www.herald-journal.com
Basic phones facing extinction

Jan. 19, 2009

by Ivan Raconteur

It is not possible to buy a mobile phone anymore.

What I mean is that it is very difficult to buy a device that is just a basic phone for speaking to another person.

I mention this because my phone provider has been trying to convince me to upgrade my phone again. When I was growing up, our family had the same phone for decades. Now, the phone companies want us to change phones every two years.

The company I use has about 50 models of phones in its store (not including color options), and most seem to be complicated devices.

I am not against progress. I would not want to go back to the dark ages when phones were great clunky affairs that had an actual dial into which one inserted one’s index finger and physically dialed a series of numbers.

I wouldn’t even want to go back to the early days of cell phones, when they were the size and weight of bricks.

All the same, I am prepared to vigorously resist putting my entire life into an electronic device.

That seems to be what the manufacturers of the new phones would like us to do.

They load the devices with a plethora of features that have nothing at all to do with making a call.

Some of the features make sense.

I like the fact that my phone has a built-in calculator. I use that a lot.

I am happy that my phone has a calendar feature that allows me to look up dates when I am away from my desk.

I even admit to using the phone’s alarm system to help me remember important events such as birthdays so I remember to call old friends and wish them a happy day.

But I have no desire to enter all of my appointments, meetings, and personal information into my phone.

Many of the new phones have a camera function to allow their owners to send poor-quality candid photos to all their friends.

If I am going to go to the trouble to take a photo, though, I would just as soon use my camera and do it right.

Another innovation on the new devices is a speaker phone function. This was apparently designed for users who felt they were not annoying enough people by constantly yacking on their phones in public. The speaker function allows them to extend the range of irritation.

Many of the new phones are multi-media devices with a built-in keyboard.

When I am using a phone, all I want to do is to call and talk to a person.

The keyboards facilitate some of the other new functions, such as mobile web applications.

I understand the novelty, but if I want to look something up online, I will wait until I get back to my desk.

My eyes aren’t as young as they were, and I prefer a screen that is larger than a postage stamp. I also have hands the size of grizzly bear paws, and miniature keyboards hold no appeal for me. I would be about as awkward as a bear in boxing gloves if I tried to type on these tiny devices.

The small screen problem also applies to mobile TV, which is a development that flummoxes me. I can rarely find anything I want to watch on television as it is, so I can’t imagine why anyone would want to fill in time away from home watching television.

Many of the new phones also store and play music. I am convinced that many of the young people today will be stone deaf by the time they hit 40. Spending most of one’s waking hours with wires (or even Bluetooth devices) sticking out of one’s ears just can’t be healthy.

The service providers claim they offer hundreds of games that one can play on one’s phone. It makes one wonder about those who have nothing better to do than play games on the phone.

Another trend is GPS navigation systems on phones.

It seems like a bad idea to have to rely on a phone to figure out where one is and where one is going. If a person like this loses his phone, he will be in serious trouble.

Another disturbing aspect of this technology is that it is sometimes marketed as a way to keep track of one’s family, especially children.

Back in the old days, parents were able to keep track of their children without electronic tracking devices.

Conditioning ourselves to accept this is like dancing on the top of a very steep and slippery slope.

Electronic tracking is just another way to take away freedom, and I am not going to give it up without a fight.

I hardly ever get up to any illegal activities, but my comings and goings are my business and no one else’s.

Businesses already track our activities so they can use the information against us. I don’t see any reason to make it easier for them.

Sometimes, we get seduced into using technology for technology sake.

As manufacturers find ways to make things smaller and less expensive, it is easy to cram more features into the devices we use, but features shouldn’t take priority over the original purpose.

I would be happy with a phone that makes it convenient to simply have a conversation with another person. That is all I ask of a phone. Anything else is just fluff.