Call me, if your phone lets you

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iol scitech oct 8 motorola REUTERS Going back to my dads Motorola, like the pager it was meant for 'emergencies'.

Durban - Cellphones. Can’t live with them, can’t live without them. The first cellphone I remember seeing, besides the ones douchebags in convertible sports cars used in the movies, was my dad’s Motorola flip phone. It was as big as a brick and just as lethal.

The day he brought it home he was so excited and showed it off to everyone. Before that he had had a pager. I still don’t know what the point of those were. It was suppose to be for emergencies, but if someone “beeped” you, you still had to find a call box and call them before you knew what was going on – by which time the person could be dead. Also, what if you as the pager owner was in s***? How would the pager be of any use to you in an emergency?

But I digress.

Going back to my dad’s Motorola, like the pager it was meant for “emergencies” because, as you know, back then cellphone calls cost about R2 000 a minute. My dad would literally howl at my mum if she called him on the cellphone for something trivial, like telling him to pick up bread and milk. And before we would call my dad on the cellphone, we would write down what we wanted to say and rehearse and time it to make sure the call wasn’t longer than a minute. And if by some chance the call did end up being, say, 1 minute 25 seconds, my dad would insist we stay on the line because he was “paying for the second minute”.

My dad loved his Motorola so much, he once chased a thief, who snatched it, six blocks in town. Eventually the thief flung it on the sidewalk, because the sheer weight of it was slowing him down and my dad wasn’t letting up. Of course, all this happened back in the day when people used to wear their cellphones on their belts. Later my dad moved on to a Nokia, which was also a brick, but a very sleek brick. What I loved about both my father’s bricks is that they were from an era when cellphones were useful and reliable. You’d charge them once a week on a Sunday night and you wouldn’t have to worry about anything again. Also, they did what they were built to do, what all cellphones are supposed to do, and that is make calls.

Later my dad upgraded and passed the Nokia on to me – my first cellphone – and so my journey with cellphones began. Fast forward a few years and the new craze with manufacturers was seeing who could get the phone as small as possible. “Look at my new phone, it’s so awesome and tiny – fits in my handbag,” someone would say.

“That’s nothing, mine fits in the change pocket in my wallet,” another would say.

Then the fascination with what we now call applications began. And before you knew it, cellphones weren’t just for calling and texting, they had games and polyphonic ring tones (remember those). And along came GPRS, Mxit and web browsing.

Now it didn’t make sense for the phones to be small anymore because people couldn’t see all the stuff happening on the screens anymore, so designers decided phones had to be big again.

The advent and very brief dominance of the Blackberry made every one of us figurative crack addicts. The Blackberry was the most awesome thing around with BBM and all its other gimmicks, but the battery lasted about two minutes. And when that battery died, our lives would come to an end. It was not uncommon to see Blackberry users pale in their desperation-masked faces walking around public places, asking complete strangers if they had chargers or if they could use their wall sockets. And it’s not just the suicidal batteries these modern phones come with that render them useless, it’s the constant freezing and rebooting that reminds me how much better phones were when they were built for “emergencies”. And whether you’ve got the Crackberry, the life invading Apple or the new Samsung, they’re all designed to break into pieces after even the slightest “hard” use. My dad’s Motorola could be dropped, kicked around and sat on and it would still work perfectly, never freezing and never dying on him when he needed it the most – he never had to carry a charger around with him.

Yes, some might argue that the technology loaded into phones today helps make people’s lives easier. But I can’t fathom how the Voyager spaceship, built and launched over 30 years ago, which reached the outer limits of the solar system last week, did so without its battery dying or breaking, and yet manufacturers today can’t make a smart phone with a battery that lasts longer than a day?

After battling with so-called smart phones for way too long, I’ve decided to throw in the towel. Spare me the apps and the Whatsapps. I’m digging up my old low tech Nokia with a battery with the endurance of a Kenyan runner, and that’s what I’m going to be using. If you need to find me you can call me – if your smart phone allows you to, of course. - Sunday Tribune

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