Sunday, January 8, 2012

Tell Me When To Jump

Technology's kind of like a train rolling by and you're thinking of hopping the freight and catching a ride. But you're not sure when you should jump. If you jump now, at least you'll be on a train, headed somewhere, making a bed out of straw with the other early-adopter hobos, who were already settled in the freight car when you hopped in. But then again, if you wait around, a better train's bound to come along. One maybe hauling downy sacks of feed and canned sardines with the easy peel-back lid.

Now that we've got that painful analogy out of the way, I'll talk plain and get down to the point. I've been trying for some time to decide on what to do about my cell phone, but as time goes by I'm more bewildered than ever.

Problem is, they keep moving the target on me. It's interesting to note that although Annabelle is the last person in our family to get a cell phone (and the last person in her 7th grade class, to hear her tell it), she is the first person in the family to get a smart phone. This is not because I like to indulge my kids in the latest gadgets. They will quickly tell you that that is not the case. It's just that, by the time I was ready to shop for a cell phone for her, smart phones were free (with a new contract ). Yeah, yeah, there is a data plan, but I'd already planned on upgrading to that anyway. And as it turns out, our carrier, T-mobile, now offer very few choices in non-data phones, or I think what they call "feature phones."

Well, now that we have a data plan, and I've finished my contract, I might as well upgrade, right? But to what? Oh, anything would be a exponential improvement. You would laugh at what I'm using now. Here, I'll show you:

It's a Nokia 5310, XpressMusic phone. I got it in May 2009. I got it for $16, for renewing my contract. Which is laughable, now that I can get entry-level smart phones for free. Its best feature, the reason I got it, is its music player. It allows you to organize your music in playlists, and it plays the music on external speakers. Something most phones in that price range didn't do three years ago.

Note, however, the keypad. Yes, those 12 cramped little keys are it, that's all you get. Texting, as you can imagine, is akin to working a telegraph machine. Back in 2009 it didn't matter, because I wasn't texting, my daughters weren't texting --shoot, neither one of them even had a cell phone---and I pooh-poohed its usefulness, just as I pooh-poohed Facebook and e-readers.

Now to make matters worse, in addition to my humble phone's meager specs, the left edge has lost its outer covering, so that the external music control buttons don't work anymore. The darn thing is as skinny and about as small as a Nestle's Crunch fun bar, and so it slips out of my hand as swiftly and easily as the bottle slips from a staggering hobo, and every time it does the back comes off, the battery goes flying, and a little bit more of the left edge gets chipped away.  

The music player still works, but it's kind of like having a boombox where the cassette player works but the cd player doesn't. Too cumbersome to be worth the trouble. Since the external buttons are broken, the only way to get to my music is to punch my way through a labyrinthine menu.

I figure any day now, I'll drop this phone and it will break into its usual three or four pieces, but I won't be able to put it back together. I do have to say for the record, though, that this is one tough lil' phone that has never stopped working.

Since I'm the type of person who runs things down into the ground before replacing them, I'm bound to be limping along with today's technology three years from now, and so I think I should get something pretty good. But gosh darn it, as soon as I make a move, they'll come out with something better. I found out just today that "pretty good" means a dual-core processor--No--QUAD-CORE! (I didn't know phones had quad-core processors!), and yummy-sounding operating systems like Gingerbread and Mango, that are more sophisticated and capable. And it's not enough that the screens on all these new phones are bigger than the two-inch display on my Nokia. I need to aim for one that has an AMOLED display.

If I want, I can get a phone that lets me edit Word documents, and I admit that is tempting. I could be stuck waiting for my daughter to get out of volleyball practice, yet be working on my novel right there in the high school parking lot. But it occurs to me that that's what tablets are for. And isn't it just a matter of time before I find myself with one of those? Because we don't find technology, technology finds us.

There are some features that I could care less about in a phone. A front-facing camera for making video-calls? Pffffft. I pooh-pooh the idea. I'm not going to be making video calls! But that's what I said about texting.

Anyway, the longer I wait, the choices don't get easier. They just get more ridiculous. I sit here with my pathetic, broken Nokia wondering if a 1 GHz processor will be fast enough. Why settle for a 3G  when I could have a 4G? What comes after 4G? How soon before quad-core is yesterday's hash, knowing that chip makers are starting to float the term "multi-core"? (See PCWorld article: Quad-core phones: what to expect in 2012.) How many cores can a cell phone have, before it's no longer a phone? Yes, and how many times will I have to upgrade, before they leave well enough alone?

The answer my friend  is blowing in the wind. The answer is blowing in the wind.         


  1. i was thinkinkg about you the other day and i was going to ask you if tablets were going to kill the libraries. i hope not. because you know how i feel about books.

    i've been putting off getting a new cell phone too. i just can't get excited about them. i just can't get excited about any electronic device or appliance. pfff. people seem to be so proud of what they can do! I've had people bring me their new phone and go "looklooklooklooklook - see what i can do with this."

    on the other hand, the day we decide we're not going to ride the train is the day we join the ranks of "Old People." so we MUST rage against the dying of the light, my sister!!!

  2. Your question about libraries has been raging on all librarians' minds for the last ten years, and continues to rage. I do sometimes wonder I'll be able to work in this profession until retirement.

  3. i guess steve and i have crossed over into the "dark time" because we are actually seriously considering getting two simple, cheap, trac-phones. talk and text is all we need, really. i am perfectly happy to let the rest of the world ride the train...over a cliff, if necessary. i am at peace now, and have accepted the fact that i will NEVER be able to keep up again, and that's......okay.

  4. It IS okay, and it's cool, as far as I'm concerned.

  5. Noooooo!!!
    Don't let the train get away. If you wait too long to jump the rails, you will miss it altogether. You will lose a step and the trains are rollin' faster all the time.
    I am going to do all I can to stay up with technology as it rages on. Some of the stuff available might seem so easy to live without, but I think this train is heading to some damn cool places, down the road, and I want to be on it.
    By the way...if you want to stall a little longer, you could use some of that Toyota duct tape to extend the useful life of that old hunk of electonic relic of yours.
    (just sayin')

  6. If you think your phone is an antique, you should see mine! I'll probably get a smartphone in 2012 but I don't have a problem with waiting for one. I don't have the lifestyle to go with it.

  7. a few years ago, the boys shamed tim into getting a new phone. they used to tease him all the time and ask him if he still had a bag phone in his car (anyone remember those?).

    i don't like the technology train but i ride it, but in protest.