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The Design Issue 2004

We're Jamming

Is there anything more annoying than being forced to listen to some obnoxious idiot blather into their mobile on public transport?
Κείμενο Brenda Walters

Photo by Si Walker

Is there anything more annoying than being forced to listen to some obnoxious idiot blather into their mobile on public transport? Wouldn’t it be great if you had a battery-powered pocket device—like, say, a phone jammer—that at the press of a button instantly cut their mobile dead so they’d just shut the fuck up? Well now you can thanks to the genius behind, a north London company that manufactures these beauties, which are capable of killing mobile frequencies within a radius of up to 30 metres or so, depending on the size and power of the jammer. It’s the ultimate social stealth weapon. Even NATO and the NYPD want in on the action.

Trouble is, it’s illegal to sell them in the UK under some telecommunications law, but it’s fine to manufacture them here for export. So if you send an order to the guy who makes them, Victor McCormack, he’ll check you out and then decide if he can sell to you. Since he started in 2000, business has boomed. Prices start at $139 for the smallest model (perfect for close-contact phone zapping) and escalate accordingly. “I’m so slack,” he says, “I could be so fucking rich now. I get ten emails a day from different companies wanting things but I can’t be arsed.” He first came across the jammer five years ago in Japan, where it’s a legitimate playground toy, and being an electronics whizz quickly adapted the technology for other cellular markets. It basically emits a radio wave—“a big curtain of noise”—that overpowers the normal mobile phone frequency. Word about the devices soon spread and in early 2002, just before Gulf War II, Victor says both the American and Iraqi governments contacted him on the same day asking for ultra-strong samples. “I didn’t reply, I got scared. I deleted their messages,” he says, still freaked out by the episode. “They wanted ones that could do up to a kilometre area on set frequencies. I don’t sell to the military, someone else can do that. I only wanted to do a cool invention and it spiralled out of control. I’m just into the technology side of it.” These days the police often use phone jammers when carrying out drug raids to disable the criminals’ phones. If it wasn’t illegal to use them, you can bet every cinema, theatre and strip joint in the land would use one to eradicate intrusive ringtones like that brain-mangling “Crazy Frog” earfuck. “I’ve got more inventions to come,” Victor adds. “Organic electronics is the next thing, so let’s see what happens with that one, okay?” **[ ](**