If the past century has represented an ongoing exchange of quality for convenience (an admittedly pessimistic, but probably supportable view), I can think of no realm where we have exchanged more quality for more convenience than that of the phone call. It seems half the calls I get these days come from cell phone users, and a frustrating proportion of those calls are static-y, have random drop outs, are too quiet, get weird cross-talk, etc. Sometimes we get cut off in the middle and somebody has to call somebody back.
In almost every area of technology, things are immeasurably better than they were 30 years ago. But the worst phone problems we had in 1970 were the occasional “party line” x-over — hearing a bit of your neighbor’s conversation. Three decades later, with the actual phone hardware evolving at an incredible clip, every other phone call has become an exercise in frustration. Why can’t the carriers evolve their networks as quickly as their phones? Are they cutting corners, or are there unsolvable problems to solve?