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Brit bar owner turns to old tech to get people off their phones and chatting again

It may seem like a novel idea in the age of smartphones and social media, but Brit Steve Tyler wants visitors to his new bar on England’s south coast to actually chat with one another when they’re sitting enjoying a drink.

That’s right, his audacious quest is to get customers at The Gin Tub talking with the people next to them rather than with some faraway friend on WhatsApp. So yes, that also means no Instagramming, no Facebooking, no Snapchatting, and certainly no Pokémon Go…ing.

But instead of sticking up notices encouraging drinkers to ignore their phones, or collecting handsets when people walk through the door, Tyler has turned to some very old tech for a solution – a Faraday cage.

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Invented by English scientist Michael Faraday in the 1830s, a Faraday cage is essentially a metal screen, or tin box, that’s capable of blocking electromagnetic fields. Tyler has built his Faraday cage into the walls of his bar.

“It’s silver foil in the walls and copper mesh,” Tyler explained to Sky News recently. He added that although “it’s not the perfect system, not military grade,” it’s able to block most mobile phone signals in the bar, causing patrons to once again look at one another instead of at a brightly lit display in their hand.

“I just wanted people to enjoy a night out in my bar without being interrupted by their phones, so rather than asking them not to use their phones, I stopped the phones working,” the owner said. “I want them to talk to the people they’re with, not the people they’re not with.”

Tyler told ITV News the system at the bar in Hove, about 40 miles south of London, has been a hit with the clientele, claiming it’s “changed the whole atmosphere inside.”

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As in the U.S., phone jammer devices are illegal in the U.K., though it seems the Faraday cage sits in a gray area of British law and is likely viewed on a case-by-case basis.

For the time being at least, Faraday’s tried and tested technology is working wonders for The Gin Tub, successfully encouraging more old-fashioned face-to-face communication among drinkers who, by all accounts, are rather enjoying the experience.