Saturday, December 5, 2009

Blackberry Blues column

I vow to contribute more often here is the latest column I can blog..

Changing Lanes:Blackberryblues.
I’ve always wondered what a Blackberry was and why President Obama was having such a hard time parting with his. I’ve had one for a week now. I have a slight headache, a stiff neck and sore thumbs from operating the clever little device. I’ve become very attached to it.
There was a time I kept every phone number of acquaintances, my employers and most addresses I considered necessary, in my head. I could also remember the list of a half dozen items I needed to get when I walked the aisles of my local super market. Back then, if I ambled to the living room from the kitchen with a purpose, I could recall what that purpose was. Now I wait for it to come to me or walk back empty handed. Somewhere along the line, my brain has turned to oatmeal.
Several years ago, I purchased a PDA (Personal Digital Assistant) smart-phone. A long time before that, it had been cutting-edge technology, ridiculously overpriced. After years of Assisting many other people, (read became much cheaper) I bought one.
The smart-phone performed a plethora of important functions. It stored my appointments, my calendar, and address book. It contained my ‘to-do’ and grocery lists. Once a week I attached it to my computer with a cable and ‘synced’ all of the above. If I changed or added something on either the PDA or the computer, the two would talk it over during ‘sync-time’ and exchange the information. It even was a good calculator.
I loved the touch screen at first, but became less fond of that later. The PDA did many things wonderfully, but it wasn’t a good cell phone. It was a step backward in that area. When talking to someone, it felt as though I was holding a brick to the side of my head. Not a regular brick either. It was more like one of those heavy, dense Olean paving bricks. Some part of my face would hit the touch screen and end the call early or start a conference call, or play loud music. During the call, my ear would sometimes touch the screen in an inappropriate place and it would activate an unwanted application.
The volume settings were unruly, refusing to adjust the way I wanted. It would inexplicably convert to speakerphone between calls. After leaving scar tissue on my eardrums a few times, I knew to answer the phone carefully.
My two-year contract with Verizon wireless ended a year or so ago. Because I didn’t attempt to sign up for another service contract or get a new phone, Verizon began pestering me, sending me special “deals”, almost on a weekly basis. The longer I did not sign, the phones offered for “free”, got better and more elaborate. Competition in the wireless market is fierce and I was one guppy they didn’t want to lose. Verizon seemed frantic to win me back.
Following my brain’s example, my PDA smart-phones’ thinking became cloudy. When I entered information on the touch-screen, the wrong numbers and letters came up, I would hit a “t” on the virtual keyboard and an “r” would register on the screen. I had to ‘realign’ on a daily basis.
I finally accepted one of Verizon’s offers. My new Blackberry does all the things my old smart phone did, only faster and without prompting. I don’t turn on my computer many days because email comes to the Blackberry. I can get CNN news, the weather, and Google anything, anywhere, anytime. It reminds me to take my medications and to take out the garbage. I can download audio books from the library or listen to music from any number of sources and, it’s a great calculator.
Technology has come a long way. As evidence, when used as a phone, the Blackberry feels like a much smaller brick than the old PDA did. Oh well, you can’t have everything.
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