7.14.2010

Finally Smart


News flash: as of later this month, I will be the proud owner of a smartphone. This is not an April Fools joke.

My introduction to the world in which most of my peers have inhabited for several years was somewhat abrupt and anticlimactic, but I couldn't be happier: my wife, the real brains in our family, just did it for me. She needs a smartphone for her new job, so she took care of that, moved me onto her call plan, and made sure I got a phone that suited my needs.

She was sweating out whether I would be upset, confused, or regretful, but I was none of the above. Rather, I was just glad, selfishly, that I didn't have to go through a long, drawn-out research process that probably would have left me upset, confused, and regretful. It helped that she did such a good job: she got us a relatively low monthly fee, was mindful of all of my preferences, and maxed out on all the goodies and breaks that companies desperate for your commitment are willing to throw your way.

So, later this month, my refurbished Motorola Backflip will arrive in the mail, and I will activate it, cancel my current phone plan, and move into a brave new world. No more hauling a brick of a phone and an increasingly fussy PDA, with all of the attendant limitations associated with this set-up. (Phone: the "3" and "5" button don't work, vibrate mode sounds like a dying duck, and I get less than three-and-a-half minutes of free talk time per weekday before I have to start paying exorbitantly by the minute. PDA: it freezes regularly, the stylus alignment is off more than it's on, and there's no access to web or email.)

It will be interesting to see how I adjust to this new piece of technology. On the one hand, I am making a vast jump in productivity capability: connectivity, talk time, apps, and so on represent huge gains in being able to do stuff faster and better. On the other hand, I kind of liked not being that productive, or, more correctly, I kind of liked having my productivity being at discrete times rather than all the time.

The moral of the story is that it's on me to manage this new capacity without being managed by it. On that note, I leave you with this quote from Lynn White, which is featured in a good book I'm reading now by Witold Rybczynski called "Taming the Tiger: The Struggle to Control Technology" that I am now finding quite relevant (even though it was written in 1982) given my upcoming tech upgrade: "A new device merely opens a door; it does not compel one to enter."

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