September 25th, 2012
04:47 PM ET

Tempted by inflight electronics

It's the summer of 2006. I'm playing multiplayer Grand Theft Auto with a friend on the PlayStation Portable via Wi-Fi. And we're 38,000 feet over the South China Sea.

I know there's a ban on wireless devices in the middle of a flight. I know I shouldn't be doing it.

But there I am, speeding through the streets of Liberty City, chasing a friend who's sitting four rows behind me, when my car hits a barrier and explodes.

The plane shakes a little.

Just to be clear, I had never done anything like this before. I am so terrified of flying that I become the most obedient passenger on the plane the instant I step inside. My seatbelt is always tightly fastened. My tray table is stowed and my seat is upright five minutes before they ask. And I always, always read the safety card.

In the game, I lean out of the car window to rake my opponent's car with gunfire. I catch a glimpse out the plane window of thunderclouds far below. The plane shakes a little more. That's the reason for the shaking, not my wireless gaming... right?

I have always followed the rules regarding electronics on planes... but I've never really believed them. On a logical level, I can't see how my tiny iPod shuffle emits such harmful interference that it can affect the safe operation of a modern airliner. And my suspicion that regulations have not kept pace with technology is usually confirmed whenever I see an inflight safety briefing in 2012 that shows chunky "smartphones" from 2005.

It does makes more sense to me that a device with wireless capabilities could interfere with an aircraft. Whether it's true or not is another story, but it does make sense. But then I think about all my friends who've  accidentally left their phones on... and lived to tell the tale. And they can't be the only ones, right? If a switched-on phone was genuinely that unsafe, surely they'd confiscate it before boarding and stow them somewhere secure.

But I'd never acted on that suspicion... until the lure of multiplayer Grand Theft Auto was too much to ignore.

I chase my friend down an alley. I'm starting to sweat, but I'm not sure whether that's because I'm low on ammo or because the plane has stopped shaking a little and has started shaking a lot.

The Fasten Seatbelt light comes on.

My PSP switches off.

Screw it. The fun of inflight wireless gaming is not worth this stress. If it is indeed safe, I can wait until the rules change.

Until then... well, that's why there's an Airplane Mode.

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Filed under: Gadgets • General • Personal musings • Technology
soundoff (2 Responses)
  1. Dave

    HAHAHAHA 🙂 No, your PSP in no way shape or form affected the turbulence the aircraft was experienced.

    September 25, 2012 at 9:47 pm | Reply
    • Dave

      'had' experienced... quick replies.

      September 25, 2012 at 9:48 pm | Reply

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