When does a gadget become a necessity?

Continuing my geeky theme week, a while back I came across an article in the Kansas City Star titled Federal program buys cell phones for the poor. Here are a few excerpts from it:
“When does a luxury become an absolute bare necessity?”

Roughly one in 10 American households qualifies for a direct phone subsidy. In a fast-growing number of states, including Missouri, that equates to a free cell phone.

It is both news and history — the extension of longstanding telephone subsidies for the poor, and cell carriers taking advantage of virtually guaranteed profits.
Geeky cell phone technology aside, I have to admit that the first question really caught my attention. For years many of us heard of all the abuses in government welfare including stories replete with food stamp purchases of cigarettes and booze. Thinking about a federal program that buys cell phones for the less fortunate pushes the envelope a bit further. It begs the question of what is a need and what is not. And just when I seem to have it nailed down I read something like this:
Those who work with the poor say a cell phone may be the difference between landing a job or not, hearing from a child’s teacher, or being able to call for an ambulance.

“When somebody is trying to get a job and keep their life together,” said John Hornbeck of Episcopal Community Services in Kansas City, “having some kind of telephone contact becomes absolutely essential.”
That spins this issue in a different direction for me. I wonder though if this rationalization really holds water. Is a telephone an absolute necessity to obtain employment? Maybe it is. If so then a the cost of cell phone is probably a cheaper vehicle than a land line. It does get you to wondering about how we have embedded technology into our culture. Employers need a phone number. Schools need one too. Credit card companies and businesses also ask for that 10 digit number. Maybe a phone number is no longer a luxury? Maybe this gadget is critical to living in the USA? What do you think?

1 comment:

  1. Well I guess I might have to rethink my attitude when I saw a homeless man, with a cardboard sign asking for money...while he was on his "cell phone".... My immediate thought, was...hey if you can afford a cell phone, why are you sitting here asking for money...to pay the bill??

    Things are just so different in our society now, I long sometime for the less complicated life, but then I also long for the rapture.

    Interesting article Bob.


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