Building your own wireless communications device isn't for the faint of heart, or the law-abiding -- the FCC tends to prefer placing its own stamp of approval on devices that utilize US airwaves, making a homegrown mobile phone an unlikely proposition. That didn't stop a team at the MIT Media Lab from creating such a DIY kit, however. Meet the Do-It-Yourself Cellphone. This wood-based mobile rig, while it's currently in the prototype phase (where it may indefinitely remain), would eventually ship with a circuit board, control pad, a fairly beefy antenna and a monochrome LCD. Sounds like it'd be right at home at some kid's garage workshop in the early '80s, not showcased at an MIT open house. The argument here is that people spend more time with their phone than with any other device, so naturally they'd want to build one to their liking. Nowadays, folks expect their pocketable handset to enable them to not only place and receive phone calls, but also store phone numbers, offer a rechargeable battery, and, well, in some cases even send and receive email, and surf the web -- none of which are available with such a kit.
The prototype we saw was fully functional. It could place calls. It could receive calls. There was even Caller ID! The phone does indeed feel homemade, with its laser-cut plywood case and a design that lacks some of the most basic gadget essentials, like a rechargeable battery (or at very least some provisions for replacing the 9-volt inside without unscrewing the case). Audio quality sounded fine, and calls went out and came in without a hitch -- there's a SIM card slot inside, letting you bring the nondescript phone to the carrier of your choice. Does it work? Yes. Is it worth dropping $100-150 in parts to build a jumbo-sized phone with a microscopic feature set? No, there's definitely nothing smart about the DIY Cellphone. If you want to throw together your own handset, however, and not risk anyone questioning the legitimacy of your homemade claim, you might want to keep an eye out for this to come to market. The rest of you will find everything you need in the video just past the break. We're just happy to have walked away without any splinters.
MIT Media Lab: DIY CellphoneSee all photos