All Rings Considered

Nokia phone. Photo by HelenOnline (CC BY 3.0)

James T. Green went to a lot of loud family gatherings as a kid — big meals filled with gossip, complaints, and bravado. But there was one particular sound from those dinners that he’ll never forget. It came from his Uncle Scooter’s trusty flip-phone, which was always clipped to his belt. Scooter had a lot of girlfriends, and so his phone rang all the time. “It may be rude of me but I wanted to hear my phone — I wanted it to ring!” Scooter says. And over the years his ringtone never changed. It was always the song “Women’s Work” by Maxwell.

This was a time when everyone had ringtones — when the song your phone played really said something about you. These 15 second melodies were disposable, yet highly personal trinkets. And it was all thanks to a man named Vesku-Matti Paananen.

The Father of the Custom Ringtone

In 1997, Vesku was living in Helsinki, Finland.  And one morning, after a long night of partying, Vesku woke up hungover and fragile. His phone would not stop ringing, and he had that awful, stock Nokia ringtone.

The sound was so annoying that eventually, Vesku decided he just couldn’t take it anymore. “I decided that’s now is enough,” says Vesku, “we got to do something with this thing.” If Vesku’s phone was going to ring, it was going to make the sounds he wanted to hear, and what he really wanted to hear was the song “Jump” by Van Halen. “It’s a power song. It would have been so much better to hear,” says Vesku.

It turned out that the Nokia phones that Vesku and his friends were using had an early text messaging function called Smart Messaging, which let Nokia users send messages to each other. Vesku and his friends realized that they could compose ringtones in a program Vesku created called Harmonium — and then use that Smart Messaging platform to transfer bits of a song as code to a cell phone.

Once he got that working, Vesku was able to create a really basic version of Van Halen’s “Jump.” He loaded the ringtone into his phone and was excited to test it out in public. His big moment came on the way to a meeting on a packed rush-hour train. Someone called his phone, and “Jump” screamed from his pocket. Everyone on the train was staring at him, and he loved it. The custom ringtone was born.

Vesku
Nokia phone. Photo by HelenOnline (CC BY 3.0)

Vesku wanted everyone to be able to do the same and choose the ringtone they wanted to hear. He started pitching telephone companies on the idea of an application that would allow people to create, share, and download custom ringtones. A Finnish wireless provider called Radiolinja said yes, and took Vesku’s idea and scaled it up. Vesku’s software allowed anyone with time on their hands to make their own musical ringtone creations, but most people didn’t have time on their hands. This meant they needed a massive library of everyone’s favorite songs in ringtone form. But to build that library they needed ringtone composers.

Mike Levine was one of these ringtone composers. “One thing [was] that would take a lot of my time during the day was to think, ‘How do I boil down a song with a lot of voices down to just one simple melody line?’” Levine worked for a ringtone production company called Zingy while he was studying technology at NYU and found the job listing on Craigslist. And he says that being a ringtone maker was kind of like being a translator. Each tune was its own little puzzle. “You’d have to think of just that melody line and do it in such a way where it would still communicate you know what the song was to folks with when the ringtone went off,” explains Levine

Polyphonic Spree

Zingy was one of the largest ringtone producers in the world. In 2004, the company says it sold 2.5 million ringtones a month. These were basic monophonic ringtones which were simple melodies played one note at a time. But phones eventually got smaller and cheaper, and the business model began to change. Phone companies starting giving away phones for very little money with the idea that they would make their profits on the contract and other services like wallpaper backgrounds or ringtones. This created a demand for better, more musically complex ringtones.

This was when polyphonic ringtones began entering the market. Ringtone composers could create four different channels of audio, rather than just the one. They could imitate multiple instruments at the same time. With polyphonic ringtones, composers were able to move beyond code, and they didn’t have to completely reprogram the song for every phone manufacturer. Now they could actually start using keyboards to map out their creations. This was the golden age of the ringtone when composers like Mike Levine were cranking out their greatest works of ringtone art.

The Real Tone

In a short period of time, ringtones became a booming business. But using all of these popular songs meant companies Zingy needed to get the rights to them. Stacey Abiraj handled licensing at Zingy, and she said that as soon as a new song dropped, it was a mad scramble to get the license to turn it into a ringtone. “…We need to make sure that we have the ringtone the day the song drops. And so oftentimes our job was feverish really trying, you know, within the space of hours to figure out which publishers and labels owned rights to certain songs,” Abiraj explains. All of these forces: licensing, tech, and business came together to usher in the final, fully evolved form of the ringtone: The Real Tone.

Real Tones were basically just snippets of the song cut down to size. Like Uncle Scooter’s ringtone, it was just that Maxwell song. It was the closest thing to listening to music on our phones in the mid-2000s. And as cool as it was to finally hear music on your phone in high fidelity, for composers like Mike, it was hard not to see the rise of the Real Tone as something of a loss. “Once we got the rights to the actual songs and once the technology got savvy enough, we became much more editors at that point than anything else,” remembers Levine. “We missed getting to actually get into the nitty-gritty and create the audio ourselves.” And that bleepy bloopy ringtone aesthetic was gone forever. Ringtones were just music now.

With millions of cellphone users buying Real Tone pop songs, ringtones became a cash cow. And not just for the phone companies, also for the music industry which was struggling in the early 2000s. With the rise of both legal and illegal file sharing, the revenue in the music industry was decreasing. Selling ringtone versions of their songs was seen as sort of a way to make up for that lost revenue. Real Tones, which were actual snippets of the songs, allowed the music industry to have more control so they were able to charge a higher price and get a bigger cut.

The Real Tone may have helped the music companies, but it ended up being the beginning of the end for the ringtone industry. According to Sumanth Gopinath, professor of music theory, the custom ringtone met its demise for a few reasons. As smartphones improved, people just started using their own mp3s as ringtones. Also, scammers got into the ringtone business and started scaring off the customers. But the biggest reason was that it just became too much. If everyone had their own cellphone with their own little ringtone, public spaces got really noisy. And so everyone just started putting their phones on vibrate,  

“There was a kind of social policing that really has also taken place to reduce a sort of public phone communication practices and the ringtones decline is a part of that,” explains Gopinath. Phones became more functional. Texting got better, faster, and more convenient. Our phones became full-on pocket computers and entertainment devices and headphones created personal auditory bubbles for each listener.

This spelled the end for ringtone companies like Zingy, and ringtone makers like Levine. “I’ll be honest by like mid ‘07 it became an almost daily expectation be like we knew you know this ax is going to fall anytime. We just didn’t know when it was going to come and everybody was just thinking we’re all making good money here. Let’s just enjoy it while it lasts,” Levine remembers. By Fall of 2007, the day came when Levine’s CEO announced that the entire content group would be fired.

Portal to the World

Over a decade later, our phones are touch screened, mini-computers that never leave our sides. They are our music players, our televisions, our portals to the world. And in a way it all kind of started with Vesku, and his need to have Van Halen on his flip phone. “We proved that there will be there is such thing as a mobile entertainment. There is a business there and it will change the whole world,” he claims.

And don’t forget Uncle Scooter. His ringtone, sixteen years later, is still that Maxwell song. “In my day when you got something, you held onto it because it was hard to come by,” Scooter says, “So when you got something you learn to hold onto it, take care of it and treasure that and I guess it carried over into my adulthood, especially with something that you like. I love this ringtone and I held onto it for dear life and I’ll probably have this ringtone until I die.”

 

Uncle Anthony “Scooter”

A version of this story first appeared in Pop-Up Magazine

99pi Ringtones for Your Phone

99pi’s own composer Sean Real worked on a series of songs for this episode that you can click here to download and use!

“Nerds Who Party” by Sean Real. Genre: Party, 8-bit, Dance, Electronic, Club.

“The Custom Ringtone” by Sean Real.

“Polyphonic” by Sean Real. Genre: Rock, 8-bit, Campy.

“Licensing” by Sean Real. Genre: Explainy, Neutral, Upbeat.

“Real Tone” by Sean Real. Genre: Sad, Distant, Heavy, Orchestral Percussion.

“Take Your Phone Off Vibrate” by Sean Real.

“Beaux Arts (Ringtone)” by Sean Real. Genre: Ringtone.

Credits

Production

Reporter James T. Green spoke with Arthur Roberts, aka, Uncle Scooter; Vesku-Matti Paananen, Mobile Business Group Lead at Microsoft, and maker of Harmonium, the world’s first ringtone composer; Mike Levine: PH.D. candidate at the University of North Carolina College of Arts and Science, and early ringtone composer at the company, Zingy; Stacey Abiraj, Senior Counsel at HBO, and content licensor at Zingy; Sumanth S. Gopinath, Associate Professor of Music Theory at the University of Minnesota, and author of The Ringtone Dialectic: Economy and Cultural Form. This episode was edited by Emmett Fitzgerald.

Comments (65)

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  1. Kay Gilbert

    You’re crowdsourcing responses to the dorm lounge situation, and I confess to being baffled. I’m sorry he found this so memorably awful, but I can’t see why he felt the situation was complicated. If people were looking at him because a nearby phone was ringing, why didn’t he say, “Don’t look at me, it’s not my phone”? And when he did pick it up, and the owner got pissed, why didn’t he say, “You left your phone, and your ringtone was annoying all of us, so I turned it off”? The woman with the phone was entirely at fault, so I don’t know why he felt either responsible or embarrassed, or that anything required a complicated explanation.

    1. Helena

      I agree with your comment. I don’t understand why he couldn’t have just spoke up and said that it’s not his phone. Simple as that. The situation need not escalate greater than it should be. I felt frustrated at the guy more than pity.

      If anything, I thought this segment was the weakest in the entire episode and made the episode longer than it should be without adding substance.

    2. Fm

      I completely agree. What was the big deal? I found this anecdote perplexing and rather annoying. I wanted to yell, “Use your words!” as if he was a toddler. Really this is a moment he keeps coming back to in his mind over & over, and he STILL can’t figure out what to say? This does not seem like a complex social situation.

    3. The comeback is: (*imitating the ringtone voice*) “Well your phone was ringing and it was really annoying that nobody was answering it”

      Then repeat as much of the ringtone as you can until she gets it.

  2. Helge Frisenette

    That was quite a weak episode. I’m a big fan of the show and wouldn’t normally complain about one episode that don’t exactly fit my tastes, but if you don’t object, people will never know.

    It seemed to cater to people with nostalgic feelings for a minor bad taste fad that ended ten years ago. You’re putting on a pedestal something that is at best mundane. I know, that is what the show is about, the mundane and unseen design in life, right? But somehow you’re always able to find an interesting angle.
    This was just a boring retelling of a boring, short-lived little piece of prol history.

    Not to speak of the toe-curling “dichotomy” story at the end. Just tell her, that her phone was bothering everyone and you had to do something to stop it. That’s it. Her fault. There’s no story.

    The aesthetic of the sound, as shortly alluded to in the episode, is just the aesthetic of FM synthesis which is what the non-bleepy, non-sample based tones use.

    It’s the sound of 80s synths and early sound chips for home computers.

    There is a huge and continuing scene for that sound and its variants. So nothing lost.

  3. Lori

    This episode was, for me, the most heart-string-tugging nostalgia fest. Every two minutes I had to pinch myself out of a visceral reverie of my college days…high school even, the moment in biology when the first place crashed into the world trade towers, even before that…the moment in 9th grade where we had to turn off tanning salon parking lots MTV’s TRL to watch coverage of Colombine, retail mall jobs and waiting for the bus on a -15* Minnesota morning at 5am worrying if my push-up bra would freeze… the most trying and beautiful times of my life, maybe the last times I felt really amazed and awed by life. Incredible that a few chords of lo-fi were all it really took to power the time machine after all the searching. Thanks for this.

  4. The utterly perplexed, young woman says, “Excuse me. What are you doing? Why are you holding my phone?” In an awkward and somewhat, Hugh Grant charming way, Joe Rosenberg replies, “Oh I’m sorry. I had to ah. I had to reject the call.”

    “You did what?”

    “Excuse me?” replied Joe in a tinny, Alicia Silverstone, impersonation. “Your phone? It’s ringing. Excuse me. I still don’t know why you’re not picking up the phone because it’s really annoying. Excuse me…” and he continued, repeating the twelve minute meta-monologue in the middle of the student lounge.

    Not more than one minute in, the young woman had taken her phone and left the room. The rest of the room began to chuckle. By the five minute mark everyone had joined in, pausing to laugh and guffaw at every “Excuse me.”

    1. Paul Taylor

      Exactly the right answer. No need to explain complicated struggles. Just make her feel them for herself. Excellent!

      P.s. great episode

  5. Sontaron

    For the ringtone comment I think I would have replied in a nice but sarcastic maner:
    OH I’m sorry your phone was ringing and getting annoying. It told me so its self.

    1. Jack

      My stairs-wit comeback would be to do this in the voice of the ringtone itself! “Um. ExcUse me. But. Your ~phone~. Was RINGING. And it was VeRy. AnnoYing!!”

    2. AmyRenee

      The only way to fight Clueless/ Valley Girl is with Clueless quotes. My choice would be “Way harsh, Tai” – but other options would include:
      “Whatever!” (complete with W hand sign)
      “Ugh, as if!”
      “You’re a virgin who can’t drive!”
      Did I miss any other classics?

  6. Simon Roffey

    Since 2005 I’ve had the first 15 seconds of “Don’t Get me Started” by Rodney Crowell as my ringtone, on countless phones. If you listen to that track, you’ll hear why it makes a great ringtone.

    Also, you mentioned the ringtone that was ‘talking’. A few years ago, I worked with a guy who’s son had recorded ‘Dad, your phone is ringing. Answer your phone Dad’ as a ringtone.

    Keep up the good work!

    Simon
    (Oxfordshire, England)

  7. Jen

    Ringtone Comment: “Well, maybe you shouldn’t have abandoned your phone on the loudest volume setting, with the most annoying ringtone, in a designated quiet zone.”

  8. Kyle Tripp

    For the comeback he should say in his best impersonation of the ring tone, “I just hung up your phone because it was SOOOOO ANNOYING AND PEOPLE ARE TRYING TO SLEEP!” Then walk off with a Hugh Grant Smirk and your hands in the air.

  9. Kyle Tripp

    For the comeback he should have said in his best impersonation of that ringtone voice, “I hung up your phone because it was SOOOOO ANNOYING AND PEOPLE ARE TRYING TO SLEEP! Then he should put the phone down, get up, and walk away with a Hugh Grant smirk and his hands in the air.

  10. jwlarocque

    I’d love a download of some of the ringtones featured in the episode (Van Halen’s Jump in particular). I suppose rights issues prevent that though.

  11. Kenneth Ryckeley

    I would have held up my own phone and said, “Not it!” This would deflect the derision of the room toward the phone’s true owner.

  12. Kyra

    The ringtone comeback I would probably do is repeat the ringtone to her in the most annoying voice possible.

  13. Ellie

    That’s what I was thinking, too!

    Such a compelling episode. Thanks for this hard work, 99% Invisible!

  14. JB Segal

    I can’t believe that you did a whole story on ringtones – which I enjoyed, to be clear – without mentioning Thomas Dolby once.

    https://boingboing.net/2018/03/20/how-thomas-dolby-helped-create.html
    (Which is sourced off of https://tedium.co/2018/02/22/cell-phone-ringtone-history-evolution/ )

    See twitter in a moment or 2 for the even more important thing. :)

    (And your comment form doesn’t accept the entirely legal “+” in the left side of email addresses!)

  15. He was way way too polite about that library situation.

    That sounds infuriating being yelled at because of no fault of your own, it was entirely her fault.

    Well handled.

  16. MC

    My ringtone is the Paul Simon song “You Can Call Me Al” and as a teacher I would always leave it on in case parents called or there was an emergency.A few months into each school year, my 4th graders hear the opening bum bum bum BUM and start swaying and continue even after I silence the call or answer. I hope when they get older they hear the song and instantly want to simplify fractions.

  17. Linda Kuzma

    Let your mortification go! I believe you were the victim of a practical joke, or possibly some psychology 101 unethical “social experiment” since the woman waited until you touched the phone to declare herself the owner.
    And if it helps to replay the moment with a comeback: “your phone was disturbing the study atmosphere. Please be more considerate next time.”

  18. Peter

    No, you have to really return fire. No sarcastic wit, no jokes, just “Your ringtone is really annoying and it had to be stopped.”

  19. Frank Lee

    I have never yelled at a podcast before nor paused one to write the creators but that story about the clueless ringtone was so infuriating. All you had to do was stand up for yourself and ask why she left her phone alone and how she didn’t hear it as she approached. Poor pin cushion

  20. Frank Lee

    I kind of question all parties intelligence on this call for comebacks as there’s no need for it lol it’s nuts

  21. Tom Colmer

    I think my response would have been too repeat the ringtone back at her until, 15 years later, she was agonizing over her own lack of stair-wit. My opinion was that you took too much credit for her social faux-par. It was a pretty sureal moment, why not make it weirder?

  22. Matthew Boreen

    I think the only way to reply to the women with the unattended annoying ringtone would be to say in the same tone and cadence “Excuse me! Pick up your phone! It is so annoying”. And….. repeat ad nauseam.

    1. Adam Reab

      The history and evolution of the ring tone was interesting and I found that part of the program enjoyable. Unfortunately, the stories about other people’s ring tones and their interactions with them were tough to get through. The reaction I had to the recommendation to start using a custom ring tone again sums it up pretty well, “Nobody but you cares about your ring tone. For everyone else it’s an annoyance, please keep your phone quiet.”

  23. Bjarne J S

    I expected this article to mention BomfunkMCs who in an interview claimed that their hit “Freestyler” actually made more from ringtones than cd-singles. To be fair, it was a brilliant ringtone, at a time before polyphonic was a thing.

    When mp3s came around, I used Twisted Nerve by Bernard Herrmann (the whistling track from Kill Bill) for several years. A massive earworm, and my gift to those around me.

  24. Adrian

    “This woman’s work” By Maxwell, had me ROFLMAO at the gym. The funniest and most wonderful thing I have heard all year. Brilliant!! !! !

  25. Cheryl

    Another option for stairwit: “What!? This is YOUR phone!?? I’m so embarrassed! I thought it was MY phone. You know, I have the EXACT SAME ring tone!!”

  26. Clayton

    The utterly perplexed, young woman says, “Excuse me. What are you doing? Why are you holding my phone?”

    “Your phone told me to”. Hand it to her and walk away.

    This has the benefit that it’ll perplex her and later on she’ll realize what she did.

  27. Allison

    I loved this episode, I am a huge fan of 99pi and this episode was great. My response would be:
    “I am invading YOUR privacy! You are invading our peace and quiet with your annoying ringtone, so I decided to turn it off, and if you didn’t want me to then you shouldn’t have left it unattended in a place where students are studying.

  28. Ness Blackbird

    For better or worse, I have encountered situations such as this many times, and I have well-honed responses which work for me. In this situation I would have said (and I really would have, this is a 1/4 second response for me), “But it said I had to answer it, over and over. And all the people were looking at me. Look at them — they still are!”

    For me, the correct tone is not a dominant one, it’s vulnerable. You were in a vulnerable state for various reasons (perhaps especially because you had just been woken up), and it would not have been possible for me in that state to be dominant. So in this situation I prefer to be open and vulnerable.

  29. Joseph Yap

    Regarding a comeback to the woman who left her phone, it’s simple: repeat what the phone said in the way the phone said it while handing the phone back.

    “Excuse me, I don’t understand why you’re NOT picking up the phone because it’s REALLY annoying!”

    *hand over the phone*

    You end up mocking the phone by trying to imitate it, make it clear to the owner why you answered the phone, and make it clear that she is the owner.

  30. Clark Dungaree

    I think we’ve hit a low point. From the narrator’s high school freshman essay-level writing, to the waxing nostalgic about the most irritating trend in recent memory, I just can’t imagine how this made the cut.

    Especially the “call to action” at the end. As this dude is telling us to take our phones off silent and blast our own mp3 snippets, I’m in my car just saying, “no, no, no, no” out loud.

  31. Nathan

    Here are my submissions for a snappy comeback:

    “Your ringtone is only half as annoying as you are, but both of you need to shut the hell up while people here are trying to get some rest”

    “I’m sorry, but I was doing everyone here a favor by shutting up your phone. You can augment that favor for everyone by shutting up your face.”

    “I invaded your privacy because your phone was invading our peace and quiet”

    “I rejected your call because your pimp shouldn’t be calling you here.”

  32. David

    Comeback, I would have said “hold on one minute”.
    Used her phone to call my phone. Then I would have placed her phone on the table and called it from my phone. Then I would have said “no no no, you need to sit here and listen to this, everybody can look at you and wonder why you aren’t picking up the phone this time.”

  33. Drake

    The response depends a lot on what your goal is – to be justified or witty. I’d be tempted to say, “Aw, shucks, I guess I’m not getting the secretary job, eh?” Or go with Spock: “The needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few.”

    That said, as other commenters have mentioned, this was likely a prank. In fact, it might have been calculated to get you off of the sofa near the roaring hearth so that she could take the spot. As such, the best response might be to grin and say “nice try”, then go back to sleep. After you silence her phone.

  34. JH

    You were punk’d. If this had happened a year or two later, we could all view it on YouTube today instead of listening to your whiny re-telling.

  35. Mark

    I would have gone with: “Sorry, but your phone has a really annoying personality and I had to shut it up.”
    And if you’re still feeling bold enough for the follow up: “You know you can change that right?”.

  36. Doug

    Comeback: The jerkstore called and they’re running out of you.

    Ok, real reason I’m writing is because this episode made me recall an extremely funny (at least to me) experience. I love satire on pop culture, so when I found out I could make a voice memo my ring tone, I played with a few ideas. The one that stuck was me shrieking like I was losing my mind and wailing and crying saying: “Doug! Doug! Why don’t you pick up the phoooone??? Waaawaaa waaa. Pleeeeease! Pick up the phone!! [sobbing and crying]. It of course was extremely annoying, but that was the point and it was hilarious to me. In fact, if you want a sound byte, I recreated it from memory quite well in my car when I was listening to this episode. So anyhow, my favorite occurrence of getting me at a bad time was when I was at work, in a meeting, and I left my phone on my desk (which was not too far away from the meeting room). And my phone goes off and it’s just shrieking and even my colleagues in the meeting were wondering if there were kids wondering around our office making this noise. I of course didn’t fess up. Ah, those were the good ol’ days. Back then I became the “beautiful pooper” on myspace to satirize the sheer vanity of everyone, which involved me taking classy themed pictures of me on the toilet, like “baseball pooper”, and “guitar pooper”. One my faves was “hardcore extreme pooper” where I set my mountain bike up in a wheelie in front of the can. Oh, and I of course used a timer on my camera to take the photos myself, which basically made me prepare the toilet area with all the props, set the 10 second timer, run over, pull my pants down and grab the props, and turn toward the camera. Hence the mountain bike preparation took some skill and multiple takes. Alright…thanks for an entertaining trip down memory lane.

  37. Special_Tea

    Woman: “Touching someone else’s phone is such a violation”
    Joe: “That’s nothing compared with how your phone was violating our ears.” *Thrusts phone into woman’s hand and walk out in disgust*

  38. Marty Levine

    Love the show. I think just reciting that ringtone back at her — every second of it — would have shown her how annoying it was to listen to, and made her realize she’d subjected everyone to its entirety.

    P.S. Does Maxwell’s publishing company get the money for such ringtones, or does the publishing company of the song’s author, Kate Bush, get the funds? If I had that ringtone, it would be ruined now by appearing as the season two opener to The Handmaid’s Tale anyway … I could only picture a mass execution.

  39. Danilo

    Great first part, very unnecessary second part, with you guys trying to build pathos on a story that didn’t have any and was a bit boring.

  40. Josie

    “This Woman’s Work” is a song by Kate Bush that was covered by Maxwell in 1997. I think it’s actually a very complex song about childbirth. Misdirected credit aside, I think it would have been really interesting to note that in the process of distillation, ring tones were kind of brutal in the way they stripped music of meaning.

    1. Adam

      I don’t mind people covering songs, or sampling music, but please give credit to the original writer and producer of the song “This Woman’s Work.” Kate Bush is a genius and deserves to be acknowledged for writing such a profound and amazing song. At least a mention would be appreciated.

  41. Damien Riehl

    The woman was a Psych 101 or Sociology 101 student, emboldened by reading about other social experiments. So she made her own. Perhaps for an assignment. Perhaps for fun. Either way, no reason that the experiment’s subject/victim needs to worry about it 15 years later.

  42. Yossi

    He should have answered in the same annoying valley girl voice “Why didn’t you answer your phone. Ech, your ring tones so annoying!”

  43. Ethan

    Comeback:
    “Yeah well I just got to talk about you and your ringtone for 11 minutes on an incredibly popular podcast.”

  44. If we wanted to bring back this kind of personalization to contemporary cell phones, it wouldn’t be ringtones. It would be emoji sets. Imagine a world where the OS lets you choose whatever emoji set you want to use, similar to changing your system font. Imagine looking over someone’s shoulder and seeing a completely different style of emoji than you expected.

  45. Claire

    My ringtone for many years was a chicken. When I replaced that phone, I couldn’t figure out how to switch over the file, so my husband made a chicken noise into my phone’s mic. I laughed everytime it rang, knowing that it was him pretending to be a chicken just to make me happy.

  46. Salahori

    This brought back memories! I should probably be dead by now but in 1998, I got my first (and only 9th to date) cell phone which was a bright blue Eriksson pre-paid flip phone, the screen for which was a single line of scrolling information. Even this bare-bones artifact actually allowed you to program a ring tone *note for note*, which it played in an invariable staccato rhythm. I programmed in “Fur Elise.”

    Now my phone is just perpetually on vibrate, but it warms my heart to know my ring is the “Knight Rider” theme on a friend’s phone.

    Great episode!

  47. Mark

    “Excuse me! Your phone was ringing. Were you going to answer it?”

    After she continues expressing her disillusionment you touched her phone, repeat next line with the same spin. Keep repeating until her irritation rises.

    Stairwit?

  48. The perfect response is “Why did I pick up your phone? Why did you leave your phone here?! We’re all trying to relax here and your annoying ass ringtone is going off! You don’t want your phone picked up by random people? Don’t leave it around!”

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