I Agree With Mark Twain

I Am an Unrelenting Enemy of the Smartphone

As far back as 1890, Mark Twain sent out this Christmas message:

It is my heart-warm and world-embracing Christmas hope and aspiration that all of us-the high, the low, the rich, the poor, the admired, the despised, the loved, the hated, the civilized, the savage-may-eventually be gathered together in heaven of everlasting rest and peace and bliss-except the inventor of the telephone.

I have more or less come to terms with my land line. (“What’s that?”) I’m pretty good at sorting out the fakers and phishers who make up most of my calls. (“We’re canceling your Amazon account because [Click]” and “Your account with Apple [Click].”) One just has to be hyper skeptical with all robocalls and perhaps a majority of live callers.

But there is something about the cell phone which makes it irritating in the extreme:

  • It’s ridiculously expensive
  • It turns most callers in public places into boors
  • Particularly with the smart phone, it is dangerously distracting—particularly on the road
  • Too many parking spaces are occupied by idiots fingering their smart phones
  • Everyone assumes you have one
  • The screens are so tiny that, past a certain age, one can’t view them comfortably
  • What passes for a keyboard with cell phones is a sick joke

Today, I couldn’t get into my personal accounting system on QuickBooks Online because Intuit decided I had to change my password. To prove that I am me, they sent a code to my cell phone. I couldn’t view the code because the first text message on my system was corrupted, so I had to restore factory settings and destroy all five text messages. (No problem, that.)

People occasionally call me on my cell phone, but I never answer calls because most of them are in Chinese; so I would rather keep my cell shut off except when I have to place an emergency call. (That’s the only good thing about cell phones.)

Sorry about the rant. Why do I get the feeling with most technical innovations that they are one step forward and two steps back?

There’s an App for That: A Fantasy

It Was the App to End All Apps!

It Was the App to End All Apps!

It all started in 2016 with an app called OmegApp, available simultaneously for the Android and iPhones. It was inevitable that a program like this would eventually make an appearance. Smart phone callers were running out of people to call, or even text. What OmegApp provided was a robotic interface that appeared to deeply care for anyone who communicated with it. The name of the interface was Tag. If you called Tag, Tag would reciprocate and call you back later, with occasional text messages stroking your ego in the meantime. (Tag’s ultimate message? “You’re IT!”)

Soon, the majority of all cell phone calls and texts were handled by the OmegApp system, which operated on five continents in over sixty languages. Before long, people would distractedly wander the streets with that sh*t-eating grin demonstrating that they were, in fact, wanted and needed by somebody (or something).

Of course, it had an immediately catastrophic effect on traffic—pedestrian, bicycle, and motorized.

In Cleveland, the Dotes twins, Mairzy and Doezy, were struck head-on by the 56A bus as it barreled down East 177th Street. Both the driver and the victims were on Tag at the time. In Santa Monica, a distracted little Lambsy Divey walked off the bluff overlooking the Coast Highway and ended up being run over half a dozen cars, all of whose drivers were texting on Tag.

One would think that there would be an outcry. Unfortunately, there wasn’t. The phone companies were making more money than ever, and those Tag users who didn’t end up a casualty felt happier than before. In fact, talking to Tag was more satisfying than sex and raising a family. In all probability, this may be curtains for the human race: Only the deaf and blind seem to be immune to OmegApp’s blandishments.


Guess What Retro-Tech Item Cell Phones Have Popularized?

Guess What Retro-Tech Item Cell Phones Have Popularized?

This posting is inspired by an article on BBC’s website entitled “Weird Places Readers Charge Phones.” The BBC asked readers for the weirdest places they charged their cell phones. Here are some of the responses:

In South Korea I came across a phone charger powered by gym equipment! Korea is more than a little obsessed with mobile phones so it didn’t come as a big surprise when I was climbing a mountain and came across a phone charger, powered by cycling.

That actually makes sense. We all need to do more exercise. One viewer from Mold in Wales (hmmm!) wrote:

Some of the best phone reception in the Nepal Himalayas is near to Everest Base Camp. So when approaching here from less well-connected places, phones start to light up with activity. I’ve set up a solar charger on top of Kala Patthar (18,500 ft) to keep my smartphone going. On the other hand, I carry a backup dumbphone—like many locals use—and it will stay charged for a week.

Sometimes, desperate cell phone users will resort to unacceptable measures:

I once sat in the waiting area in Bristol children’s hospital with my little girl. We saw a woman go up to the fish tank and unplug it in order to plug her phone charger in! She was aghast when the receptionist told her to remove it and plug the fish tank back in.

Yup, You Guessed It!

Yup, You Guessed It!

I would think the fish were even more aghast. Finally, let’s see how an entrepreneur approaches the problem:

Perhaps the most entrepreneurial and exploitative battery charging service I have seen was in Lindela Repatriation Centre, Krugersdorp, South Africa.

Whilst waiting for 30 days to be voluntarily deported back to the UK, my 5000+ fellow deportees were given so little information by the staff that they were desperately using mobile phones to contact relatives, friends or Embassy staff.

People with phones rented their use to others whilst staff at the shop charged them for re-charging their phones.

When you have 10 sockets for about 2,000 phones, you can name your price.


Cellphone Hell Is … Other People

Another Technical Innovation That Has Overstayed Its Welcome

Another Technical Innovation That Has Overstayed Its Welcome

We’ve all seen it. That shit-eating grin and the walkie-talkie walk that says, “I have somebody with whom to carry on a meaningless conversation—and you don’t!” And now the FAA and FCC have okayed the use of mobile phones on planes. Is this a good thing? For every call that actually has to be made, there will be half a thousand stating “We’re in the air over Kansas right now” and “We’ve just landed at ORD and are taxiing to our gate.”

Then there will be the fake business calls just to make the caller look important. I can just imagine the guy at the other end, “What are you saying, Jason? You don’t own any stock, and last I heard you were in bankruptcy proceedings.” Of course, we never hear the tired, slighty pissed off voice at the other end of the line, just the mock triumphalism of the caller.

There are several ways of fighting these self-important a-holes who force you to listed to their bloviating:

  1. Sneeze all over them without covering your mouth.
  2. Spill part of your drink on them and offer to pay their dry-cleaning bill, giving them a false name, address, and telephone number.
  3. Read out loud from your book, making occasional significant gestures in their direction, as if it were all for their benefit.

In the end, I suspect this will not become a major problem, if only because most people are virulently against it. In today’s news, two airlines have come out against allowing cell calls on flights: Delta and JetBlue. If any other airlines join them, I may well vote with my feet, choosing only airlines that place restrictions on the nefarious habit.

It would be nice we could do something about that other noise-making nuisance on long flights: crying babies and whining small children. But on humanitarian grounds, I think I’ll just shut up for now.

The Touch Screen Fugitive

This Interface Is Not for Me!

This Interface Is Not for Me!

When I lost my cell phone at the Ringling Brothers circus about ten days ago, all my friends assumed that I would replace it with a smart phone. Surprise! I bought one of the rare dumb phones, an LG model that does not have a touch screen interface.

What do I have against touch screen interfaces? I guess I associate smart phones with people who don’t know what to do with their hands, so they spend their lives tweezling around with a microscreen to play games, devise phantom to-do lists, send and read e-mails, and in general replace life with a digital simulacrum .

So today during lunch hour, I took my turn waiting in line at the local AT&T store, while some bonzoid in shorts apparently tried to stage a hostile takeover of the phone company using Lithuanian zinc futures. He took so long that the rep who was helping him went off to lunch, leaving him on hold on the phone.

My cell phone, on the other hand, is used almost exclusively for making calls. I don’t even like to receive calls on my cell. But then, whenever I removed my old Samsung cell phone from its holster, it would automatically shut down the incoming call.

I’m not saying I’ll never get a cell phone, it’s just that I’m not interesting at this time in expanding my cell phone usage, or dirtying up a tiny screen, making it even harder for my bad eyes to read it.