Already Missing My Not-So-Smart Phone
It had the shape and heft of a small brick. It stuck out from my belt so far that I looked like I was packing heat. You tapped it with a stylus instead of your fingertip, and each time you did, it gave out an annoying snap like a gas grill igniter. Its screen was so dim that you couldn't read it outdoors.
So why, then, do I already miss my faithful Pocket PC, or "Pete" for short, which I finally had to cast aside last week in favor of a sleek new iPhone? Why do I feel as if I've just had to take Old Paint out behind the barn and shoot him?
It was back in 2006 that Pat Taylor came to work as The Pilot's new advertising director, showing off his new Pocket PC when we went to lunch on that first day. It touched off a kind of interdepartmental arms race. If the ad guy could have one of those things, then danged if the editor wasn't going to get one too.
So I bugged Publisher David Woronoff until he agreed to let me have one for my company phone. At the time, even back then, I think it cost $400! I convinced David that I would act as test pilot, mastering all aspects of this then-amazing gadget as the first step toward outfitting all our staffers with them. (It never quite worked out that way, and Pat long ago got rid of his.)
I was dazzled by Pete's "Star Wars" capabilities. He took pictures. He recorded notes. He kept track of tasks. He surfed the Web. In one fell swoop, this little silver rectangular baby, with its slide-out keyboard, took the place of three other separate devices I'd been carrying around: cell phone, digital recorder, digital camera.
Old Pete served me so faithfully for so long, and I became so comfortable with every quirk of his every application, that I guess I failed to notice - or chose not to - as progress began to overtake him and leave him behind in the ditch.
Then, just the other day, two things happened simultaneously: David offered me an opportunity to get a new iPhone. And my Pocket PC suddenly and inexplicably went deaf. When -people called, they could hear me but I couldn't hear them. And nobody could figure out why. Some kind of stroke, maybe. Pete and I had come to the end of the road.
Electronic gizmos today move at such blazing speed from cutting edge to elephant graveyard that when I handed my merely four-year-old Pocket PC to the AT&T clerk so she could transfer my 280-odd contacts from it into the iThingy, she actually laughed out loud at the mere sight of it.
"I didn't know anybody still used one of these!" she squealed nostalgically, marveling at this antique as she took it around and showed it to her co-workers like a curious artifact that somebody had found in King Tut's tomb.
My new iPhone, I must admit, is absolutely, astoundingly superior to Pete in every way. It's half as thick as its predecessor and cost only a fraction of what we paid for Pete back when. Only once or twice have I become so frustrated while trying to do old functions in new ways that I've had to be restrained from throwing it at the wall.
You can send the iPhone's contact lists spinning along with a flick of your finger. The icons on its screen are as brilliant as gemstones, even in direct sunlight. This baby has so many maps stored in its seemingly unlimited memory that I immediately pinpointed streets I've lived on everywhere from Carthage, Mo., to Fairfax, Va., to Moscow.
And I've only scratched the surface. The thing always knows where it and I are in the world, thanks to some kind of GPS component. And there are any -number of inexpensive "apps" available that turn the device into anything from a hiker's magnetic compass to a carpenter's bubble level. I think there may even be a can opener in there somewhere.
All that is quite fabulous, but I still feel bad about old Pete. He wasn't as sexy or maybe quite as smart as iPhone (who doesn't have a nickname yet), but he was rugged and dependable, and he saw me through a great many adventures. And now he'll take a place of honor in a small personal museum that includes such other now-obsolete companions as a Super 8 home movie camera and a library of '80s music casettes.
He should feel right at home.
Steve Bouser is editor of The Pilot. Contact him at (910) 693-2470 or email@example.com.
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