Skip to content

Answering the call

Phones have fallen victim to becoming an open platform with no barriers to entry and a simple system for computational calling to make it a breeze for scammers.

Seamus Byrne
Seamus Byrne
3 min read
Answering the call
Bo Burnham

I’m working on an article about the death of the telephone.

It kind of feels obvious.

Phone calls, huh? Who likes doing those anymore?

But it’s not just that. It’s that we should be fighting harder to preserve it as a platform.

The wild increase in dodgy robotic calls makes it feel impossible. Calls that aren’t just from overseas, but calls that pretend they’re from a local landline, or a phone number just digits away from your own.

So many respond to the annoyance or sadness that you can’t answer the phone anymore by saying “why would you?” as though it is the simplest thing in the world that one of the most important communication systems in history is no long relevant.

And it’s utterly dismissive of those who need to be ‘on call’.

As a journalist, and as a parent of school age kids, it’s hard to just screen everything. On Tuesday, alongside three robot scam calls, I also had a call from ABC Hobart about doing a radio spot that afternoon. That’s not a number I would have had in my contact list even if it was perfectly accurate with everyone who calls me regularly.

A few moons ago (OK, about 200) I did a keynote for IBM about why the telephone was such a fundamental shift in social norms.

Never before could someone breach the wall of your home or office in real time. They had to post something. Or knock on the door. They had to ask permission for your attention.

Phones DEMAND attention. They scream “I am here and I will continue to interrupt this moment until you deal with me!” It changed how we think about time at home and work. It could always be interrupted by a loud noise generated by someone elsewhere wanting you to give them time.

The big shift recently is computational calling. Like email, it shifted all the effort onto the recipient, because now you can call billions of random digits at minimal cost.

Algorithmic filters on email had the advantage of message content to tell if it was actually worth your time or not. Phone networks are at a wild disadvantage in that regard. Telstra says it now filters millions of calls, but clearly millions more still get through the gate.

Right now I can’t see a future for traditional phone networks as a communication platform. Their curse is being so open. But that’s also precisely why we need them to survive.

Win a 4TB portable drive from Dynabook

Toshiba Canvio Gaming Portable Storage deletes your uninstall anxiety

These new drives are designed to run HDD storage optimised for game console needs at an impressively affordable price.

Brain Food

Female video game journalists on what to do when the mob comes for you

“Remember 98% of the time the people harassing you are not attempting to engage with your work in good faith.”


Nokia X20 review: an 'average' phone ready to take you to 2025

The Nokia X20 feels slightly less than ideal, but nothing is a dealbreaker – it just wants to be a reliable phone for years to come.

Byteside podcast

Is it a game? Is it fitness? Yes, it's Zwift!

We chat with professional cycler turned ANZ manager of Zwift about the company’s game / fitness hybrid that avoids ‘classes’ in favour of fun.

Poly ANZ MD Andy Hurt on shifting AV from the office to the home

For a business focused on conferencing tech, Poly has evolved quickly over the past year. We catch up with Andy Hurt to find out more.

Streaming retro arcade games with Steve Cottam, CEO of Antstream

We chat to the CEO of Antstream about creating a retro game streaming service and how it fits into the future of gaming.


Australia's COVID-19 vaccine certificate now load into digital wallets

Apple Wallet and Google Pay support is now available for Australian COVID-19 vaccination certificates through the latest Medicare app update.

Windows 365 Cloud PC service is now live: here's what you'll pay

The new cloud-based Windows service is available to the public today. Prices vary based on cores, RAM and storage options.

Local, national and calls to mobiles will now be free from Telstra payphones

This is brilliant. Such a good move for both public good and marketing. Those who really need a payphone REALLY need a payphone.

Google's Pixel 6 new chip and camera raise the bar for Android phones

A cheeky reveal shows a new ‘camera bar’ with optical zoom and a new Google Tensor SoC that together make the Pixel 6 a big step forward.

Cool stuff

How and Why to do a Life Audit with 100 post-its

This is from 2014 but I just saw it and boy does this seem like a great “what am I doing with my life?” lockdown project.

“Could I interest you in everything, all of the time.”

TechnologyArt & Culture

Seamus Byrne Twitter

Founder and Head of Content at Byteside.

Related Posts

Paleblue lets you keep traditional batteries charged on the go

Just when you thought traditional batteries were dead, here comes Paleblue with a full range of classic cells that recharge over USB.

Four AA batteries being charged on USB via a laptop USB port.

Damsel looks great

Millie Bobby Brown is stupidly talented and this looks like a very fun fantasy romp with a girl power twist. Lands on Netflix March 8.

Jabra gear converges on a hybrid work audio sweet spot

Not every business accessory maker is getting this hybrid work era right, but it's great to see Jabra is adapting its line up very nicely to the new era.

Jabra Speak2 75 Bluetooth speakerphone sitting on a table next to a laptop