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A simple clip-on device for a mobile phone, with a shield to hide the mouth (so no one can read the speaker's lips) and sound-damping technology to muffle the speaker's voice beyond it.
The inspiration for this was watching someone standing in the street speaking in muffled tones into her cell phone
and shielding her mouth from view.
So now you can discuss all sorts of personal things in public without fear of embarrassment. Whether you also want to squeal on the Mob while standing in Grand Central depends on whether you believe in hiding things in plain sight.
[I guess it would also help eliminate cell phone squawk, so perhaps you might want to carry several in your pocket to give to particularly obnoxious offenders.]
Modern Mechanics: Ad from 1941
Not, as you may guess, for a cell phone add-on. [jutta, Oct 01 2006]
Technovelgy: Hush-A-Phone (1921-195*)
As mentioned by aberson. [jutta, Oct 01 2006]
[aberson]'s link as a link.
[jutta, Oct 01 2006]
||As long as it works better than its namesake on /Get Smart/.
||People using mobiles in public (particularaly on trains) should always remember that they are not just talking to some*one* on the phone, but the fifteen or twenty people nearest to them, regardless of extra attachments. If a private conversation is what you want, don't phone from a public place.
||Sometimes it's better to text...
||Do a little research about the history of the phone system and you'll learn about something called the "hush-a-phone." This is exactly the device you describe. 50 years ago, AT&T was THE phone monopoly in the US, and it was illegal to connect non-AT&T equipment to the phone network. AT&T tried to stop the hush-a-phone makers from manufacturing the device and the whole thing sparked the ability to attach your own equipment to the phone network, leading to the phone industry we have today.
<a href="http://www.uh.edu/engines/epi1222.htm">more info here</a>