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Little phone makes a big impression

technofile  by al fasoldt

Columns and commentaries in a life-long dance with technology

Simple gray rule

Little phone makes a big impression 

By Al Fasoldt

Copyright © 1989, The Syracuse Newspapers

I was chopping firewood in my front yard the other day when the little black box in my pocket began beeping.

I know what you're thinking—somebody was paging me. And you're right. The plumber was trying to reach me.

I pulled the thing from my pocket, pushed a button and heard the message—straight from the plumber himself.

A nice little pocket pager, right?

But wait a second. If you think it's amazing that I was able to hear him speaking to me over this tiny device, wait ‘til I tell you the rest of it: I was able to talk right back to him!

Ah, the wonders of technology! A two-way pager that lets you talk to the person who's paging you!

But I wasn't using a pager. I've been leading you on. The thing in my pocket was my phone. Not any old phone, mind you. It's the world's smallest cordless telephone, the Panasonic KX-T3000. It's not much bigger than a deck of cards and yet has all the main features of normal-size cordless phones. And it even has a few features that the bigger ones sometimes lack.

I didn't borrow this phone from the manufacturer. I bought it after seeing it demonstrated at an electronics show. I fell for the lure of technology and couldn't resist.

Panasonic was able to create this tiny phone after developing integrated circuits that are exceedingly small. This allowed them to make the phone as small as it is—but only because the tiny circuit chips also used less electricity than older designs. This, in turn, meant that Panasonic could use a smaller and lighter battery.

The KX-T3000 is a folding phone. Closed up, it is shielded from dirt and inquisitive fingers; opened up, it turns into a slim handset, with all its controls easy to reach.

Among its features are a 10-number memory dialer, automatic last number redial, paging to and from the base station, a volume control and a choice of tone or pulse dialing.

And it has more. The base unit is also a speakerphone, and that means the KX-T3000 can be used for three-way calls.

The person who answers a call at the base unit can act like a switchboard operator, screening out calls after paging the person holding the remote. The "operator" can place the incoming call on hold while talking privately to the person with the portable phone, or all three can talk at once.

Unlike many of the cordless phones I've tried, the KX-T3000 doesn't sound like you're talking on a portable. The audio on the handset is crisp and clear, and the base station's speakerphone could almost be considered hi-fi.

The little Panasonic comes with two batteries. One snaps into a well in the base station so it can be charged while the other one is being used in the handset. A clever residual circuit keeps the phone's 10 stored numbers from being erased while you change the battery.

In my testing, I was able to walk from 300 to 500 feet away from the base station before losing the signal. However, the range was cut to about half that distance when I placed the base station in my kitchen, where the stove, refrigerator and other metal objects blocked the set's radio waves.

After using the KX-T3000 for a few months, I have fallen into the habit of slipping the phone into my shirt pocket and leaving it there all the time.

When I'm inside the house, where I can hear my other phone ringing, I run my finger along the outside of the KX-T3000's case and press a tiny switch that turns the phone off. This saves battery power. When I hear the other phone ring, I flip on the Panasonic and answer it.

When I'm outside, I leave the KX-T3000 on all the time. The battery lasts about 12 hours before needing to be switched with the one in the recharger. (Hanging the phone up on the base station also recharges the internal battery, so you can keep both batteries at full charge all the time.)

Unfortunately, I had the phone set to "on" when the plumber called.

"How about that bill you were going to pay?" he asked me, even before I had finished raising the phone's little antenna.

"The check is in the mail," I told him.

It's a good thing no one's come up with a pocketsize lie detector.

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