I remember sitting in a pub, sometime around the end of the millennium – maybe 1997. One of the regulars, a young girl, came in clutching a bag in a fever of excitement. She tore it apart at the bar. It contained: her new mobile phone.
She dialled a number and when the other person picked up, literally screamed into the mouthpiece, because it was the most accurate way to tell her friend on the other end of the line how excited she was at having just got her new mobile phone. She then phoned someone else and did the same thing.
You tell that to the kids today? They won’t believe you – but at sometime in the future they may tell the story of when someone got their first personal jet pack (we all still live in hope) or when some way-off seeming piece of tech suddenly became real and accessible to everyone. My memories of the first prototypes for mobiles in the 70s were bulky objects the size of house bricks. Very few people had them and even fewer employees wanted them. Then Nokia pretty much put a small device into the hands of just about everyone I knew at the time and the world changed.
Now, I love my (work) smart phone, but even I noticed that the first video I saw for the first iPhone spent a long time demonstrating its features, pretty much the last of which was to use the device as a telephone, you know for talking. Whatever you do, the tactic seemed to be, don’t mention it is a phone – focus on the photos and the music and the Internet. This has proved to be prophetic, because despite what American TV shows will have you believe, if you dare use your smart phone for actually talking to other people on another phone, then you will soon render it closer to the 70s brick than you would expect. Power seems to leak from it physically so it is always wise to be near a power point.
For this reason specifically, neither my husband nor I have upgraded our phones from dumb. I actually tend to text more than I talk, but he loves to talk. A lot. So we encountered a problem last week when my husband’s old phone went on the blink and he needed a new one. It became apparent that it is now very difficult to buy a phone that is not smart.
We tried a local retailer for our network’s phones – nothing but shiny surfaces as far as the eye could see. We explained to a shop assistant what we wanted to use the phone for – to call people – and she looked at us as if we had dropped in from planet Zog. Finally, she suggested that we get to an electronics retailer and try there.
Eventually I found something online that might do the trick. It is not a Nokia and I am sorry for that. I loved my Nokia phones with their simple elegant menus and chunky design. I know the day will come soon, when the 2G network is switched off forever and we all have to ‘go smart’, but I am not looking forward to it. I like the option of battery life.
But who knows? In thirty years’ time, maybe someone will be writing somewhere about the first time they saw someone scream with excitement when they opened their first bio-interfaced comms device, powered directly using chemical energy from the body and uniquely designed to integrate with the user so it never runs out of juice.
I will still be missing my brick.