If the phone had not rung at 1:50 a.m. from my friend Lynn's security service saying an alarm went off in her house, it was canceled and she had not called in or answered her phone, I would definitely not have seen the segment on Countdown with Keith Olbermann about a new voice scrambler called BABBLE.
"Babble’ from Herman Miller, designed to add masking human noise to hide the contents of your conversations from nosey office mates. The Babble takes your own conversation clips and spits them back out at random, making it hard to track your actual, current conversation"
I was not worried about my friend Lynn, explaining to the security service that she never answers her phone, takes days to listen to voice mail and doesn't have an email account or a Blackberry.
However, I was wide awake. The Babble caught my attention. The Countdown staff did not give it rave reviews but they gave it okay reviews and this is how The New York Times described the product.
"Two people in an office here were having a tête-à-tête, but it was impossible for a listener standing nearby to understand what they were saying. The conversation sounded like a waterfall of voices, both tantalizingly familiar and yet incomprehensible.
The cone of silence, called Babble, is actually a device composed of a sound processor and several speakers that multiply and scramble voices that come within its range. About the size of a clock radio, the first model is designed for a person using a phone, but other models will work in open office space."
During my five years as a reporter at WWBT-TV in Richmond, Virginia I worked in an open space newsroom. I didn't take a lot of personal calls in those days,and private conversations were held in the ladies room or with photographers going to and from stories.
However, there was one reporter, Steve, who really had a pet name for his girlfriend ---Turkey. And as lovers often do, they talked on the phone quite frequently, replacing their birth names with their pet name,"Turkey". One five minute call could have 20 Turkeys in it, and of course they ended each conversation by either saying, "I LOVE YOU TURKEY" or "I LOVE YOU TOO,TURKEY".
The Babble has a future.Even at $400 a pop, it could be a bargain making people's days incredibly more enjoyable and yes, productive. The Babble might not be perfect yet, but I'd rather listen to babble than to Turkey love.