In a world increasingly reliant on technology, a pressing question arises: can our dependence on gadgets, particularly mobile phones, be affecting our health in unexpected ways? A growing body of research is now pointing towards a startling trend – declining sperm quality in the human population – with mobile phones emerging as a potential culprit.
Recent studies have been sounding the alarm over a noticeable decline in sperm counts and quality across the globe. This decline isn’t just about quantity; it’s about the vitality, motility, and overall health of sperm cells. The implications of this trend are profound, affecting fertility rates and possibly even the long-term viability of populations. The situation is murky and complicated, but new studies suggest that cellular phones could have a role to play.
[JR] over at [Tech Throwback] got ahold of an unusual piece of gear recently — a portable Point of Sale (POS) credit card machine from the late 1990s (video, embedded below the break ). Today these machines can be just a small accessory that works in conjunction with your smart phone, but only the most dedicated merchants would lug this behemoth around. The unit is basically a Motorola bag phone, a credit card scanner, a receipt printer, a lead-acid battery, and a couple of PCBs crammed into a custom carrying case
Despite having a lot of documentation, [JR] struggles to find any information on this U.S. Wireless POS-50. He finds that the credit card scanner is an Omron CAT-95 authorization terminal, and the Motorola SCN-2397B phone appears to come from the Soft-PAK series.
He is able to power it up, but can’t do much with is because he is missing the authorization password. But regardless, with the demise of the Advanced Mobile Phone System for over a decade, this 850 MHz band analog phone can’t connect to the network anymore.
If you happen to know anything about this old POS, or used a similar luggable system for accepting credit cards in the 1990s, let us know in the comments below.
There are few devices that better exemplify the breakneck pace of modern technical advancement than the mobile phone. In the span of just a decade, we went from flip phones and polyphonic ringtones to full-fledged mobile computers with quad-core processors and gigabytes of memory.
While rapid advancements in computational power are of course nothing new, the evolution of mobile devices is something altogether different. The Razr V3 of 2003 and the Nexus 5 of 2013 are so vastly different that it’s hard to reconcile the fact they were (at least ostensibly) designed to serve the same purpose — with everything from their basic physical layout to the way the user interacts with them having undergone dramatic changes in the intervening years. Even the network technology they use to facilitate voice and data communication are different.
Yet, there’s at least one component they share: the lowly SIM card. In fact, if you don’t mind trimming a bit of unnecessary plastic away, you could pull the SIM out of the Razr and slap it into the Nexus 5 without a problem. It doesn’t matter that the latter phone wasn’t even a twinkling in Google’s eye when the card was made, the nature of the SIM card means compatibility is a given.
Indeed there’s every reason to believe that very same card, now 20 years old, could be installed in any number of phones on the market today. Although, once again, some minor surgery would be required to pare it down to size.
Such is the beauty of the SIM, or Subscriber Identity Module. It allows you to easily transfer your cellular service from one phone to another, with little regard to the age or manufacturer of the device, and generally without even having to inform your carrier of the swap. It’s a simple concept that has served us well for almost as long as cellular telephones have existed, and separates the phone from the phone contract.
So naturally, there’s mounting pressure in the industry to screw it up.
[A. Cemal Ekin] over on PetaPixel reviewed the Apexel 200X LED Microscope Lens. The relatively inexpensive accessory promises to transform your cell phone camera into a microscope. Of course, lenses that strap over your phone’s camera lens aren’t exactly a new idea, but this one looks a little more substantial than the usual piece of plastic in a spring-loaded clip. Does it work? You should read [Cemal’s] post for the details, but the answer — as you might have expected — is yes and no.
On the yes side, you can get some pretty neat photomicrographs from the adapter. On the negative side, your phone isn’t made to accommodate microscope samples. It also isn’t made to stay stable at 200X.
[Dries Depoorter] has a knack for highly technical projects with a solid artistic bent to them, and this piece is no exception. The Flemish Scrollers is a software system that watches live streamed sessions of the Flemish government, and uses Python and machine learning to identify and highlight politicians who pull out phones and start scrolling. The results? Pushed out live on Twitter and Instagram, naturally. The project started back in July 2021, and has been dutifully running ever since, so by now we expect that holding one’s phone where the camera can see it is probably considered a rookie mistake.
This project can also be considered a good example of how to properly handle confidence in results depending on the application. In this case, false negatives (a politician is using a phone, but the software doesn’t detect it properly) are much more acceptable than false positives (a member gets incorrectly identified, or is wrongly called-out for using a mobile device when they are not.)
Keras, an open-source software library, is used for the object detection and facial recognition (GitHub repository for Keras is here.) We’ve seen it used in everything from bat detection to automatic trash sorting, so if you’re interested in machine learning applications, give it a peek.
One aspect of working for Hackaday comes in our regular need to take good quality photographs for publication. I have a semi-decent camera that turns my inept pointing and shooting into passably good images, but sometimes the easiest and quickest way to capture something is to pull out my mobile phone.
It’s a risky step because phone camera modules and lenses are tiny compared to their higher quality cousins, and sometimes the picture that looks good on the phone screen can look awful in a web browser. You quickly learn never to zoom on a mobile phone camera because it’s inevitably a digital zoom that simply delivers grainy interpolated pictures.
That’s not to say that the zoom can’t be useful. Recently I had some unexpected inspiration when using a smartphone camera as a magnifier to read the writing on a chip. I don’t need an archival copy of the image… I just needed a quick magnifying tool. Have I been carrying a capable magnifier for soldering in my pocket or handbag for years without realising it? I decided to give it a try and it worked okay with a few caveats. While I have seen optics turn these cameras into pretty good microscopes, my setup added nothing more than a phone tripod, and will get you by in a pinch.
Digital video has proceeded to the point at which we have near-broadcast-quality HD production capabilities in the palm of our hand, and often for a surprisingly affordable price. One area in which the benefits haven’t quite made it to our wallets though is in the field of small HD monitors of the type you might place on top of a camera for filming. It’s a problem noted by [Neon Airship], who has come up with a solution allowing the use of an Android mobile phone as an HDMI monitor. Since many of us will now have a perfectly capable older phone gathering dust, it’s an attractive proposition with the potential to cost very little.
The secret isn’t the most elite of hacks in that it uses all off-the-shelf hardware, but sometimes that isn’t the only reason to be interested in a project such as this one. [Neon] is using an HDMI-to-USB capture card of the type that has recently become available from the usual sources for an astoundingly small sum. When paired with a suitable USB OTG cable, the adapter can be seen by the phone as just another webcam.
We see him try a few webcam viewer apps including one that rather worryingly demands a direct APK download, and the result is a very good quality HDMI monitor atop his camera that really didn’t break the bank. Sometimes the simplest of solutions deliver the most useful of results.