One of the few good things I got from my last Thai girlfriend was a small Nokia cell phone. It wasn’t fancy, but it did the job. Thanks to it I learned how to text message, thus allowing me to finally join the 21st Century. After about a year, however, problems began cropping up. The device would turn off for no reason and the battery charge would last only a few hours. It became frustrating to deal with — just like my old Thai sweet-heart. I decided to employ the same solution: say goodbye and move on, the only difference being that I needed a new cell phone far more than a new girlfriend.
Being the happy owner of a MacBook Air laptop and an iPod shuffle (and knowing that Steve Jobs was looking down from Apple Heaven), my initial impulse was to see if the world-famous iPhone would suit my needs. The Apple Online Store even has an option allowing phone mor-ons like myself to compare the latest models. But browsing through some of the common features, I became confused. For starters, there’s an iSight Camera and a FaceTime Camera. I already have a Canon A2500, which works fine for me. Did I really need two more cameras? And why would I want to watch TV or learn how to use something called a “Sensor”? By the time I began browsing the hundreds of available iPhone applications, an uneasy realization had begun to dawn. This was not just another clever Apple product, this was an immersion. No wonder you see so many peo-ple wandering around totally absorbed in their smartphones, oblivious to anything short of a major earthquake. The devices’ allure is irresistible. Did I really want something like that in my life?
I decided I did not. I’d spent over a quarter century as a computer pro-grammer, sitting in a small cube every day staring at an IBM terminal or PC. Interacting with a machine for hours on end is not a healthy activity. It can lead to rigid thinking, atrophying social skills and perhaps worst of all, a declining interest in the world at large as one becomes ensconced in their own little one. But whereas in the old days I could happily turn off my machine and go home at four, smartphones are a constant companion; technology as a relationship instead of a tool.
Once I’d gotten my cell phone philosophy hammered out, the actual pur-chase was an anticlimax: I went to a modest phone store in a mall near Nana Plaza and bought another Nokia. Same size and color as before, but with easier-to-use features and a hopefully more robust battery. New and improved. This being Thailand, I half expected some kind of problem to rear its ugly head within a couple hours of the purchase, but that didn’t happen — for a change. The phone has met all my expectations. Oh sure, it doesn’t give me the Nairobi weather forecast, or allow me to book a flight on Turkish Airlines, but I’ve so far managed to use it without the need of any of those “killer” applications.
This doesn’t mean I’ve decided against ever owning an iPhone. If I ever suffer a major stroke, or am involved in a tuk tuk accident that leaves me a paraplegic, this will be a welcome little partner. Until then, I’m going to try to maintain my tenuous links with the human race, in particular the female members.
Forgive me, Steve…