Can you repeat that, I’ve got no signal...

The Indy Student Team goes on the hunt for viable communication options to mobile phones and Skype...Morse code anyone?

With all this talk of staying in touch with your friends and loved ones, SSG got to thinking in a rare idle moment. In our fast-paced lives where you can get hold of someone on the other side of the world in seconds, what if we all had our mobiles confiscated? If medical research showed that continued use would result in everyone’s ears falling off, how would we cope? We decided there was only one solution: time to go old school. Read on for our Communication Reassessment and Acclimatisation Programme (Crap) to find out the best mobile phone alternative.

Two cans and a string

Speed: 13/20 The whole process took a frustrating 25 minutes.

Clarity: 6/20 It seems a deep voice works best: the resonance seems to create a better quality of vibration (please don’t quote us on the science here), which is key to the whole thing working.

Distance: 9/20 Hmm. Botched attempts at about 200ms and 150ms (very difficult to keep the string tight, which is vital) meant we settled on around 100ms. Short message recommended though.

Cost: 18/20 Bearing in mind we went budget – plastic cups from the water cooler and garden twine rather than string – £1.99.

Bragging rights: 2/20 You’re holding cups to your ear connected by a bit of garden twine; that’s never going to win style prizes.

Total: 49/100

Semaphore flags

Speed: 16/20 As the message conveyed was only threewords long, a less-than-efficient 10 minutes.

Clarity: 11/20 At first the message receiver thought the message was an enigmatic “PDXMC”. After a second attempt it turned out to be, “DOME AT 9” (as in “MEET ME AT THE O2 AT 9pm”). So, practice makes perfect, it seems.

Distance: 9/20 This experiment was done at 100m. We reckon 200m is feasible, but after that it would be tricky to see the flags. A clear line of sight is key, of course.

Cost: 10/20 £30 from Ensign Flags (

Bragging rights: 8/20 It’s hard to wave a couple of flags around and look nonchalant at the same time.

Total: 54/100

Morse code

Speed: 10/20 Took half an hour to put the thing together (issues with small wires and screws, don’t ask) but five minutes to transmit a message.

Clarity: 10/20 Initially, the meeting point being communicated was understood to be “HIUR GESK AL 13.30”. Turned out to be “YOUR DESK AT 12.30”. Go figure. Hard to decipher the difference between a dash and a dot.

Distance: 8/20 In the absence of a telephone line, you need to be close enough to hear the beep or see the light bulb… Cost: 8/20 £20.40 from Flights of Fancy (

Bragging rights: 18/20 It’s a pretty cool thing to be able to do well.

Total: 54/100


Speed: 1/20 Took two days, so lacks the spontaneous touch.

Clarity: 20/20 As long as you can read, no problems.

Distance: 20/20 These things go global, baby.

Cost: 10/20 Telegrams Online ( will send within the UK for £4.65 if you organise it online, £11.25 over the telephone, and 96p per word for international telegrams.

Bragging rights: 14/20 You’ll look pretty important if someone sends you a telegram.

Total: 65/100. It’s a winner!

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