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Kzordcid
04-20-2013, 02:04 AM
This is a slightly silly question, and I feel like I should know the answer, but here goes--

Let's say a fully charged cell phone from the present day finds itself in the past (for argument's sake, the early '90s). There were cell phones at this time, but it would be impossible to make a call from this phone as it's not connected to any plan. Would it be possible to make emergency calls (911), though? Or would it just be a dead weight?

cornflake
04-20-2013, 02:11 AM
This is a slightly silly question, and I feel like I should know the answer, but here goes--

Let's say a fully charged cell phone from the present day finds itself in the past (for argument's sake, the early '90s). There were cell phones at this time, but it would be impossible to make a call from this phone as it's not connected to any plan. Would it be possible to make emergency calls (911), though? Or would it just be a dead weight?

EDIT: And I misspelled the title, of course. 'Question,' not 'Queston.'

You can edit the title of a thread you created - click edit in your post, then click 'go advanced' and I think it's at the top, you'll see the title.

It's not even so much the plan as the technology/network shifts that might sink it in a general sense, but I think the 911 availability was universal even then, but I'm not positive. Did your character bring a compatible charger? ;)

Kzordcid
04-20-2013, 02:14 AM
You can edit the title of a thread you created - click edit in your post, then click 'go advanced' and I think it's at the top, you'll see the title.

It's not even so much the plan as the technology/network shifts that might sink it in a general sense, but I think the 911 availability was universal even then, but I'm not positive. Did your character bring a compatible charger? ;)

Thanks, cornflake! Just fixed it.

Hah, my character doesn't have a charger, so the phone will die eventually. My only concern is how to accurately portray a how a modern cell phone in an age in which cell phones were already available would function.

cornflake
04-20-2013, 02:20 AM
This is the FCC's page (http://www.fcc.gov/guides/wireless-911-services) regarding laws specifying carrier 911 availability. You can probably backsolve it to figure out dates - I only did a cursory search and didn't see a date it went into effect. I could find a date for the gps change but not the general 911 from a deactivated/unattached phone.

JulianneQJohnson
04-20-2013, 02:27 AM
You need someone techier than me, but I would wonder if the phone would work at all. Phones are all digital now. In the 90's were they still analog, or had digital phones started creeping in? Is your modern phone a smartphone? That also might cause issues. Things were 2G back then, I think, and wireless networks may not have existed then.
If I was reading your story as Joe Average Reader, not techie person, I think I could accept a modern day cell phone working for a 911 call is it wasn't a smartphone. For some reason, a smartphone would make me think it wouldn't work.
But maybe it would. Got me dancing.

Drachen Jager
04-20-2013, 04:09 AM
The phone will not work at all.

Cell phones require compatible cell towers to relay the call. Without a tower it won't get any signal, period. It would be akin to trying to use a wired phone to dial out when there's no switchboard. The signal simply goes nowhere.

Unless the cell phone is one of those with walkie-talkie capability of course. Then you can direct call another phone (also equipped with a radio) within a short distance.

Beachgirl
04-20-2013, 04:13 AM
If the phone is an android, you should be able to configure it to work on a slower network, such as 2G which came out around 1993-94. I'm not sure about other phones, though.

Williebee
04-20-2013, 04:15 AM
What Drachen said.

If there is NO cell service, the phone won't have a signal to carry a call, regardless of what is dialed. Add to that, there would be no way to physically wire it to a phone line to adapt it for calling that way.

If it was dropped into the early 90s it might depend on the type of phone, such as an Android. However, you also have the detail of what you are going to connect it to, in order to reconfigure it.

Beachgirl
04-20-2013, 04:16 AM
The phone will not work at all.

Cell phones require cell towers to relay the call. Without a tower it won't get any signal, period. It would be akin to trying to use a wired phone to dial out when there's no switchboard. The signal simply goes nowhere.

Unless the cell phone is one of those with walkie-talkie capability of course. Then you can direct call another phone (also equipped with a radio) within a short distance.

There were cell phone towers in the 1990's that used 2G. I know this because I got my first mobile phone in the early 90's and it was on a 2G network. The coverage wasn't nationwide, of course, but it was pretty solid in the metropolitan areas (I was in Dallas and could get a signal in most places).

ETA: Without a service plan calls to anything but 911 wouldn't work.

Williebee
04-20-2013, 04:20 AM
There were cell phone towers in the 1990's that used 2G. I know this because I got my first mobile phone in the early 90's and it was on a 2G network. The coverage wasn't nationwide, of course, but it was pretty solid in the metropolitan areas (I was in Dallas and could get a signal in most places).

ETA: Without a service plan calls to anything but 911 wouldn't work.

Me too! (In Dallas, with a 'bag phone' in the early 90s.)

:)

Beachgirl
04-20-2013, 04:23 AM
Me too! (In Dallas, with a 'bag phone' in the early 90s.)

:)

Yep, that's what I had, too. It was like carrying a brick around, but we looked oh-so-cool, didn't we? :D

Kzordcid
04-20-2013, 04:31 AM
Thanks so much for the feedback, everyone! I really appreciate it, and it's helping a lot.

Drachen Jager
04-20-2013, 04:47 AM
There were cell phone towers in the 1990's that used 2G. I know this because I got my first mobile phone in the early 90's and it was on a 2G network. The coverage wasn't nationwide, of course, but it was pretty solid in the metropolitan areas (I was in Dallas and could get a signal in most places).

ETA: Without a service plan calls to anything but 911 wouldn't work.

I was tired and read too quickly apparently. I missed the bit where this is in the '90s.

I thought this was a question about pre-cell phone times.

cbenoi1
04-20-2013, 05:37 AM
Most basebands have multi-protocol stacks and hardware. Qualcomm's Snapdragon can go back as far as the old CDMA 1x / GSM 850/1900 era. Same with TI and ST chipsets. GSM has been a resilient protocol; there are still 'emergency-only' phones being sold that use GSM (no need for a SIM card for emergency calls).

So yep, your quad-band super smartphone will work on good ol' GSM networks for a 911 call.


-cb

debirlfan
04-20-2013, 07:58 AM
Someone can probably correct me on this, but if I recall, until recent years the 911 system worked differently with cell phones, right? Assuming your modern phone would connect with 911 at all, it might not connect locally, and I'm fairly certain you would have to actually tell them your location.

Cornelius Gault
04-20-2013, 08:11 AM
Considering how my cell phone got disconnected because I didn't use it for awhile and my number was reassigned, it really takes a lot of things working together to get a cell phone to work EVEN TODAY. I don't think there would be much possibility of getting it to work UNLESS you went to a cell phone store and had it configured.

amschilling
04-20-2013, 05:16 PM
*When* in the 1990s will be important here. Prior to 1996, calls made on cell phones to 911 routed through the service provider first. You had to verify your subscription to the network before being routed to the local PSAP (Public Safety Answering Point). In 1996 the FCC passed a rule that said they had to route direct.

You also had the issue of coverage--if you were in an area where coverage was spotty, you might bounce off a number of towers before being connected. This meant that you didn't always end up connecting to the local PSAP. Sometimes, you ended up being connected to another state even.