MOSQUITO RINGTONES: The undercover texter’s dream?

By Vijay Shah

If you are a teenager at school trying very hard to text or WhatsApp your mates during a long boring double lesson of physics, you know that you have to keep your mobile on silent, unless you have an overwhelming desire to see it sitting at the bottom of the teacher’s desk drawer until the end of the day. Your two hours are spent being some kind of undercover texting ninja, keeping one nervous eye on Teach while the other pays more attention to that 10 inch glowing screen.

You then flee the confines of school, only to wind up a paper-pusher with endless mind-draining and soul-destroying meetings.

You develop the almost-criminal urge to whittle up a few hilarious jokes/banter with Dave from Accounts or a quick flirt with Suzy from Marketing (or the other way round). However you do not want the boss thinking that you are paying more attention to your iPhone than her riveting discussion of the Japanese subsidiary’s mid-term closing results.

Dave (Photo credit: The Neal)

Dave: quite the hot stuff, or so he thinks…..

Apparently the Twitterscape has a solution for your secretive SMS escapades, a foolproof guard against cellphone confiscation by overzealous educators or the ‘do-you-have-something-to-share-with-us’ demands of power-tripping project managers who model themselves on Mussolini with a mean streak torn straight off  Thatcher.

Introducing the “Mosquito Ringtone” , scientifically designed to make your phone inaudible to higher-ups, thus allowing for potentially interruption-free conversations.

The ringtones are designed to emit a basic sound that is only audible to people under a certain age. These sounds lie at the highest limit of human hearing and were traditionally used by backpackers and residents of tropical places to ward off mosquitos, carriers of the potentially fatal disease malaria. Camping stores made a killing selling electronic gadgets that emitted these high-pitched buzzes and even radio broadcasts in Brazil made use of ‘mosquito repellant’ music.

It had a limited effect on mozzies/skeeters – and could not stop bitten unfortunates from ending up in a mortuary, but might just spare you from ending up in the Jobcentre or detention room.

The ringtone works on the scientific principle that the older you grow, the weaker your hearing becomes. The tone is virtually inaudible to people above the age of 30, as by then the eardrums and inner age become less active, a condition medically known as presbycusis. The ringtone is therefore aimed at teenagers and young adults whose hearing is still sharp enough to pick up the sound…so they can pick up their calls. Your older teacher or boss will be blissfully unaware.

According to producers Free Mosquito Ringtones, the technology was developed by British inventor and sound engineer Howard Stapleton in 2005. Shopkeepers complained to him of the scourge of young people hanging around outside their stores, looking bored and menacing. Their customers were being frightened off and their sales were falling as a result. He produced a prototype sound alarm that would be an irritant to the teens but have zero effect on older shoppers. Stapleton based his idea on the dog whistle, which emits a pitched sound that is only accessible to canines.

The product was marketed as an ultrasonic teenager repellent taking advantage of the already well-known ultrasonic dog repellent. Emitting a high-pitched whine at 17.4 KHz, the ‘Mosquito‘ technically produced the same wavelength as a the buzzing swansong of a mosquito searching for its next meal.

A group of enterprising teens from the same hometown of Birmingham as Mr Stapleton, decided to retaliate. They took the concept of the Mosquito deterrent system and reversed its intended purpose. They studied the ultrasonic whines and transformed them into a ringtone called ‘Teen Buzz’. Now teenagers could hear their classmate’s phones ringing off without the teacher suspecting a thing. The new melodies were eventually released under various names i.e. Ultra Sonic Ringtone, Mozzy Tone. Uploaded to forums and social networks, they soon spread like wildfire over the Internet, creating a buzz among youngsters all over the globe. KFC even enlisted the Mosquito Buzz for one of their commercials.

Loudness curves of human hearing.
Loudness curves of human hearing. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The FMR website offers downloads and samples of different ringtones ranging from 8 KiloHertz, which can be heard by all and sundry to the  20-22 KiloHertz range which is noticeable only to people in their teens.  I am 28 years old, and found I could not hear anything above 17 KiloHertz. By the time I reach my forties that could plummet to 15 kHz.

A great idea, but admittedly it is one which would be challenging for fans of Rihanna, One Direction or of any kind of music for that matter, as the buzzing interferes with the songs’ enjoyment…. besides no-one has yet to discover an all-singing all-biting insect willing to lay down tracks in a studio (Gnat King Cole…Midge Ure?!). If you are being taught by a substitute teacher straight out of college, forget the ringtone and stick to vibrate. He will know it’s you!

You can try out the ringtones here:

The KFC advert: people were encouraged to call in and identify when they heard the sound, a prize of 1000 $10 gift cards awaited the lucky winners.

A YouTube user named Jonathan Holowka of  Toronto, Canada – a music enthusiast and website entrepreneur, uploaded some basic videos of mosquito sounds at different sonic wavelengths. I’ve embedded some here so you can test your hearing. It is fascinating stuff!!.

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OMG Facts at Twitter (@OMGFacts) LINK

“Mosquito Ring Tone KFC Commercial” – LINK

“History of The Mosquito” – LINK

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