The night of July 19, 2005, marked a "first" in my life. Having been spinning around the axis of planet Earth for more than half a century, "firsts" occur less and less frequently for me. With experience come diminishing odds. However unexciting, this "first" was at least peculiar.
As I sat in front of the computer monitor happily surfing away, my cell phone announced with its polyphonic, call-type specific ring that someone had left a message for me. This was rather odd as I had been sitting there for a couple of hours and hadn't missed any calls. With a quick flip of the lid of the Samsung phone, the display screen lit up with an SMS alert, informing me that a text message, and not the usual voice mail, had arrived.
My vocal response to the SMS display was what you'd expect to hear from an old New England farmer who, upon finding that his horse had died, commenting wryly: "the son-of-a-bitch neva did that befowa."
Retrieving the text message was simple enough, as having this cell phone and service for a while now, most features are relatively intuitive in nature. This is a good thing, because the user manual is well over 100-pages in length! The message was pleasant enough, turning out to be from a very good friend. However, a gnawing question bored into my head: why didn't this friend just call for a quick chat?
I suppose this friend could have been very busy and couldn't afford to get wrapped up in full-blown conversational mode. It very well may have simply been a case of "I think I'll surprise Jeff with a text message." But somehow it still seems odd to me to have my cell phone deliver text content. And though rapidly closing in on AARP eligibility, I'm neither anti-technology nor technophobic. Quite the contrary, I have bought into modern life, though in a considerative manner.
For what it's worth, my reason for owning a cell phone is to facilitate audio communication (for readers south of the Mason-Dixon line: to talk). Punch in a number and talk. Simple as that. Thanks to technological advances in integrated circuit miniaturization, my cell phone also contains a virtual version of what used to be known as an answering machine. And another bonus to these advances, it's also a handy personal voice memo recorder.
Somewhere along the line, no pun intended, someone in their self-perceived infinite wisdom decided to add all manner of other text-based "convenience" features. That little display screen was simply too alluring, I suppose. So in goes a virtual Rolodex for saving numbers and other contact information, a Web connection for retrieval of e-mail, a camera, and of course, text messaging.
Ah, text messaging. There's nothing like text messaging on a cell phone to keep those thumb muscles in top physical condition for video gaming. Gamers and text message freaks share a common posture. Invariably they'll be hunched over, shoulders rounded with their thumbs wildly punching control keys. Messengers have not only tiny keys to contend with, but tiny displays as well. Hell, my thumb print covers all but 3/16ths of an inch of the vertical height of my cell phone display, and numbers one through nine on the keypad! I'm thoroughly convinced that companies designing cell phones have fired all ergonomic engineering staff.
In a related front, about the only thing more ridiculous than keying in a text message on a cell phone is poking away at a miniature touch screen with one of those plastic stylus picks. Ever see one of those Palm Pilot types? Though I cringe whenever I hear someone say "Let me check my PDA ...", at least there's comfort in knowing there will be some entertainment value in watching the exercise. Those people even have to learn to scribe a modified alphabet to adhere to the limitations of the AI (artificial intelligence) technology of their PDAs.
Want to have some fun? Ask a PDA-head to borrow their pen. You'll no doubt get a pompous reply dripping with condescension, such as: "Pen? I don't carry a pen. What would I need a pen for when I have a PDA!" That's a good time to ask to borrow their PDA stylus. Then POKE OUT THEIR FUCKING EYES! Though not a lawyer, I'm fairly certain that the aforementioned condescension is legal justification for aggrevated assault. However, you may want to check with counsel first.
Meanwhile, back to cell phones. Sending a text message with a cell phone simply doesn't make sense when one compares the standard QWERTY style computer keyboard to a 11-button cell phone keypad. It's ergonomic devolution, at least to me. QWERTY rocks for text, though there is a steep learning curve for touch typing.
The Jay Leno Show recently had an interesting competition between the two ham radio operators using Morse code and the world's fastest cell phone text messengers. Each was given the same text to send. The introduction was informative and the race interesting. The result? Here's the video.
An interesting offer, aka spam, arrived in my e-mail this morning: Major League Baseball trying to entice me with "Gear up your phone right now with the latest Red Sox offerings, including alerts, wallpaper, ringtones, games and more. Sign up for mobile Red Sox alerts right from your mobile phone!"
Uh, no thanks. I see no need to give Theo Epstein $3.99/month so I can have my cell phone ringing away only to tell me of game lead changes, trade alerts, injury updates and other breaking news. I'll get my baseball news by the radio, newspaper or Internet, thank you just the same. I don't need my cell phone service provider racking up text message fees to my bill just so I can be the first to know about some over-paid baseball brat going on the disabled list because of a hang nail.
With more and more "services" wanting to get their grubby hands on your wallet each month, it wouldn't take too many such hands to render a wallet empty. If it were only that difficult. These "services" want your bank account and transit numbers to automagically deduct their fees from your account. How efficient - for THEM.
I think I'll pretty much stick to mostly talking on my cell phone, though I hasten to admit to recently sending a couple of text messages. It wasn't fun.
In closing, I truly hope that some overzealous Engineer of Multitasking doesn't decide to merge bathroom technologies. Heaven help this world should toilets be installed in shower stalls so mankind can save precious time by being able to simultaneously shower and shit, regardless of the obvious cost savings on toilet paper.