By Jonathan Rice
The old Blackberrys stopped working a little while ago. I remember the first time I saw someone use a Blackberry, I was with a coworker. She pulled out a calculator, did some math, and then she put the calculator up to her ear and started talking to herself. “Oh shit,” I thought. She’s lost it.
I used to have a Blackberry. Three of them over the course of time. The first one came with this “slide in” holster belt clip thing which I believe was designed to lose the phone in order to increase sales. I really liked them though, to be more accurate I really liked their potential. The versatility.
You must realize they were marketed against Nokia flip phones and Nextel. There was no iPhone back then. The Blackberry had apps. I’m not sure we called them apps back then, but they had them. But the phone was still only as good as the carrier. That’s still true today but it was really true back then. As much of an improvement as the Blackberry was, when people asked how I liked them my response was, “they do a lot of things and none of them well.”
Before Blackberry I had Nextel phones. The mil spec ruggedized ones. The drop it, throw it, beat someone unconscious with it kind. The leave out in the pouring rain and it still worked kind. Now I buy Otter boxes for my precious iPhone. A phone designed with the BSB principle. Beautiful Slippery Brittle.
Nextel was a pretty good phone, mind you this was when we didn’t actually expect to always have coverage. “Drive a couple miles and it’ll find a tower” I was told more than a few times. The really cool thing about Nextel was the direct connect or “walkie talkie” feature. You can do that now, if the person you want to talk to has the same app you have, and if they have the app running. With Nextel’s direct connect their phone just needed to be on. Oh yeah, and near a tower.
My using electronics to talk to people wirelessly goes way back. Back to when it was called “the wireless.” I have an Amateur Radio (ham radio) license. The one you must pass tests to get. Tests from the FCC tests. Back in the 90s I had a ham radio installed in my work vehicle. I would talk to other hams local, on the west coast, and in other countries. Some of them I would talk to almost every day.
There was a guy who had his radio in his Arizona Highway Department truck. He joked he was the guy who put the signs back up after the drunks knocked them down. I used to talk to a professor at a University in Costa Rica(?) many times a week. Then there was a coup and I never heard from him again. I figured he was either imprisoned or in the new government. Never knew what happened to him.
One day, still back in the 90s, I was showing the radio setup I had in my truck to someone, I said, “On a good day I can talk to South America.” He pulled out his Nokia and told me he could talk to South America on “any day.”
The moral to this story? Technology marches on.