high-frequency tone that can't be heard by most adults over the age of 20 or so--thus, the perfect ringtone for surreptitious texting in a classroom that's banned cellphone use. My wife and I couldn't hear any of the mosquito tones that a teenager could hear, only the one for fortysomethings. (Perfect for sneaky texting in an assisted living facility, I guess.)

Ironically enough, the tone was originally developed by a British scientist seeking to disperse loitering mallrats. I couldn't find any citation about the enterprising yoot who turned the annoying tone into a grownup-proof communication tool.

1 comment:

  1. LOL!! That was funny daddy!! Moo moo tried it at her office and some people could hear it !!!