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These Adults Made The Longest Tin Can Phone

All the cool cats in the 90s had one of these things.
March 7, 2013, 2:00pm

If you came of age in the 90s like me, you probably grew up balls-deep in Mr. Wizard, Bill Nye, Beakman, et al. Not to mention toys and games that were fuel for our growing imaginations or whatever. Before the iPad there were knee pads and all the bumps and bruises that came from climbing trees and shit.Yeah, thems were the days: calamine lotion and Surge; Dr. Robotnik and Dr. Pepper.

Nostalgia will break your heart and there ain't an app for it, either. At least not one that isn't post-ironic or crumby. Lego my memories, the future, I liked you better when I needed a Delorean to hang with you.


What's cool as hell is my buddy Isaac Ravishankara made a tin can phone. All the cool cats in the 90s had one of these things. Pee Herman, Rocky from 3 Ninjas' girlfriend Emily. Isaac's might be the longest one in the world if he can get the Guiness Book of World Records people over to his bungalo to take some measurements. That shit is probably gone too, though; gone the way of the Pog and the Tamagotchi. Check out the video below of Isaac and his friends living the childhood dream and after you're done, read a little Q and A I did with the guy.

Motherboard: Look, you've done it. I think I speak on behalf of all of the children of our generation when I say thank you. I'd toast to you with a Mondo or Kool Aid Burst if I could. 

Ravishankara: Haha. Cheers. *Pokes the straw through the bottom of his Capri Sun* Cool kids rock it upside down.

Can you give a little bit of background on how this project came together?

Sure. First thing that happened is that Sean Foreman moved into a house in Echo Park. Then, totally coincidentally, the house I moved into in Echo Park was very close to his. We've known each other since like 3rd grade. And then all of a sudden, I can see his front porch from my balcony. For the first few months, we'd been joking about building a zipline. But then the idea settled to a tin can phone. "Well, if not a zipline, we should at least build one of those old school cup phones, right?". Then I think the next morning I emailed him and basically said, "Hey, let's do it. or at least lets try". I think everything worth doing starts with that phrase: "Let's at least try".


Two full days and a lot of climbed trees and precarious string free-ing scenarios later, we finally got the line totally free between our two houses. I think its about 650 feet. And after the first call was made, we sent a camera down the line to capture the feeling, and went back and re-enacted the conversation that lead into the project as part of the project, because "why not?" Maybe that's the better mantra: "Why not?"

Is it really the longest tin can phone ever? Who has the record here?

We can't really tell. We Googled it from our phones while we were making it. Nothing. Guinness officially doesn't have one. We should get them to come out.

How often do you use this thing?

We just got it up and running, so that's TBD. Its mostly just for fun. Every time we've used it we still email or call or text the other person first to say, "hey, go outside and try the phone." Its an examination on modern communication in that way. Something that we built into the mini-doc. Oh, and also, there needs to be no wind or motorcycles, apparently, or anything that approaches any of the harmonic frequencies of the string or it just starts moaning.

Do you love the movie 3 Ninjas?

Yes. All three of the real ones. I was a Colt fan, myself. And Especially High Noon at Mega Mountain, which they shot at my hometown amusement park, Elitch Gardens in Denver. RIP.

Are those tomato cans really tin?

To the best we're able to examine at the moment, I would say "yes," within an accuracy of 2 standard deviations. The specific brand was selected for its combination of aesthetic value and wide base circumference to optimize the diaphragm.


How long is the lag time?

To be determined. The experimental stages of optimal frequency, amplitude, lag, resonance, and whatnot are just beginning.

When you aren't making can phones, what sort of shit are you up to?

For the most part, directing music videos. I have a website and all that. I started making music videos for Sean's band 3oh!3. We've done like 8. I also run a non profit called OMG Everywhere that focuses on teaching film through collaborative learning between directors and kids.

What's next for your quarter-life crisis?

Like I said, zipline. Definitely. Maybe an enormous baking soda volcano. Basically, now that we're adults, we can actually fulfill all the things we never did as kids, but make them mean something. This xkcd comic entirely somes it up.

Will you hang out with me in LA and let me play with the phone?

Yep. Of course. Although we take it very seriously. Its not for play. And we're currently testing out a variety of minute/data/usage plans.