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It sounds like science fiction, but apparently it’s the latest buzz among teens — literally. A cell-phone ring that adults can’t hear.

An invention, known as the Mosquito, originally marketed to keep teens from congregating in front of stores has now become the secret ringtone that teens are using to get calls and text messages in class or other places where their phones are officiall supposed to be OFF.

A recent story in the New York Times describes the phenomenon this way:

The cell phone ring tone … was the offshoot of an invention called the Mosquito, developed last year by a Welsh security company to annoy teenagers and gratify adults, not the other way around.

It was marketed as an ultrasonic teenager repellent, an ear-splitting 17-kilohertz buzzer designed to help shopkeepers disperse young people loitering in front of their stores while leaving adults unaffected.

The principle behind it is a biological reality that hearing experts refer to as presbycusis, or aging ear. While Musorofiti is not likely to have it, most adults over 40 or 50 seem to have some symptoms, scientists say.

While most human communication takes place in a frequency range between 200 and 8,000 hertz (a hertz being the scientific unit of frequency equal to one cycle per second), most adults’ ability to hear frequencies higher than that begins to deteriorate in early middle age.

“It’s the most common sensory abnormality in the world,” said Dr. Rick A. Friedman, an ear surgeon and research scientist at the House Ear Institute in Los Angeles.

But in a bit of techno-jujitsu, someone — a person unknown at this time, but probably not someone with presbycusis — realized that the Mosquito, which uses this common adult abnormality to adults’ advantage, could be turned against them.

The Mosquito noise was reinvented as a ring tone.

“Our high-frequency buzzer was copied. It is not exactly what we developed, but it’s a pretty good imitation,” said Simon Morris, marketing director for Mosquito Loitering Solutions, the company behind the Mosquito. “You’ve got to give the kids credit for ingenuity.”

The company wasn’t making any money off the ringtone because it was pirated, so the the inventors started selling a ring tone of their own.

Read all about it at the manufacturers’ website.

One teenager interviewed in the NYT story said he figured adults would eventually find a way to bust up the Mosquito party — maybe by hiring “a lot of young teachers.”

Publication Orland Sentinel
Date 14 June 2006
Link orlandosentinel.com

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