In these recession-hit times, an increasing number of folks are falling into the debt trap. Many more – although they may not realize it – are also falling into the text trap. I am referring to those ubiquitous text messages that anyone with a cell phone – which means just about everybody – sends out by the hundreds with reckless abandon. Heck, it's only ten cents a message, right? And what can you buy with a dime these days?
Well, those dimes are adding up. Think about it. You're on the road and you get a bright idea; or maybe a friend messaged you a joke that is too good not to share. Almost without thinking, you send it out to ten of your friends. Multiple messaging is so easy, after all. That's a dollar right there. Or you're sitting through a boring class or college lecture. It's cool to carry out a silent conversation with your classmates, without the teacher being any wiser.
Moreover, the cell service providers and show business folks are expert at making you part with your money. I don't know about you, but I get at least half a dozen invitations a day to download images or ringtones or 'pictures of sexy models' – all for a price, of course. Some invitations start off like "Download unlimited wallpapers for free". It's only later that you realize that you've been stuck with a recurring monthly fee for the 'freebie'.
And what about those reality shows like 'American Idol' and 'Dancing with the Stars' and so many others. Viewers are exhorted to text in their votes for their favorites. Oh and you can vote as many times as you like: how generous of them. The long and the short of it is that, at the end of the month, you're stuck with a pretty hefty cell phone bill.
Now a university professor has worked out that the cost of text messaging is not just through the roof, it is out of space. The University of Leicester's expert Nigel Bannister has worked out the cost of obtaining a megabyte of data from Hubble space telescope; and compared that with the cost of sending a text. Bannister worked out that texting is at least four times more expensive than transmitting data from Hubble.
Here is how he figured it. The maximum size for a text message is 160 characters, which takes 140 bytes because there are only seven bits per character in the text messaging system. There are 1,048,576 bytes in a megabyte, so that's one million/140 = 7490 text messages to transmit one megabyte. At 10 cents each, that's $750 per MB. Bannister contacted NASA, who gave him a figure of approximately $18 per MB for the transmission of data from Hubble to the Earth. Of course, the $18 does not include the cost of the ground stations and the time of the personnel involved in transmitting the data, but whichever way you do the math, it works out a lot cheaper than texting.
Texting has become a way of life nowadays; and many of us indulge in it almost without thinking. If you did think about it, you would realize that the bulk of the text messages you send out are really not that important. Or that urgent. Even if you do come across a joke, or a bit of juicy gossip that you simply must share with your friends, it's not vital that you do it immediately. Wait till you get access to a computer and send it by email. It's way cheaper.