Jonathan Zimmerman: About those cell phones only kids hear ringing

Roundup: Historians' Take

[Jonathan Zimmerman ( teaches history at New York University and lives in Narberth.]

According to recent news articles, American teenagers are using a high-pitched cell phone tone that many adults cannot hear. The reports have sparked alarm among schoolteachers, who fear that the new tone will let their students take calls in class.

But the captains of American industry aren't afraid of change. Instead, they embrace it! Even as we speak, creative businesses are developing an array of adult-proof products. Here are just a handful of them:

The Invisible Television: Emits rays that only adolescents can detect. Mom and Dad will think you're staring into space. Instead, you're staring at reruns of Malcolm in the Middle.

"Open Access" Software: Have your parents blocked your favorite Web sites? Using obscure computer jargon, this program lets you "unblock"
the sites. In field trials, nobody over 18 was able to follow the directions.

The Hard-Core Car Radio: Plays grunge, techno, hip-hop, and everything else adults hate... but on a frequency they can't hear! Makes those long family drives a lot more pleasant for everyone involved.

Teen-Speak Morse Code: For special occasions when you really don't want your parents to know what you're saying. A voice-activated machine will automatically insert like or cool into every clause and sentence, scrambling your speech beyond adult recognition. But your friends will be, like, cool with it.

Scentless Beer:You drink for the taste, right? Yeah, right. But adults can't taste this beer - and they certainly can't smell it on your breath. Perfect for prom night.

The Adjustable Clock: Do your parents hassle you about being late? It's time we moved to your own clock, my friend. Go to a computer, click the mouse a few times, and this clock will slow down - or even move backward. Mom and Dad will be too stressed out to notice.

The Subliminal Advertiser: Let's suppose there's a special product you want - an MP3 player, a video game, what have you - but your folks say it's too expensive. This video camera lets you splice microcosmic advertisements into their TiVo-ed Sopranos episode. You'll get the prize, and they'll get the bill!

So stop worrying, America. As the very old song goes, by some band I can't remember right now, "The Kids Are Alright." And even if they're not, we'll never know the difference.

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