I recently (Sept 2010) decided that I needed (ugh) a 2nd cell phone for business purposes. This results in me now being burdened by two, count them, two cell phones. Now first of all, I remember the good ole days when I had no cell phone and was blissfully happy about it. I be home, you can call me there. I be at work, you can call me there. I be in between (be it traveling or at the bar en route) then you could just wait to call me. Oh wait, I had a pager provided by my work – my electronic lease – and if you knew that number, or more dangerously, the dispatch center’s number, you could contact me with a request for me to contact you. But you could not actually call me. All others and all other locations – you were SOL: So Out of Luck.
Many years ago, specifically about 1987-1988, a 2nd level above me boss was trying to justify a cell phone for himself and could not. So he instead discussed justifying one for me as I was (in his opinion) a key and critical support engineer providing technical assistance to his 15 city west coast telecommunications region. Once he sold the company on me being burdened, he could argue he was even more important and thus should also have cellphone. I aggressively fought against this idea – I wanted a certain amount of independence – the 24/7 pager was bad enough. I really did not want a phone with me everywhere I was. By the way, this was the days few people will remember of the Bag Phone. This behemoth weighted like 20 lbs, mostly battery that only lasted 30 minutes of talk time and required several hours to recharge and looked like something a military commander used in World War II to call in artillery strikes. (Watch a few old movies and you almost get a feel for what these things looked like.) They cost a lot of money, provided poor service and only initiated and received phone calls – no voice mail, no call waiting and no internet.
About 1993, things had progressed in leaps and bounds with regards to cellphone equipment and along came the brickphone. This devise was about 1/2 the size of the little red building bricks often used to decorate office buildings and portions of some houses. They also weighted in at about the weight of said bricks. Additionally, the batteries where standard (about 30 minutes) – extended (about 45 minutes) and OMG – super extended (nearly 1 hour) of talk time respectively. As they also required a long charge time, it was necessary that you often have two batteries, one on the phone, one on the charger and your phone also plugged into the cig-lighter adapter of your car because there was no way you where going to talk long without running out of battery and you always wanted a full battery when you exited your car. The battery would run out in about 4 – 5 hours just waiting for a call so a constant charge was important.
This was also the days of the $40 plans and $75 plans and $100+ plans. Much like now. However $40 got you about 40 minutes For The Entire Month, $75 might get you about a 100+/- and $100 plans could get you 150-200. Who in the world could ever talk that much????? After all, 150 minutes for the entire month. What a waste!
Fast forward through 15+ years of cellphone advancements – I say that some what sarcastically as I am not sure all these advancements in technology are also advancing mankind. Now cellphones must do much more. Still every time I enter a cellphone store I enthusiastically check to see if anyone has yet to develop a cellphone with a rotary dial and cord that has to be plugged into a wall. If I find one – I am buying it! But no, cellphones today have more computing power, more memory, more speed to process information, more ways to process information and more programs (aka APPS) then my first desk top IBM compatible Personal Computer (PC) which cost nearly $3,000 and took up the entire back seat of my car when I brought my baby home from the store.
I long ago gave up having a physical home phone and replaced it with a cellphone I took everywhere so that one number and the same number worked for me at home, at work, the grocery store, the gym (yeah right), etc. I replaced the home landline with a single cellphone with just over rotary dial capabilities. No pictures. No text, no web, like Robinson Crusoe, not a single luxury. That “good, easy to make and receive phone calls” phone was lost one day and my cellphone company offered me a replacement. I asked if I could get the same no thrills and frills phone. Yes, for $100. However, if I would step up a few levels to a more complex phone they would let me have it for $0. Yes, the junky (in their opinion) phone was $100, the modern phone – free. A few years later I suffered a medical event that landed me in the hospital for a week. The last day there, a nurse picked up my lunch tray with my phone laying on it and tossed the tray – phone and all – into the trash. By the time I recovered it: coffee, water and fruit juices had shut it down for good. I again called the phone service provider and asked about a new phone. Now I have been a loyal customer for something like 6 years and they would be thrilled to provide me a new hand held device. I asked about options and again, the low tech phone (as in the coffee coated one) was more expensive then the newer, more features phone. Like a two year old, I was kicking and screaming as they dragged me into the 2005s (by the way, this was 2008, I was still behind the curve ball and trying to stay there).
Today’s cellphones make calls, receives calls, takes and sends pictures, sends and receives little email like text messages, has built in games, calculators, GPS locators, and many other things I have no idea whyforth or (importantly) howforth to use. And these, I would like to point out are not the SMARTphones. No the SMARTphones have little screens allowing you to surf the web and run 1,000s of apps. While I could start the list of apps, I could never finish as everyday someone writes a new one that is the latest must have feature such as a listing of every seafood restaurant (and only seafood) in the USA. Of course there also be apps to find Steaks, Sushi (why I really, really must ask), hotels, car repairs, gas stations, airports and, this one I like, speed-traps. It appears that everyone that has the speed-trap app is expected to upload the location of the speed-trap where they just got a ticket so everyone else will know where the speed-trap is so they will not get a ticket also. Personally, I am not likely to publish the location of the speed-trap. No I am going to quietly pray that while the officer is busy writing my personalized invitation to have a one on one talk with a local judge that someone in a little red sports car will blow past us so fast the the cop will decide they are a better candidate for his valuable in short supply tickets and he will let me go to go after the other guy. But I digress, we now return to our regularly scheduled rant.
Now don’t get me wrong, I love being able to talk to people. If you are waiting on a greeting card (Christmas, birthday, new baby, graduation or???) you will make many a trip to the mailbox before you finally – no not get one – but rather realize that you are never getting one. In the days of old when long distance cost like 50 cents a minute, I would drop $50 on A long distance phone call before I would spend $3 on a card and stamp and mail it. The phones companies made a lot of money from me, the postal service – not so much. I guess my aversion to sending greeting cards is also why I have such an aversion to mailing bills. 🙂
Ok, now to today’s world. I have multiple business activities – some physically located and some mobile located, or would that be mobile unlocated? The mobile stuff involves mobile notary, MLM marketing, internet database information and internet sarcasm publishing. One phone I have serves as my If-You-Need-Me-In-An-Emergency phone. I do not want to publish this number everywhere or anywhere. This phone is always near me including about a foot from my head when I am in bed so that if it rings, I will respond, it may be a family emergency. I, after much heartache and self discussion, finally broke down and sought out a second phone. One that I can give to people as I see fit, but once closing time (or nap time) comes, I may not answer it – let it go to voice mail, I will deal with it later. I would like to point out, it is still not a SMARTphone but somehow it is still smarter then me. It does things that I really have no reason to see why a phone should do those things. For example it has a calculator. Now you could use this feature to figure up how much tip to leave when you are out to dinner. But just in case you are not smart enough to use the calculator to accomplish this task, it has a TIP calculator. However, to get it this feature, you have to go to menu, then select My Stuff, then scroll to and select tools, then scroll to and select Tip calculator then enter your information. During this time in a dimly lit food establishment, I could have done the numbers in my head. So this begs the question to be asked, if it is more work to use the shortcut method, why have a short cut?
All of that to arrive at this – None of the last three phones I have acquired; the one lost in the hospital (I have yet to forgive the nurse for being that dimmed witted, after all she is responsible for peoples lives) and the two that I now call my very own: Have A Ringing Phone Ring. None. Nada. Zilch. Zero. You can chacha. You can rumba. You can Salsa. You can even have it actually announce “Phone Call”, but you can not get a ring. There are dongs. There are dings. There are movie song themes. There are popular songs. There are rap, country and classical songs. There are no rings. There are motorcycles racing, train whistles blowing, NASCAR car motors revving, but nary a ring to be found. You can hear Luke Skywalker blasting Klingons (oh wait, wrong movie), you can hear horses galloping to save the day, but you can not be rung to attention that you have a call on your phone. You can be serenaded by birds chirping, wooed cats meowing or startled by dogs barking. But you can not be rung.
Back in the days alore when I was but a wee lad, the telephone was a boat anchor weighting device that came in any color you wanted as long as it was tan or black and it had a bell on it loud enough that it could be used on Sunday’s for calling all far and near to Sunday Meetin’ Services. It had a cord that limited it use to plus or minus 6 feet from where it was attached to the rest of the world. It did not text, it did not take pictures, it did not surf the web, it did not provide TV service. It did provide GPS, sort of, you always knew your exact location when you were using it. Today, the world is just a bit different. Your phone can do so many things the old phone could not and it can do it almost anywhere in North America as if it was still in your home. But it can not ring.
Alas I have to ask, should we even call it a phone?