This is a sample of The Echidna newsletter sent out each weekday morning. To sign up for FREE, go to theechidna.com.au I blame Ernest Mercadier. You, being a sensible and considerate person, may well get irritated by people - often hipsters with top knots - walking down the street apparently talking into space. These inconsiderate types are listening and shouting through ear buds - Mercadier was the man who first came up with the idea in 1891. It's true that Apple made them fashionable but the French engineer patented the first headphones which could be inserted into the ears. He was awarded U.S. Patent No. 454,138 for "improvements in telephone-receivers which shall be light enough to be carried while in use on the head of the operator." His headphones weighed about 50 grams. As the patent application put it, they could be "adapted for insertion into the ear." They even had rubber covers "to lessen the friction against the orifice of the ear" and "effectually close the ear to external sounds". So Mercadier gets some of the blame but Apple gets more. Monsieur Mercadier could not have known what he was unleashing on the world but Apple did. Its AirPods were revealed on September 7, 2016. Soon, our streets were filled with sane people who lacked any self-awareness. They were unconcerned that they resembled psychotic people answering voices in their heads. For the rest of us, it was very distracting. But that didn't deter Apple. Oh no. The company had sold "airbuds" from 2001 for listening to its MP3 players. But the big and ghastly innovation was the addition of the microphone and a wireless, Bluetooth connection so people could answer phones with them. We have now moved a further step down the road to perdition. The rise of video calls, prompted, I suspect, partly by pandemic lockdowns but also by the amazing improvement in technology so that WhatsApp, Skype, Zoom and the rest work easily. This means that shouty phone calls are now pervasive. A friend of mine witnessed (she had no choice) a video call on a train the other day. She could hear both sides of the conversation. It's true it was in Britain but we fear for our future in Australia. It is, I think, a rise in a lack of civility. It is a lack of consideration for others. Making a loud phone call in public is quite an aggressive act: the caller is in effect saying to those around that he or she doesn't care about their comfort. Maybe, it's age - the onset of grumpy old man mode - but I do think plain politeness is not what it was. I was brought up to keep conversations private and quiet. I don't like being overheard. There are no doubt techniques to confront loud phone violators. You might ask them to keep their voices down. You might mimic their calls. But I don't recommend it. It's responding to rudeness with rudeness, and it won't work. The battle is lost. (But I do forgive the man on the bus this morning who played music from his machine to the whole of the rest of the bus. He was old and a bit daft - and he was playing all the music genres: both country and western). HAVE YOUR SAY: Do you have any recommendations for dealing with shouty phone callers? Is the battle lost? Email your response to email@example.com SHARE THE LOVE: If you enjoy The Echidna, forward it to a friend so they can sign up, too. IN CASE YOU MISSED IT: - Rupert Murdoch's Fox News has settled a defamation lawsuit from the voting machine company, Dominion, over its reporting of the 2020 presidential election. The network agreed to pay $1170 million after Dominion claimed that its business was harmed by Fox spreading false claims the vote had been rigged against Donald Trump. The deal means Fox executives such as Rupert Murdoch from will not have to testify. - An anti-corruption investigation has found staff in the Daniel Andrews' government exerted pressure on health department officials to award a $1.2 million contract to a health union. - The prime minister has defended the wording of the proposed Indigenous Voice referendum, dismissing fears of possible High Court challenges. "This is a legally sound proposition. It makes it very clear that parliament is in charge," he said. THEY SAID IT: Phone etiquette rules, according to Australia Reader's Digest: YOU SAID IT: I ruminated on the merits of face-to-face conversation. There was a range of responses. Arthur opined: "Text is great for deaf people but they still value the extra meaning conveyed by facial expression and body language." Deb said: "At work I preferred to use email to communicate because it helped me to organise my thoughts and check that I had included everything that I needed to ask or tell the other person. Much better than having to ring someone back or run around and talk to them again about something I had forgotten." John said he was involved in project management "and preferred face-to-face communication as this quite often led to better outcomes. I often found that people who used written communication were more worried about covering their rear by having documented conversations." "With AI counterfeit video bots soon to be everywhere, the only trusted medium may soon return to 'real-time in-person chats'," Siobhan said. And Susan said she was horrified: "My daughter and her young family live on a large property with her in-laws. They all have separate houses within metres of each other. The parents-in-law have a separate house, as does the brother-in-law and his family. They communicate through a What'sApp group because they are so 'busy' that a family meeting to discuss maintenance etc is too difficult to organise!"