Trading stone age for phone age

By Bob Buckel | Published Saturday, May 18, 2013

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It took several years, but last week I finally ditched my old un-smart (chippily challenged?) phone for an iPhone.

No, I didn’t go stand in line at the Apple store to buy one, and risk getting in their competitor’s commercial as the old guy who’s all excited about a phone that will go on the “interweb.”

(There are very few things I will stand in line for, and a phone is not one of them. Matter of fact, it’s hard to think of one that doesn’t involve food. Hmm…)

Bob Buckel

Bob Buckel

No, my “new” iPhone was a hand-me-down from my son-in-law, who got upgraded. He’s an IT guy (that’s information technology) and speaks fluent Apple.

The phone is really cool. I can already send and receive calls and texts – just like on my old phone – and I readily admit that having a full keyboard is a big upgrade over having to hit the 7 key four times just to make an S.

At the risk of complaining, the keys are so small I have to just barely touch them with the tips of my thumbs. Fortunately, I cut off the end of my left thumb when I was earning the woodcarving merit badge, and the sewn-back-on part forms a little knob that’s just perfect for iPhone typing. I’m thinking of doing the other thumb.

Also I’m very excited about the compass app, if I ever get lost in the woods.

I figured out how to go online the other day, but once I get there I’m not really sure what to do. I already read all the news on my office computer, and I can’t figure out how to download Scrabble.

Since the dawn of the cell-phone age, most of my phones have been hand-me-downs. Over the years, I’ve given all my “free” upgrades to the kids as they came of age and got phones of their own.

Their mom and I figured when they started driving, they needed phones. And between paying for the car, the insurance and the gas, one more payment for that phone is hardly noticed.

I know some parents give their kids phones much earlier, and I don’t condemn those people – I just think kids have some things they need to learn about the world directly before they start relating to it only through a computer screen, no matter how small or mobile. But when they’re out there driving around, they need to be able to call for help in case they blow a tire or see a bumper-sticker they don’t understand, like “Carter-Mondale.”

My first cellular device was hard-wired into my car, like a police radio or a CB. They stuck an antenna on the trunk and screwed a base to the hump between the front seats so I could pick up and hang up while driving.

I rarely got or made calls, but I did enjoy sitting there in traffic with the phone to my ear, pretending to be talking so people would think I was a big shot.

That all seems very primitive now, but back then it was high-tech, like Jerry Seinfeld grabbing his big, boxy cordless phone in his New York City apartment, yanking that antenna up and talking to his latest soon-to-be-ex-girlfriend.

I don’t remember outgrowing the screwed-to-the-hump phone, but at some point I traded that truck and got a flip-phone, which led to endless imitations of Captain Kirk (Scotty never beamed me up). Then there were a couple that slid open, and finally the one I just gave up. You didn’t have to do anything to open it, just push a button to answer or make a call.

But it wasn’t “smart.” No keyboard, no apps, no compass. It would take pictures, but not very good ones, and it certainly didn’t offer the smorgasbord of ringtones my iPhone makes available.

To copy all my contacts over, the lady in the AT&T store had to clip the SIM card – so that phone is not only merely dead, it’s really most sincerely dead.

Fortunately, my old cell phone provider is willing to continue billing me for it through June 9, so, the memory lives on.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I have to go shopping for that app that tells me when there’s no line at the donut shop…

Bob Buckel is executive editor of the Wise County Messenger.

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