17th > August > 1999 Archive

The Register breaking news

Big Blue in at the dawn of the universe

Five years ago From The Register No. 2, August 1994 It's not entirely clear what happened when the universe began, but IBM, with the help of a POWERparallel system at the US Brookhaven National Laboratory aims to get to the bottom of the mystery. Scientists at the lab, Big Blue said, are running simulations of collisions of atomic particles called heavy ions on an IBM Scalable POWERparallel SP system. The simulations, they hope, will establish the existence of quark-gluon plasma that, the boffins say, leapt into being soon after the universe formed. The results will be used to analyse real collision fasta from the US Department of Energy's Relativistic Heavy Ion Collider, under construction at Brookhaven too. According to Tom Throwe, a chief scientist on the project, the SP was chosen because of its scalability. "While we already had a competitive multi-processor in our facility," he said, "we needed a system that could handle...the power required when the collider is running. Only IBM's POWERparallel system could offer us the scalability of hundreds of nodes." ®
Mike Magee, 17 Aug 1999
The Register breaking news

Compaq exec re-org: Alpha being pushed hard

As reported here earlier, Compaq will announce a further reorganisation in its executive ranks. We are currently on the phone waiting for the conference call to start. But in the meantime, since we wrote the story at 8.15 UK time, further salient facts have emerged, one of which is that Compaq will spend $100 million pushing the Alpha platform ahead. That story is reported on the US version of Computer Reseller News. If true, it indicates that there is still a dual microprocessor push at Compaq. What do we know already? Enrico Pesatori, a senior VP at Compaq, will head up the enterprise systems and solutions group. Bill Heil, as we suggested earlier, will be in charge of the business critical servers division. Don Harbert will head up the AlphaServers division, Pauline Nist the Tandem division, Tim Yeaton the Unix division and Rich Marcello will mind OpenVMS. Jesse Lipcon is in charge of Compaq's Alpha technology, including both processors and components, and reports directly to Pesatori. The Big Q will also announce a new NonStop e-business solutions division, headed up by B.J. Johnson. As soon as the conference call starts we will continue to update this story... ® RegisTroid 666 Pesatori was called Dracula by ex-DEC employees because he used to sweep around the halls of Maynard wearing a cloak. See also Compaq to go enterprise crazy next Tuesday Compaq to announce re-org Tuesday next
Mike Magee, 17 Aug 1999
The Register breaking news

CHS ‘evaluates strategic alternatives’, red inks $89.2m

CHS has effectively put itself up for sale. The distie giant is to hire an investment bank to "evaluate strategic alternatives that would enhance shareholder value" -- the standard industry euphemism for "buy us". Times may be tough for distributors -- but times are tougher for CHS than most. It is paying the bills for its dash for growth -- the major reason for a spectacular Q2 net loss of $89.2 million. On an operating level (minus non-cash adjustments), the company lost $14.2 million for the quarter, compared with operating income of $22.8 million for Q2 1998. Throw in a heap of mostly non-cash charges (ie. they sit on the CHS balance sheet) and the company's operating loss was $73.2 million. Net loss was $89.2 million. CHS blames the disk drive price war for a "severe drop in pricing on margins in mass storage products in the second quarter of 1999" for a 1.5 per cent fall in gross margins in Q2. Tough competitive pricing in Europe, especially in Germany and the UK, also contributed to pressures on margins (down from 6.4 per cent in Q2 ,1998 to 4.9 per cent this time around), CHS says. Falling margins are not the root cause of CHS problems, but it makes it harder for the company to finance post-acquisition restructuring under its own steam. On the bright side, sales increased 32 per cent to $2.3 billion from Q2 1998's $1.8 billion. It's not clear how much of this organic growth and how much comes from new acquisitions. The company says it is on target with its expenses shaving -- shutting down warehouses, improving inventory turns, sacking staff and the like. The company has appointed Mark Keough, described as a "turnaround" specialist to the newly appointed post of chief operating officer. He will report to CHS top banana Claudio Osorio. So we can expect an acceleration of the company’s cost-cutting plans. And more divestments. First on the block is a "non-core" unit which distributes Sun Microsystems products in Germany, Austria, Denmark and Sweden for $50 million. CHS expects a pre-tax gain of $32 million from its share of the business (which turns over $70 million a year and makes $1 millions profits) and will use the cash for "debt repayment, payment of earn-out liabilities and working capital purposes". ®
Drew Cullen, 17 Aug 1999
The Register breaking news

HP turns in fat profit for Q3

Hewlett-Packard said yesterday evening it had recorded a net profit increase of 37 per cent in its Q3 while revenues grew by 11 per cent, year on year. Its net profits amounted to $853 million for the quarter, compared to $621 million in Q3 1998, while revenues rose to $12.2 billion. European growth was strong, with the contribution rising to $4 billion, 13 per cent increase. The PC and imaging businesses grew by 12 per cent, accounting for $10.3 billion of turnover. Its Unix business also showed solid growth, said HP, but storage revenue fell sharply, as the company moved to a high end storage model. Its laser, printer and scanner businesses also grew significantly. HP managed to cut its cost of sales figures, while its expenses for the period remained largely the same. ®
Mike Magee, 17 Aug 1999
The Register breaking news

Massacre of innocence on football thug Web site

Oh dear, some people are just baffled by technology, aren't they? Take the case of the TV researcher who wanted to contact self-styled football hooligan Paul Dodd in connection with a documentary about football fans and drug abuse. The researcher in question decided the best route to Dodd was via his Web site. More specifically, she left a message for him on the site's noticeboard room -- a place normally frequented by people who like to trade insults and offer to exchange blows with one another. The researcher -- one Vicky Hamburger -- left the following message in this den of testosterone and lairyness. "Dear Paul... I'm researching a documentary for Channel 4 about cocaine use in Britain and would like to find out more about drug use amongst football fans, from cannabis to Ecstasy to coke. It would be great to have a chat with you about this, strictly off the record. If you are interested to speak to me then please give me a call back on 0171-482-5885, in total confidence, and I'll call you straight back. Thanks very much and I really hope to hear from you soon." Note the use of the terms "off-the-record" and "total confidence" -- in a message left on a public message board for football fans. Well, it didn't take long and the feedback started to trickle in. Like this one from Harry Hotdog: "Can I stick my sausage between your baps, Miss Hamburger?" Or this from someone calling themselves Boing Boing: "Miss Hamburger -- have you a great set of baps?" Here at The Register we don't condone violence, but you have to admit, some people are just asking for it. Welcome to the real world, Vicky Hamburger -- bet it's been a bit of an eye-opener. ®
Sean Fleming, 17 Aug 1999
The Register breaking news

IBM workers start trade union

Our friends over at IDG Net are reporting that workers at Big Blue are in revolt over a proposed change in pension plans and are trying to organise a union. And the workers are using the Internet to coordinate their efforts. Over at IBM Union, the workers are asking that the firm start to respect individuals again. The workers are obviously a little worried about the IBM thought police. At the top of the page, they point to an article of US law saying the following: "Section 8(a)(1) of the National Labor Relations Act states it is a violation for Employers to spy on union gatherings, or pretend to spy. For the purpose of the National Labor Relations Act, notice is hereby given that the www.ibmunion.com site and all of its content, messages, communications, or other content is considered to be a union gathering." Computer companies are not very unionised. However, a couple of years ago, employees at IBM and Apple France joined a general strike. ® See related stories: IBM attacked in staff Web uprising Web workers to get own trade union Flying pickets turn to Internet to wage war on factory owners
Mike Magee, 17 Aug 1999
The Register breaking news

Microworkz moves to settle EarthLink suit

Microworkz appears to back-tracking away from its aggressive stance against US ISP EarthLink following the latter's legal assault on the budget-priced PC maker for alleged breach of contract. Microworkz has not only yet to issue its promised countersuit against the ISP, but actually appears to be trying to settle this one quietly, according to a Reuters report. EarthLink initially fired off a law suit against Microworkz after first terminating a contract between the two companies at the end of July. That contract centred on Microworkz bundling cut-price Internet access with its Webzter Jr PC. In its suit, EarthLink claimed Microworkz had failed to pay it for the 1000 users it had dutifully given free Internet access to. Microworkz immediately went on the defensive, promising a countersuit against EarthLink and claiming that it hadn't paid up because the ISP had failed to provide adequate tech support and that its software was faulty, all of which hit Microworkz' Webzter sales hard and thus damaged the company's business. Of course, a potential Webzter customers wouldn't have known about the alleged problems with EarthLink's software -- an odd claim given that the ISP has thousands of customers using a variety of platforms -- those problems are unlikely to have hurt Microworkz in the way it claimed. It certainly seems that the weakness of the PC vendor's case may well be the key reason for failing to issue the countersuit. The official reason is simple: Microworkz has yet to be formally served with EarthLink's writ. When we get it, CEO Rick Latman told newswires, we'll countersue. Still, Microworkz did quickly enter into settlement negotiations with EarthLink -- talks which, according to the ISP, have since broken down; it is continuing with its legal action. Microworkz has been slammed for its inability to handle orders for its products, and even if you take such claims from disgruntled buyers with a hefty pinch of salt, it's clear Microworkz has to do something to polish its tarnished reputation, however undeserved that reputation may be. The company is hoping its recently signed $300 million deal with AT&T will help it here, as will its self-imposed 10,000 limit on orders for its upcoming $199 iToaster Net access box, which is due to ship this week. ®
Tony Smith, 17 Aug 1999
The Register breaking news

RegMark™ Lite® shows Celeron trashing AMD Athlon

Pete Sherriff has been slaving in his fab lab to produce a new RegMark™ to account for the existence of Athlon AMD processors and has come up with a formula he describes as the RegMark™ Lite®. According to Sherriff, he is unable to find a multimedia mark for the Athlon K7, so he has invented a way to use the Lite figure to compare all four processors on just two benchmarks. Said Sherriff: "This way the PIII/500 scores higher than the Athlon/600 which beats the PIII/600, but the Celeron still walks away with it." Mr Sherriff adds that he has been grateful for suggestions which will allow him to further tweak and improve his figures, and is currently attempting to incorporate those refinements into his calculations.
Team Register, 17 Aug 1999
The Register breaking news

Commodore wannabe claims Amiga ‘fooled’ community

Iwin -- the European software and hardware developer at the centre of a plan to buy and revive the Commodore brandname and return it to the Amiga market -- has followed up The Register's coverage of the move with a statement of its own. In a Deja.com forum posting, Iwin president Mark Steinbach confirmed the company, formed from the merger of Worksoft Austria and Branch Software in June this year, is in talks with Dutch PC vendor Tulip to buy the Commodore brandname. Steinbach also stated that "we understand the Amiga community was fooled by Amiga, inc. for a long time". That claim is somewhat at odds with his comment that Iwin is not here "to fight some battles with any kind of person or firm" and even "we would like to work closely together with Amiga, inc." Steinbach curiously failed to specify precisely how Amiga, inc. had "fooled" the community, which suggests this is merely an attempt to play to the community's ultra-conservatives in the gallery. Discussing Iwin's upcoming Amiga-based machines, Steinbach claimed the computers will not use any copyrighted Amiga patents or technologies -- instead they are based on a "new architecture". That led to speculation on some Amiga-oriented Web sites that Iwin's machines will simply be PowerPC-based boxes running Amiga emulation software. However, Iwin claims to have developed a kernel layer that allows AmigaOS 3.5 to run on their hardware, which will be available with 68060 or PowerPC processors. The company said it will bundle software called iDDK which hooks in the machines' USB, PCI, AGP and DVD functionality into the AmigaOS via the machine's own OS kernel. Actually, this isn't surprising since Iwin already offers a product called PowerSE, which is a kind of universal OS emulator, allowing a single platform to run applications from multiple operating systems for the benefit of access data created on other OSes. Of course, how well PowerSE runs other OSes' applications is another matter -- emulation never being as fast as the real thing -- so quite how fast these Commodore machines (assuming Iwin gets the name) will actually be remains to be seen. Iwin said its new machines will begin shipping early September. Given the company is due to begin talks with Tulip on 27 August, they are unlikely to ship, at least initially, as CBM boxes. ®
Tony Smith, 17 Aug 1999
The Register breaking news

HP says it's on target for Merced next year

Hewlett Packard confirmed today it will support HP/UX, 64-bit Windows NT and Linux on Merced. It also said that it will support MPE/iX on future IA-64 systems and confirmed it would incorporate Merced into its top end server lines by the middle of next year. Hugh Jenkins, product marketing manager for HP's enterprise division, said: "Due to collaboration with Intel on the 64-bit instruction set architecture, we understand...how to harness IA-64's power and smoothly transition our customers to this new platform." HP will demonstrate applications running on the IA-64 simulator at HP World, including multimedia, database and Interent applications. ®
Mike Magee, 17 Aug 1999
The Register breaking news

Calling all e-potatoes: look at this ad and earn 30p an hour!

A British Internet start-up is to offer Net users cash in return for looking at ads. SurfMILES plans to take on other similar schemes including Sharkhunt.com (see earlier story) and the US-based company Alladvantage which recently announced its entry into Britain and Canada. Net users will, in effect, be paid 30 pence an hour to receive ads online. When users have accumulated enough "surfmiles" they can then be cashed in batches of 1500 units -- or £15.00. The full banner ad service should be up and running by mid-to-late September but users who subscribe now will be allocated surfmiles in advance. They will also receive surfmiles if they buy goods and services from any of the company's partners which include Amazon, Dell, Tower Records, Disney Store Online and CDNow. In that respect, surfmiles bear a striking similarity to another "online currency" although it should be noted that beenz can only be exchanged for goods and services and not redeemed for cash. Yesterday, the beenz central bank said that there were 100,000,000 beenz in circulation. It also confirmed that the millionth beenz transaction had taken place -- although there was no indication exactly what was bought. ®
Tim Richardson, 17 Aug 1999
The Register breaking news

Drop the Bomb Dot Com

An explosive Web site is up for sale. Bomb.com is being auctioned on e-Bay and has already attracted a bid of $95,000. Whether it's a genuine bid or not has yet to be established but the one-time offer is certainly kosher. Bomb.com was registered by the publishers of Game Zero Magazine in 1994 but now they're looking to get shot of the domain. If they don't find a buyer by Tuesday 24 August, then they'll just hang on to the domain and continue to use it for "personal use". "There are no restrictions on what the purchaser may use the domain for once they have assumed ownership," says the advert. But there is a warning attached to the sale. A year ago the domain was used by a couple of mischievous e-mail bombers based in Singapore. A venture capital company last week paid more than $800,000 for the rights to Drugs.com. It plans to wrap a business plan round the domain name which is concerned more with over the counter cough medicines and laxatives than with illegal narcotics. ®
Tim Richardson, 17 Aug 1999
The Register breaking news

Home PC sales soar in China

The home PC is driving growth in the PC market in China, according to a preliminary report from research company IDC. Over 2.2 million units were shipped in the first half of 1999, representing a 19.6 per cent increase on the same period last year. Local manufacturers account for six of the top ten vendors in China for the first half of this year, according to IDC which notes a rush from other appliance manufacturers – such as Haier and Hisense - to get in on the action.. The bulk of the growth came from the home market, with shipments of home desktops increasing an impressive 40.8 per cent to 500,000 units. Shipments to the business sector also grew, but by a more modest 14 per cent. Fanny Yang, a research manager at IDC in China, commented: "The home PC market, after one year's cultivation, is taking off and will be a new growth area for the whole PC market." IDC said the entire Asia Pacific market was benefiting from the ‘nearly free PC’ sales model as interest in the Internet soared in the region. ®
Lucy Sherriff, 17 Aug 1999
The Register breaking news

Craft guilds answer to techno-exploitation

The Internet could see workers scurrying to Medieval-style guilds for protection, according to Government-appointed crystal ball gazers. The Department of Trade and Industry's (DTI) Future Unit outlines two possible scenarios on the effect that technology will have on workers. First up, is the Wired World, a Utopian vision where everyone is online and many people are self employed... rather like readers of The Register. The alternative is Built to Last, depicting a future where large corporations control the knowledge of their staff with incentive packages and so on... rather like employees of ZDNet. The DTI futurologists say the outcome will be a mix of the two, but admit they don't know which will be the dominant work style. The Wired World model will have important implications for employees, who will increasingly need to protect their work. As the role of the government declines, unions, community groups and professional associations could stand in for large employers to protect the interests of large groups of freelance workers, according The unit. It describes this as a parallel to medieval style guilds. "If Wired World becomes a reality, we might expect these types of activity to expand." the Future Unit says. The new guilds would have to be financially self sustaining: probably through "a combination of membership levies and service based income". In other words, they will be like Unions (except that union is a dirty word in Tony Blair's Britain). Do we really want to see the return of craft guilds? Do we want a world where the International Wibbly Webbly Wobblies evolve into the new freemasonry (the first sprang from stonemasons craft guilds)? A world where there are rules about what colour clothes you can wear, depending on your occupation. A world where you pay your master for the privilege of getting an apprenticeship -- and then work for nothing for seven years, a world where everyone in the same occupation has to live alongside each other in the same district -- a world like -- God forbid -- Fortunecity.com made flesh. ® See related stories: IBM workers start trade union IBM attacked in staff Web uprising Web workers to get own trade union Flying pickets turn to Internet to wage war on factory owners
Lucy Sherriff, 17 Aug 1999
The Register breaking news

Compaq's server strategy still cloaked in mystery

Enrico Pesatori, a senior VP at Compaq, said today that the company's relationship with Microsoft was of critical importance to the future of the company. And the potential of its Non Stop Computing e-business strategy was as much as $750 billion, said Pesatori in a conference call from New York, New York. He said that Microsoft had a strong relationship with the pre-acquisitive Compaq, with Digital and with Tandem. But Pesatori, while announcing the eight way x.86 Profusion box, describing it as industry-standard, also described the Alpha platform as industry standard too. Whether it is Linux or Windows NT that will be the glue that ties them both together is a moot question which he did not attempt. He said that Compaq still had two server divisions -- one the industry standard, and the other the high end server business. He confirmed that there will be 16, 32 and 64-way Alphas later in the year. The industry standard division is headed up by Mary McDowell, a senior VP at Compaq. She said that the Profusion technology was a joint development between Intel and Compaq, meaning that every SMP machine that ships, from whatever vendor, be it Dell or Unisys, will have Compaq Inside. We have some background to this story which may well shed light on the evolution of x.86 based SMP computing. See, for example, HP beats Compaq to SMP as Big Blue has Corollary coronary. It's also worth looking at this one: Compaq has near coronary with Corollary. Compaq was very, very unhappy that Intel took over Corollary as it scuppered its own SMP plans, which were then separate from the chip giant's. And then we saw the debacle of the late and lamented Pentium Pro, meant to forward the SMP cause in leaps and bounds. None of it really happened. Compaq will market its eight-way Profusion based servers to the high volume Internet market, said McDowell. "No one has been more proactive than Compaq in pushing NT into the enterprise market," she said. And so Intel's tradeoff for cheesing off Compaq was that it could share in designing the SMP technology, while Enrico Pesatori played down the importance of the Alpha to Compaq's strategy in the future, presumably to spare Chipzilla's hurt feelings about Merced. Pesatori, in his presentation, said nothing about the internal reorganisation at Compaq, which he revealed to select analysts yesterday. ® See also Compaq exec re-org: Alpha being pushed hard
Mike Magee, 17 Aug 1999
The Register breaking news

Principal goes under as creditors take a hit

Creditors of Principal Distribution are unlikely to get any cash back, receivers KPMG have warned. The Macintosh distributor, based in Broughton near Manchester, went into receivership last week owing around £1 million. Just five out of the 35 staff have been kept on to help sell the name, goodwill and around £400,000 of stock. This was less than two months after a management buy-in, where non-executive chairman Rod Macmillan sold his 49 per cent stake in the company to directors Jon Pritchard, Miles Naylor and Tim Noyes. KPMG blamed the poor margins and cut-throat rivalry in the industry, along with the distributor losing several franchise agreements. Joint case manager Mike Seery said: "The industry is in disarray and some of the suppliers weren't as supportive as they could have been," according to a report in this week’s Microscope magazine. Seery admitted creditors faced little hope of regaining any money owed. In the last year, Principal had lost the Adobe, Symantec, Netopia, Hermstedt, Pinnacle, Sony Monitors and Media 100 franchises. ®
Linda Harrison, 17 Aug 1999
The Register breaking news

Energis tests viability of 0800 services

Energis -- which reportedly carries 50 percent of all the UK national Internet traffic -- is to offer toll-free dial-up access to the Internet to see whether such a scheme would be commercially viable, The Register can reveal. It has teamed up with Shetland Isle-based ZetNet to provide 0800 access at weekends for the ISP's seven thousand or so subscribers. No one at ZetNet was prepared to discuss the deal but The Register has learnt that users would revert back to an 0845 local-rate call charge during the week in a move that mirrors BTInternet's own offer of weekend toll-free access. Energis wants to see whether the money it makes from carrying weekday access to the Net will be enough to cover the cost of offering a toll-free service at the weekends. Sources close to the deal confirmed the tie-up between Energis and ZetNet although exactly when it will happen has yet to be disclosed. Although the exact details of the promotion have yet to be ironed out ZetNet will not receive a penny from Energis. Instead, the telco will shoulder all the risk. The question, though, is why? What has Energis to gain from offering such a service? It could be that Energis is running the trial ahead of rolling out 0800 access for Freeserve, it's biggest ISP customer. However tempting, such a move seems unlikely since Energis and Freeserve currently share the cost of phone calls made to the service via the interconnect charge. There would be little left after their share to subsidise toll free dial-up access to the Net. No one from Freeserve was available at press time. Maybe Energis wants to turn its business-to-business ISP Planet Online into a more consumer-orientated service, or even launch a new consumer-based brand complete with 0800 access. Or perhaps Energis will offer this facility to other ISPs -- including existing customers -- enabling them to compete more effectively in an already seam-splitting marketplace. Both of these options are feasible. Unfortunately, no one at Energis was prepared to comment. ®
Tim Richardson, 17 Aug 1999
The Register breaking news

BOL locked in online book price war

Online bookseller BOL is stepping up its aggressive sales campaign by offering cut-price books. The new titles include Point of Origin by Patricia Cornwell, Sebastian Faulks' Charlotte Grey and Blast from the Past by Ben Elton. Part of BOL's Summer Reading promotion the books will be priced at either £2 or £3. ® Daily Net finance news from i>The Register Daily Net finance news from The Register
Tim Richardson, 17 Aug 1999
The Register breaking news

Watch your typing – it could affect your credit rating

Dun and Bradstreet (D&B) retracted one of the computer companies named on its "danger list" yesterday. D&B had sent out its regular list of companies with dubious credit ratings, which is designed to act as an early warning system for other businesses. One of the companies listed was distributor Enta Technologies. But on closer inspection it emerged that Enta was not in receivership or suffering from bad credit at all. Indeed, it was alive and well and thriving in Telford. D&B said it was a typo, and sent round a swift email to clarify that Enta was "entered on to the list in error." "There is no problem with this company," D&B says. Jon Atherton, general manager of Enta, said: "It's ironic really – we've recently more than doubled our sales staff. As far as company financing is concerned, the only thing we lease here is the coffee machine! This sort of mistake doesn't do anyone any favours, but it doesn’t really worry me either." ®
Linda Harrison, 17 Aug 1999
The Register breaking news

Tiny bins free PC offer

Tiny Computers has binned its "free" PC offer due to a lack of interest. The company introduced the deal a month ago to wide media speculation . Users had to sign up to its telco service TinyTelecom for 12 months and spend a minimum of £25 per month on call charges. In return they got a low-end PC without a monitor. According to Jim Buchanan, Tiny PR manager, the "free" PC offer simply didn’t wash with British punters. "The UK public was too sceptical. And it was not an ideal solution because there was no monitor," he said. Tiny is looking for another "free" PC offer – where it can offer an improved specification. "We’re refining the offer," Buchanan said. The Tiny offer also included the option to purchase any Pentium III Tiny machine with a £200 discount. Buchanan said the company received 25,000 calls in the two weeks after the offer launched, and 90 per cent of customers went for the PIII PC £200-off alternative. "Once you’ve actually persuaded a customer to buy a PC, and they actually put their hand in their pocket, they realise they’d rather pay £500 and have the PC with a monitor that will last for years," he said. Tiny will continue with this Pentium III offer, which also ties customers into Tiny Telecom for 12 months. Prices range from £699 to £1,399 ex VAT. Tiny said it had not yet decided on a launch date for its higher spec free PC.®
Linda Harrison, 17 Aug 1999
The Register breaking news

Mobile phones are a real pain in the neck

The horror stories: A woman blocked her neck arteries after a half hour phone conversation while doing the ironing, and a man lost the use of his arm for a month after holding the phone in the crook of his neck, damaging a nerve. Holding your telephone the wrong way can kill you. Well, not quite, but physiotherapists are saying that cradling a phone receiver between your shoulder and your ear can lead to a form of repetetive strain injury. This new phenomenon, dubbed telephonitis, is the newest in a long line of so-called "occupational diseases", for which there seems to be a current vogue. Both mobile phone users and landline users are at risk, according to researchers at Surrey University, but the really dangerous specimens are new slimline phones. A report by occupational therapist Elizabeth Simpson warns that constantly hunching ones shoulder to hold a telephone can damage delicate bones in the spine and upper shoulder, and the further one hunches - as with a slimmer phone -- the worse the damage. Simpson says it is a common problem. "We found that half of all office workers in the city who use a phone and a computer simultaneously suffer from neck pain. Old style phones were quite bulky, but the slimline models meant you had to hold your shoulder up even higher." According to Jill Belch, professor of Rheumatology at Dundee University, the condition is known as: "mobile phone spondylitis, which can cause pain in the neck, head and shoulders." It sounds like another argument for hands-free set to us. Alternatively, we could all go and live in caves. ® Mobile phones are a pain in the neck -- and links to five phone brain maim stories
Lucy Sherriff, 17 Aug 1999