Entry 642: A Call from the Past

Well, I recently took yet another trip to Coconut Creek, Florida, spent chauffering my dementia-addled mother around to get her hair and nails done; pick up and put down nearly everything on the shelves of the dollar store; and eat her favorite meal: a single slice of pizza from a place in the food court at The Festival indoor flea market and old people amusement park (motto: “We’re not just ugly jewelry. We’re also ugly clothes, furniture, art, and reading glasses. Oh, and hearing aids. All at great prices, especially with the $5 coupon you’ll insist on waiting in line for, much to the annoyance of your son.”)

Where was I?

Right–visiting mom. As always, the highlight of the trip was spending an hour in mom’s room at the assisted living place going through, for the 47th time, the operation of her cell phone. She owns a Doro PhoneEasy 626, one of those flip phones designed for seniors who have no interest in modern cell phone features like texting, taking pictures, or playing games. Suffice it to say that mom having one of those new unlimited data plans would be like Donald Trump owning a “Guide to Intelligent Tweeting” – neither one would get any use.

Mom spends much of her days studying her phone as if there is a final exam coming up, and she sort of has answering it down, but outgoing calls are hit or miss. If she makes a connection at all, there is only a 50% probability that it will be to the person she wanted to reach. The other half of the time, she ends up calling me and, when I pick up, doesn’t talk.

My daughter and I have created an “easy-to-follow” diagram for her, complete with arrows pointing to the appropriate buttons, and while mom cherishes this diagram as if it is a treasure map, she doesn’t seem to be able to absorb its nuances, such as “press the green button to make a call.”

The tutorials I provide when I’m down there are fraught with problems such as:

  1. I, myself, barely remember how to enter a number into the memory of what is, essentially, a 10-year-old relic of a phone.
  2. It is difficult to see what I’m doing due to the sweat pouring off me because mom keeps her room at a bright and breezy 89 degrees.

But this post actually has nothing to do with my mother. It’s about a trend that would seem to indicate that, indeed, many people would like to simplify their technology, albeit not as much as mom would, which would be to render technology non-existent.

According to the website Mashable, the biggest thing at this year’s Mobile World Congress was nostalgia.

In case you don’t know, the Mobile World Congress is very similar to the United States Congress in that representatives are on hand to demonstrate all the various ways you can communicate without actually saying anything.

The big difference is that, instead of focusing on Obamacare and immigration, the Mobile World Congress sets its sights on things like smart phone batteries that don’t explode.

One of the most popular innovations at this year’s MWC was the Nokia 3310, which was introduced in the year 2000. Yes, that’s right–people are already nostalgic for stuff from the “early aughts.”  I don’t remember the first Nokia 3310, possibly because I’m always a few generations behind the latest tech, so that when the original was introduced, I was probably still using a rotary dial. Apparently it was known for two things: a very long battery life and a game called Snakes. The new version has both. But the thing looks like it’s an ad for “Butt Dialing Made Easy.”

Another old-fashioned yet excitingly new item at the MWC was, believe it or not, a BlackBerry!

I had a BlackBerry Curve once upon a time and I liked it. It displayed my email instantly and it had a keyboard I could use without having spellcheck change “autopay” to “autopsy” which is something my iPhone really did. (“Cancel autopsy,” the message said. “Payment sent.”)

The most interesting concept at the MWC was The Light Phone, advertised as “Your phone away from phone.” It’s a “discreet, credit card sized phone designed to be used as little as possible.”

Wow–“designed to be used as little as possible.” It’s like the health insurance of cell phones!

Yes, in a radical departure from every other phone on the market, the Light only makes and receives phone calls. But note the tagline: it’s not meant for people to carry instead of their smart phones; you’re supposed to carry it in addition to your smart phone. It’s as if the makers are saying “Your smart phone can’t be bothered being a phone anymore, what with all its texting, and selfieing, and music-playing, and Pokemon hunting, and GPSing, and Tindering. If you really must talk to somebody, you need this other device.”

I’m not sure these guys did their market research. I mean, nothing is single purpose any more, not even condoms. People are using them as jar openers. They may have to figure out a way for the Light Phone to include ApplePay, so you can at least use your “discreet, credit card sized phone” as a credit card.

In the meantime, maybe I’ll get one for my mother.

See you soon.

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