by Kevin Burton
The cell phone, or more specifically, the cell phone call, turned 50 recently.
It’s a story I almost ignored. Here is part of a CNN Business story on the anniversary:
“On April 3, 1973, Martin Cooper stood on a sidewalk on Sixth Avenue in Manhattan with a device the size of a brick and made the first public call from a cell phone to one of the men he’d been competing with to develop the device.”
“I’m calling you on a cell phone, but a real cell phone, a personal, handheld, portable cell phone,” Cooper, then an engineer at Motorola, said on the phone to Joel Engel, head of AT&T-owned Bell Labs.
“While cell phones would not be available to the average consumer for another decade, anyone walking by Cooper on the street that day could have seen history being made,” reads the CNN story.
“In the fifty years since that first call, Cooper’s bulky device has evolved and been replaced by a wide range of thinner, faster phones that are now ubiquitous and reshaping industries, culture and the way we relate to one another and ourselves.”
There is a lot written into that last paragraph, way too much for me to tackle. How many people do you know, whose brain seems to be located in a tiny chip in their cell phone. Separation from the phone leaves them practically inert.
Longtime Page 7 readers know that I was the last holdout, didn’t see the need for a smartphone. My flip phone made and received the calls I needed. That’s what I signed up for, it’s what I got.
Then my tenure as a flip-phone user slipped through my fingers, literally. I dropped the phone, picked it up, and saw little paper ribbon things sticking out of the top of it.
My shoulders slumped, as resignation washed over me like a blast from a sprinklerhead.
My wife Jeannette informed me that I could get another flip phone, then held her breath. She exhaled when I said that yes, I would use the smartphone that I already had, which I had bought from a friend.
People laughed unrestrainedly at me and my flip phone. So how am I doing now that I have gone over to the dark side?
Well first, I have not even begun to sample all the capabilities of my phone. For instance, I have not yet set “I Just Want To Be Your Everything,” by Andy Gibb as my special ringtone for Jeannette. I do have a newsroom typewriter sounding tone for my general calls though.
I do have the Uber and Lyft apps and have used them maybe five times.
I am not yet a seasoned swiper. I know different things pop up when you swipe this way or that on the screen, but I don’t have that memorized. It’s like getting to know the streets in a town you just moved to.
So when my swiping goes awry and the camera comes on, I have no idea how to get rid of it except to turn the entire phone off and turn it back on. This is maddening, but not fatal.
(Update, duh, hit the home button. Hey, you don’t know until you know.)
When I’ve turned off the computer in the morning on the way to work, and realize I have forgotten to check the temperature, now I can just ask Siri. I need to know which coat to wear, the light one or the heavier one. Siri isn’t the greatest but she can handle “what’s the temperature?”
I like the great big time display. I have learned to mow through my e-mails on the phone but if I want to do something such as clicking like on a post by one of my fellow bloggers, I still do that on the desktop.
Most importantly, the iPhone should eliminate all fantasy football crises and meltdowns – at least those directly related to technology. I will not be tethered to my desktop to monitor injury reports in the fifteen minutes before kickoff on an NFL Sunday.
So, I’m going to keep it.
Cooper told CNN said the possibility that mobile phones would one day be deemed essential to much of mankind was clear from the start. But to him, it’s all about making the life easier.
“Too many engineers are wrapped up in what they call technology and the gadgets, the hardware, and they forget that the whole purpose of technology is to make peoples’ lives better,” Cooper said. “People forget that, and I have to keep reminding them. We are trying to improve the human experience. That’s what technology is all about.”
“Overall, I think the cell phone has changed humanity for the better and that will continue in the future,” Cooper said.
If you say so, brother.
As I have told many who embarked on the smart phone journey, take it slow and easy. Do what you need to do first and then if you get curious, learn the rest one step at a time. One day you will be surprised at how far you’ve come. 🙂
Tracy Duffy firstname.lastname@example.org
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