Bye Bye Dial-Tone reliability

Ok, so this is a bit of a rant but it's been something that has been a very irritating topic for a few years now; dropped calls on mobile phones.

In the not-too-distance past, we used to talk about trying to get computers to reach a point of 'Dial Tone Reliability'.  This was a reference to the fact that in the past, with copper based, 'Plain Old Telephone Service' (POTS), when you picked up the phone you always got a dial tone. Even when the electricity went off, the phone would still work.  This was the pinnacle of reliable technology.  The phrase is still used today as a benchmark for reliability by WebEx and Oracle and several others in their advertising. Well I guess if you can't join them, infiltrate them and beat them into submission. Hence my affinity for Killer Coding Ninja Monkeys.

We've been going down hill ever since the mid 90's when this statement became popular. Computers have become more unreliable because we are rushing to market, and trying to cram every feature into the software that we possibly can.  There has been a lot of focus on secure development but what has happened to the Availability, leg of the Confidentiality, Integrity, and Availability triangle?

This is especially a problem now with mobile phones. The tighter the integration with computers, the worse they are getting. It doesn't matter which model you have, or which OS is running on it, they crash on a regular basis.  They have to be reset, and updated almost weekly if not daily. In most cases, making phone calls appears to be optional. Mobile phones, yes including the Apple iPhone, are now unreliable compared to the Dial Tone Reliability we used to have. 

15 years ago there was no such thing as a dropped call.  True, we've gained many many benefits from mobile phones like being reachable anytime (including when we should be enjoying time with our families, and sleeping) and anywhere (well almost except for the dead zones and out of service areas, in secured buildings, etc.) including in the car so we can now become a traffic hazard while we make our calls.  In the past, when you needed to make a call, you picked up a phone and the call always went through. Now you hit speed dial or use your voice command and pray the planets are aligned.

If you weren't near a phone, you waited until you got to one rather than becoming a traffic hazard.  Was it really such a bad thing to wait for 10 minutes before you called someone? I know most of us could use that extra 10 minutes to sort out what we want to say rather than making brash knee jerk statements. But now we don't have to worry about it because there's a good chance that we'll be out of a coverage area, or that the call will get dropped. 

With the advent of VoIP invading offices and even homes around the world, we have corrupted simple, reliable technology.  When you combine VoIP with unstable mobile phone calls, and then trying to get something like Skype into the mix, your chances of making a successful phone call fall below 60%. (based on my experience).

Now that we are connecting our phones to our computers with all kinds of connectivity and SIP options, what happens to making a simple phone call? Now, we're entering a situation where if you are using your PC to make calls through your VoIP system, you have to boot your PC to make emergency calls.  Think about that, now, in order to call an ambulance, you not only have to count on the reliability of the new phone software and VoIP network but your PC as well.  So how do you feel about it now?

Great so now we have devices that can take pictures, play music, manage our calendars (since our memory is shot now), email, SMS, keep our contacts together and sometimes make phone calls. I'd be happy with reliable phone calls. After all isn't that the main function of a phone? Don't sacrifice the primary function of the device for bells and whistles. Make sure the phone part works first, then add email and stuff. The main purpose of the phone has been corrupted and lost in the mess that is the All In One Device now.

Look, I love my job, and I work for this company because I feel they are actually doing far better work than others out there. But I think the entire industry needs to take a step back. Slow the hell down. There is no such thing as Dial Tone Reliability anymore because the IT Industry has killed it. It may not be sexy to have a 12 button analog phone wired to the wall and a piece of paper with names and numbers on it, but at least I could always make a call with it.

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