Gadgets Galore, or Us vs Them?

July 10, 2011 § Leave a comment

I recently bought myself a Blackberry on eBay because I lost my phone at the Colony club in Hollywood. How did this happen? I maintain that the loose button on my clutch purse was responsible…although I did hear that I may or may not have tossed my purse in the air on the dance floor–in defiance of authority. What authority? I’m not sure.

Anyway, my first action the next day was to check my Verizon account to see when the last calls were made on my phone. After disabling the phone, I started down the list and called a few numbers on my roommate’s phone, hoping to figure out who I spoke to last, and when.

My first call turned out to be a random guy I’d given my number to the night before. The conversation went something like:

Me: Hi, whose this?

Him: Uhh, whose this?

Me: Do you have my phone?

*long silence*

Him: What? What are you talking about?

Me: Well, this is awkward. I’m just trying to figure out what happened to my phone at the club last night…

Him: Oh, you’re that girl huh. Well, I’m not sure what happened to your phone, but you did spill your purse. I cleaned it up for you, do you remember?

*At this point my roommates are all laughing hysterically in the background.*

With nothing much left to discuss, he halfheartedly invited me to go out to lunch, I non-committally accepted his invitation, and we both hung up–pretty much assuming we’d never talk to or see each other again.

In short, I’ve ended up with a Blackberry, which is always making little beeping and buzzing noises, and I still barely know how to use it. It is cute, although not entirely compatible with my Mac. Apparently the Blackberry is like the “PC” of smartphones.

This is my first smartphone ever, and I feel like I’ve sort of committed some sort of betrayal–I was formerly a die-hard anti-smart-phone-ist. That is, in terms of myself, not other people. I felt like having all the stresses of my life at my fingertips 24/7 would just drive me crazy. It hasn’t yet, but I’m still a bit suspicious of the Blackberry with it’s ominous clicky-keys and sinister rolly-ball.

It seems that about half of the technological “doo-dads”–another favorite  word–that we own are more troublesome than helpful in our every day lives.

Take my dad’s relationship with computers, for instance. While he is an accomplished architect with an eye for sophisticated design technology, he can be surprisingly neanderthal when it comes to everyday electronics–I used to have to turn the computer on for him when he wanted to check his E-mail…After about 30 seconds of booting, he would complain that the thing had been on for “almost 5 minutes already!” Oh, my dad is also quite impatient. I’m pretty sure he knew how to turn it on but was obstinate about not learning the computer, becuase he felt like it was largely a waste of time.

So when he got his first iPhone several years ago, I was shocked. Of course, the first thing he did was start sending me text messages  utilizing every last smiley face in his iPhone’s vocabulary. And now I often receive e-mails from his iPhone, with his own personalized signature “Sent from a device with a tiny keyboard and a tendency to make up its own words.” It seems he has made tentative friends with his device since.

But then there are the kinds of gadgets that are mostly just pointless–the Sharper Image “Keep Your Distance” bug vacuum comes to mind. And there are some that sound like a good idea but help much in practice.

My dad used to have a voice-command computer device in his car, which he thought would be fun to try out while we were sitting in traffic one day. He pressed the speak button and said, “I’m hungry.”

“Locating nearby Auto Repair Centers,” the machine replied.

“No, I’m HUNGRY,” he repeated.

“Now navigating from current location to Home,” it said.

“I. AM. HUNGRY!”

“Regulating internal temperature to seventy degrees.”

Pointless. Absolutely pointless. But, maybe with better programming we’ll one day be able to drive the whole car just using voice commands. In the meantime, I’ll stick with a steering wheel, a stickshift and this Blackberry that I’m still figuring out how to use.

A last attempt to see if the car computer had anything useful to say?

“I’m dying, please take me to a hospital,” I said.

“Now tuning to KUBE 93.3, top 40′s music and more.”

F*ck it.

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