As It Happens

This New York woman built her own rotary cellphone

Justine Haupt, who created her own cellphone with a rotary dial, said she did so because she doesn't like how hyper-connected society is to their phones.

Equipped with a rotary dial, engineer Justine Haupt made the device small enough to fit in a pocket

Space engineer Justine Haupt wants to make this rotary cell her primary phone. (Submitted by Justine Haupt)
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Justine Haupt, who created her own cellphone with a rotary dial, said she did so because she doesn't like how hyper-connected people have become in the world of smartphones. 

"You can't browse the internet, it can't text, and all of that is intentional because I have a problem with how hyper-connected everyone is nowadays. So I wanted to downgrade," she told As it Happens host Carol Off.  

Haupt, a 34-year-old space engineer, explains that although the phone operates on a 3G cellular network, it is not a smartphone.

"It's as un-smart as it can be, intentionally."

Haput designed the phone in part because she wanted to know more about the mechanics of her cellphone. (Submitted by Justine Haupt)

Haupt aims to use the phone on a daily basis and tried to make it as compact as possible, so it could fit in a pocket.

"I'm measuring it as we speak. It's about about 10 centimeters tall and a little more than seven wide and a few thick," she said. 

The phone does integrate some modern features, such as programmable shortcut buttons for calling specific numbers, a power switch, and a curved e-paper screen that displays basic information such as missed calls.

Haupt describes the e-paper display as being similar to a Kindle e-reader.

"It's just this display that looks remarkably like paper. There's no backlighting, it's black text on [a] white background. And it's by static which means it doesn't need power to display a continuous message."

Haupt made the phone small enough to fit in her pocket. (Submitted by Justine Haupt)

Haupt said the main reason why she created the phone is because she wanted a device that she could control.

"It's a device that I truly own. You know [with most smartphones] you don't really know what's going on behind the scene, it's all very finicky to me. I really get driven crazy by modern touch interfaces and I just wanted something that I had complete control of," Haupt explained.

The phone has one basic purpose: to make and receive calls, which is solely what Haupt said she wants in a phone.

"In theory I could [text] if I worked out the programming to use the rotary dial ... but I am intentionally trying to avoid texting."

The phone is equipped with an e-screen that displays basic information. (Submitted by Justine Haupt)

She said that she believes other people share her frustration with smartphone technology, but they do not feel empowered to do anything about it.

"I think my mentality is more common than you might realize, and you know, you can make your own phone. It's possible to do this, but it's just not very common."

Regardless of whether it becomes Haupt's primary phone, she said she is happy with the end result.

"I'm proud of this. This is a personalized creation and I'm hoping this will become my primary cellphone. So we'll see how that goes a year from now."


Written and produced by Yasmin Gandham.