Burning Man Pages by Brad Templeton
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Free phone booth at Burning Man
Burning Man deliberately takes place in a harsh, remote location. Each year, 30,000+ people gather and build a city of art on the flat playa of the Black Rock Desert in northern Nevada, then dismantle it a week later -- to the point that after cleanup, you can't even tell it was there. It's an environment devoted to being appreciated, commerce-free -- about art and technology and shared experience.
The Black Rock Desert is where the rocket cars broke the sound barrier. It's a perfectly flat dry lakebed, the location miles from the nearest village of Gerlach, and about 90 miles from Reno, the nearest significant city.
In other words, it's about the last place you would expect to find a phone booth, which is why I had to build one. Ideally I wanted a traditional "superman" style booth, and those can be found, but cost a fortune to ship, so we went with a more modern pedestal style phone. The goal was to have the phone just sitting there, mounted on the desert floor, connected to nothing, yet working, just where it shouldn't.
We did it, and the results were amazing and surprisingly emotional. People refused to believe it, then cried out with joy when it became real. In spite of problems, about 1600 calls were made all over the world.
From here you can read:
A phone booth is highly familiar technology -- though especially with the younger crowd, you will find many people who have almost never used them since they grew up with cell phones. Placing it in a setting where it shouldn't be made people look at it like it was new. The exclamations of surprise and joy that people made hearing the voices of distant love ones they had been out of touch with for only a week were perhaps a tiny taste of how people reacted to the phone when it was novel.
The form factor made a big difference, too. I had a cell-phone like 802.11 phone which did not raise nearly so many eyebrows. The form factor generated certain impressions and expectations.
Other Burning Man Stuff
The folks behind the phone include myself (EFF Chair, ClariNet founder, rec.humor.funny), Brent Chapman (Majordomo creator and Firewall expert), JC Dill, John Gilmore (EFF and Cygnus founder, provider of satellite dish) and tireless Wireless Network builders Clif Cox, Ralf Muehlen, and Harvie Branscomb. Broadvoice provided the VOIP services and free long distance.
Help me find 'em: I am looking for the names of these burners I met on the Playa. If you know their names, please mail me at btm @ templetons.com. Clink on thumbnail for larger image.