James Kim: why did his cell phone fail?

I was thinking about the James Kim tragedy yesterday, and saw his CNET web page, which is still up. He was a senior editor of CNET. For those who don’t recall, he was driving in a snowstorm in Oregon last Thanksgiving, and got lost, and subsequently tried to walk for help. He died before rescuers could find him, though his family survived.

Username: jameskim
Real name: James Kim
Where I live: Noe Valley, a San Francisco cellular dead zone
What I do: Play around with tiny gadgets

[His comment about Noe Valley being a dead zone is ironic.]

Member since:
November 08, 2005

Last online:
Thursday, November 16, 2006 4:52PM PST

One of the interesting issues of the James Kim tragedy was his inability to use his cellphone. In part this was due to the remote “dead” location where he was stranded, and in part due to discharging of his cell batteries. Clearly he did not have a 12 volt charger to use in the vehicle, and I find that hard to understand. Furthermore, he seems not to have had an USB charger either, which would have allowed him to charge his cell from his laptop.  Or were both the cell and laptop batteries discharged? Furthermore, it is not clear that he had used the phone so extensively that day as to discharge the batteries. Is it possible he did not charge the phone the night before? Or was he using his phone to play movies or for other uses:

article by James Kim:

SlingPlayer Mobile allows users to stream video originating on their home television, including local broadcasts, cable and satellite content as well as video stored on a TiVo (or any other DVR), to their Windows Mobile-powered handheld or smartphone. Any higher end device running Windows Mobile 4 or 5 such as Palm’s Treo 700w, Samsung’s i730, Motorola’s Q, HP’s iPaq will work with the software utilizing either a WiFi or 3G network fo the video stream. The software, which includes a virtual remote control also allows you to pause “live” TV (there’s generally a 6-7 second delay) and program your DVR to record shows just as you would at home.

More from the website:

My system configuration:
1.25 GHz PowerPC G4, 1GB RAM, 15-inch PowerBook

My Windows PC just died.

I’m testing a Treo 700w and I love it.

I don’t know whether or not he had this Treo phone with him.

By PPC standards, the Treo 700w has great battery life. I used it as my main phone and email device while covering the CES trade show in Las Vegas for two days straight and the battery lasted. During that time I accessed the web for more than an hour each day using Verizon’s EVDO service, checked email for several accounts 20 times per day, watched two short videos, played a few games of solitaire and spoke on the phone for 30 minutes each day. Not bad….

Questioning friends and family, I was surprised to find that a lot of people don’t have cellphone chargers for use in their vehicles. I mean, that is where the phone gets the most use, am I wrong? But I bow to the majority….I couldn’t expect most people to have them, but a professional like James Kim, whose thing is computer gadgets?? And who won’t have access to an AC outlet during his vacation except when he’s in his motel room? And he knew his battery was low before he ever left Bear Camp Road.

There have always been many questions, many what ifs, couldas, shouldas about this sad story. The cell phone charger thing is certainly one lesson we might learn.

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