Back to previous post: The hooly blisful martir

Go to Making Light's front page.

Forward to next post: Another exciting night in the ER

Subscribe (via RSS) to this post's comment thread. (What does this mean? Here's a quick introduction.)

January 1, 2011

The Future is Here!
Posted by Jim Macdonald at 12:00 AM *  Creative Commons Attribution 2.0

Welcome to the second decade of the Twenty-first century!

“Good resolutions are simply checks that men draw on a bank where they have no account.”

—Oscar Wilde

Fireworks Creative Commons Attribution 2.0
Comments on The Future is Here!:
#1 ::: Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: January 01, 2011, 12:23 AM:


#2 ::: Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: January 01, 2011, 12:25 AM:

I hope my scintillating first comment in the first post of the new year is not lost when the page is reformatted.

Happy New Year!

And now to bed.

#3 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: January 01, 2011, 12:39 AM:


Still no jetpack.

#4 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: January 01, 2011, 01:01 AM:

Happy new year!

#5 ::: Erik Nelson ::: (view all by) ::: January 01, 2011, 01:27 AM:

Live in the future! Live in the future! A fair for all and no fair to anybody!

#6 ::: xeger ::: (view all by) ::: January 01, 2011, 01:32 AM:

Happy New Future!!!

The Future Is Here... The flying car would be great, also ponies ...

... but I'll settle for sleep.

#7 ::: Alice Bentley ::: (view all by) ::: January 01, 2011, 01:36 AM:

We still have some time to go before local midnight, but we did our celebrating over Skype with folks in Michigan.

And while they're not everyone's most useful commuter rig, you *could* have a jet pack if you wanted one. or a flying car. Or a pony!

#8 ::: Keith Kisser ::: (view all by) ::: January 01, 2011, 02:00 AM:

May this be a bigger and better future for all.

#9 ::: Debbie ::: (view all by) ::: January 01, 2011, 03:30 AM:

Someone in the open thread mentioned robot maids along with the jetpacks. Sounds much better than a pony.

Happy New Year from my corner of Germany, where it was so foggy at midnight, we literally could not see to the end of the street, let alone the fireworks. Intermittent colored glows and muffled booms.

#10 ::: Tom Whitmore ::: (view all by) ::: January 01, 2011, 04:16 AM:

We interrupted the game of The Great Dalmuti to welcome in the year, and then went back to playing. I think this means I'm going to be a peon all year.

#11 ::: Tim Hall ::: (view all by) ::: January 01, 2011, 04:32 AM:

This year goes up to eleven!

#12 ::: heresiarch ::: (view all by) ::: January 01, 2011, 05:10 AM:

Happies and joys to all in this year! Let this year be the year of improper but exuberant pluralizations.

#13 ::: Ingrid ::: (view all by) ::: January 01, 2011, 05:26 AM:

Happy New Year from San Francisco, where the Dresden Dolls played a fabulous show at The Warfield and the night is filled with merry-making.

Please let 2011 bring better days to all.

#14 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: January 01, 2011, 05:35 AM:

Happy New Year from my motel room in LA. It promises to be an exciting, perhaps even bumpy ride; but well worth the candle.

(oh, and I just noticed the boldfaced Barack... As yet Firefox still fails to recognise either Barack, or Obama as properly spelled words... some of my future needs repair).

#15 ::: D. Potter ::: (view all by) ::: January 01, 2011, 06:37 AM:

Joyful New Year to all!

In other news: Winter still sucks, and I'm holding out for teleportation.

#16 ::: Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: January 01, 2011, 09:34 AM:

From Charlie Stross:

Reasons to be Cheerful

AKA, why the previous decade wasn't a total waste.

#17 ::: TexAnne ::: (view all by) ::: January 01, 2011, 09:44 AM:

...isn't that the UT tower?

#18 ::: Mary Aileen ::: (view all by) ::: January 01, 2011, 09:47 AM:

Today is 1/1/11!!

#19 ::: OtterB ::: (view all by) ::: January 01, 2011, 11:06 AM:

Stefan Jones @16, thanks for pointing that out. I enjoy Charlie Stross's stuff but don't read it regularly.

#20 ::: Elliott Mason ::: (view all by) ::: January 01, 2011, 11:10 AM:

I hung out with friends. We were playing Apples to Apples when we paused to do the midnight toast.

Later, some of us played Pictionary when far too punchy to be allowed to do so, and had great fun. :->

Parenting win: the toddler went down for bed at the usual time and slept straight through till we left at a far-too-late (or rather early, depending on your perspective) 4am; then she fell asleep promptly on the other end in her own bed.

Drawback: A cheerful, well-rested, perky kid demanded breakfast sharp at 10AM, going so far as to remove blankets from both parents and point at the stairs with a YOU GUYS ARE MORONS look when we demurred.

#21 ::: joann ::: (view all by) ::: January 01, 2011, 11:13 AM:

TexAnne #17:

If it isn't, there's something way like it in Vegas of which I have not heard (and which would presumably owe UT some licensing fees).

So, Jim, which May graduation ceremony is that?

#22 ::: joann ::: (view all by) ::: January 01, 2011, 11:15 AM:

Mary Aileen #18:

We deliberately stayed up until just after 1:11.

#23 ::: krlikyu ::: (view all by) ::: January 01, 2011, 11:17 AM:

TexAnne @17, Looks like the tower to me. Happy New Year from an Austin reader.

#24 ::: Adam Rice ::: (view all by) ::: January 01, 2011, 11:17 AM:

That is definitely the UT tower. I had never seen fireworks around it, but searching Flickr shows plenty of results.

#25 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: January 01, 2011, 11:37 AM:

Aninovo, vida nova.

Bon aninovo á toudos.

I'm with Xopher in wondering about my jetpack, but a talking head on NPR this morning said that flying cars will definitely be here this year. I do want to see space sprockets, however.

#26 ::: Alan Bostick ::: (view all by) ::: January 01, 2011, 11:41 AM:

You kids. You think you invented the future. Actually we've been living in the future for at least twenty-five years.

(And get off of my lawn.)

#27 ::: Earl Cooley III ::: (view all by) ::: January 01, 2011, 01:09 PM:

The future needs to get off the couch and start curing more diseases instead of playing video games....

#28 ::: Summer Storms ::: (view all by) ::: January 01, 2011, 01:43 PM:

Had probably the quietest New Year's Eve ever in my adult life thus far. Drank one beer, sitting on my couch with the laptop, attempting to write, while debating the wisdom of changing clothes and walking up the street to the bar for the midnight toast. Hubby with a headache put paid to that plan, so he went to bed and watched TV. There was apparently a fireworks display nearby, but even though it was a balmy 56F outside (in Cleveland! at New Year's!), I was too lazy to go out and try to figure out what direction I'd have to walk in to get a clear view.

I must be getting old or something. On the other hand, I did stay up until 4am, and I did get some writing done in the end.

#29 ::: Lin D ::: (view all by) ::: January 01, 2011, 01:43 PM:

There seems to be a question history teachers can't resist: What era would you like to live in? I always said, The Future! I was right!

#30 ::: Tom Whitmore ::: (view all by) ::: January 01, 2011, 02:01 PM:

I just went in to tell Karen it's 1/1/11, Mary Aileen, and her computer said "It's 11 o'clock" as I was telling her!

#31 ::: Andrew ::: (view all by) ::: January 01, 2011, 02:17 PM:

There are fireworks at the UT tower every graduation. I don't know about NYE.

#32 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: January 01, 2011, 02:25 PM:

"The world's future, Mr. Gordon?"
"Brave new hates, brave new bombs, brave new wars."
- 1968's Charly

Yes, we do have brave new hates, brave new bombs, brave new wars, but, in 1968, did we really believe that we'd make it to 2011?

#33 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: January 01, 2011, 02:26 PM:

(What the heck is causing the screwy layout of text here?)

#34 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: January 01, 2011, 02:29 PM:

Serge @33:

I'm not seeing anything funny. Browser/version/OS? And a description of what you mean by screwy?

#35 ::: Linkmeister ::: (view all by) ::: January 01, 2011, 02:30 PM:

A belated Hau'oli Makahiki Hou to all the Fluorospherians. It was horribly noisy here right up to about 12:30 and then it dwindled. Paper fireworks residue is all over the street outside our house.

We survived another one.

#36 ::: dcb ::: (view all by) ::: January 01, 2011, 02:33 PM:

abi @ 34: it's fine in Firefox, but in I.E. 8, all the text is in a strip about an inch wide at the left side of the screen.

#37 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: January 01, 2011, 02:35 PM:

mutter mutter browser named for a cry of pain* mutter mutter

I'll have a look.

* Aieee!

#38 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: January 01, 2011, 02:39 PM:

Check now? Jim typed <table> when he should have typed </table>.

#39 ::: Linkmeister ::: (view all by) ::: January 01, 2011, 02:44 PM:

abi @ #37: "mutter mutter browser named for a cry of pain mutter mutter"

Or an imprecation/interrogatory remark using early European spelling of the Sandwich Islands: Owyhee.

#40 ::: dcb ::: (view all by) ::: January 01, 2011, 02:46 PM:

Fine now! Thanks!

#41 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: January 01, 2011, 02:54 PM:

Fine now, Abi. I should have been more specific about what I meant by 'screwy'.

#42 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: January 01, 2011, 02:58 PM:

Let's just say you're clearly not a tester.

#43 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: January 01, 2011, 03:29 PM:

abi... Onb the other hand, I've had people test the results of my work and they'll say "Something is wrong", at which I ask them to elaborate so you'd think I'd know the virtue of giving details. That being said, almost every time 'they' have said something was wrong with my work, the cause turned out to be their testing script. So there. Nyah nyah nyah...


#44 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: January 01, 2011, 03:38 PM:

I note blandly that is always the posts celebrating one's perfections that include the most egregious typos.

#45 ::: Bruce Arthurs ::: (view all by) ::: January 01, 2011, 03:41 PM:

May all the surprises in the coming year be pleasant ones.

#46 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: January 01, 2011, 03:45 PM:

Turns out I also botched the photo-ref link.

Fireworks display at the UT tower during Diwali 2007

#47 ::: Sandy B. ::: (view all by) ::: January 01, 2011, 03:47 PM:

Three things that are better than 10 years ago:

1) We have TWO commercial spaceflight ventures: Virgin Galactic and SpaceX . They may not seem practical, yet. On the other hand, I never expected to listen to satellite radio in my car.

2) Solar panel prices down by a factor of three or four (there's a specific price curve graph that is eluding me.) Wind has gone from "alternative energy" to "energy" and is being built all over the US; admittedly, there's a 30% federal subsidy in place. [As per the joke: what do you call alternative medicine that works? Medicine.]

3) Smoking rates are down around 15-20% from 2000 [US numbers]; public smoking is down even more. I see this as an unmixed good.

#48 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: January 01, 2011, 03:59 PM:

Abi @ 44... Argh!

#49 ::: Rob Hansen ::: (view all by) ::: January 01, 2011, 04:51 PM:

While there's still some of 1/1/11 left...

Happy New Year, everyone.

#50 ::: Bruce Cohen (Speaker to Managers) ::: (view all by) ::: January 01, 2011, 06:25 PM:

Happy Second Decade to everyone!

We stayed up until sometime after 1 am to keep the dogs calm through the occasional fireworks. There was only one really big boom, but they were a little more skittish this year than last, so we decided to stay with them. That gave us the chance to bring in the new year with baklava and sparkling juice, and some movies we'd DVRed recently. So, a quiet new year, and hoping for a better one than last year.

#51 ::: Thena ::: (view all by) ::: January 01, 2011, 07:07 PM:

Well, here it is, 2011. I crashed out at about 10:30 local time last night, slept for twelve hours, and spent most of today with a malevolent first-cousin-to-a-migraine headache. It seems to be gone now, but I hope this doesn't set a precedent.

If any of you woke up this morning missing your New Years' hangover, I know where it got delivered. :P

#52 ::: Raphael ::: (view all by) ::: January 01, 2011, 07:07 PM:

Slightly belated Happy New Year!

There are some aspects of this timeline that I'm not happy about, but I would'nt want to lose the ability to post this for a flying car. Using a flying car to meet with people on different continents would probably involve a lot more hassles than this method.

#53 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: January 01, 2011, 07:15 PM:

Raphael @ 52... And let's not forget that, if you had access to flying cars, so would idiots and male teenagers.

#54 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: January 01, 2011, 08:05 PM:

Sandy, #47: 10 years ago, same-sex marriage was illegal anywhere in North America (and, I think, anywhere in the world, period). Now it's legal in half a dozen states (and one Native American tribe), with a good chance that California is going to get it back; and also in 10 other countries around the world. So that's another thing that's better. Source.

Serge, #53: On behalf of male teenagers, I submit that it is inaccurate to characterize all of them in the same class as as idiot drivers. Yes, there's evidence that it's a high-risk group, but there are still mindful individuals.

#55 ::: Steve C. ::: (view all by) ::: January 01, 2011, 08:08 PM:

Seeing the way drivers maneuver vehicles in Houston traffic makes me glad that the flying cars are a long way off.

(As someone pointed out a while back, we do have flying cars. They're called airplanes. As a (non-current) private pilot, I have some experience with the intricacies of moving through the atmosphere in a complex vehicle. It is not the same as driving a car.)

#56 ::: B. Durbin ::: (view all by) ::: January 01, 2011, 08:11 PM:

Elliot Mason: "A cheerful, well-rested, perky kid demanded breakfast sharp at 10AM"

10AM? I'm lucky if I can get to 7:30AM. Today, for once, little man actually slept in past 8AM, but little miss was rarin' to go before 7AM. They don't sync.

#57 ::: Lizzy L ::: (view all by) ::: January 01, 2011, 08:23 PM:

I agree with Steve at 55: Given the people I usually share the road with, I don't think I actually want flying cars. I'll settle for world peace.

It was cold and rainy at midnight, so the fireworks and other boom-booms in my neighborhood lasted five minutes. Cats unimpressed, dog indifferent. Lovely party today at the home of a dear friend, much chocolate, excellent conversation, two superlative hugs.

#58 ::: Paula Helm Murray ::: (view all by) ::: January 01, 2011, 09:01 PM:

Steve @ #55, I'm with you. In fact that has always been my comment when someone demands their damn flying cars. I DO NOT WANT idiots who can't negotiate what is pretty much 2-d space trying to do it in 3-D. NOT.

#59 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: January 01, 2011, 09:07 PM:

Lee @ 54... Yes, but as Charles Stross pointed out at the Montreal worldcon during his talk with Paul Krugman, what about the male teenager who wants to impress the female teenager? Of course I was overgeneralizing about the age group. Never let accuracy get in the way of a joke. :-)

#60 ::: Lizzy L ::: (view all by) ::: January 01, 2011, 09:19 PM:

Addendum to my own post at 57: today at the home of two dear friends, much chocolate, excellent conversation, three gorgeous children, two superlative hugs, and a partridge in a pear tree.

#61 ::: Janet Brennan Croft ::: (view all by) ::: January 01, 2011, 09:23 PM:

Poor Thena @51, incarnating the Oh God of Hangovers. I've been finding this month's high pollen count has given me several icepick-in-the-eye type headaches recently. Next job needs to be someplace that's always green on the map...

#62 ::: Rob Rusick ::: (view all by) ::: January 01, 2011, 10:37 PM:

I've known people who have been in flying cars. They do not want to do it again.

#63 ::: Nicole J. LeBoeuf-Little ::: (view all by) ::: January 01, 2011, 10:55 PM:

On the other hand, current licensing procedures for today's flying cars (airplanes) are a lot more exacting than current licensing procedures for ground-bound cars. I only have to mail in a form to renew my driver's license. I have to undergo several hours of testing on the ground and in the air to renew my pilot's license.


Celebrated the Changing of the Digit aboard Amtrak's southbound City of New Orleans. The nearest town was Effingham, IL, and no fireworks were in sight, but the Sightseer Lounge Car was full of happy strangers counting down the seconds together and wishing each other, and their friends and family (both those also on the train and those reachable by cell phone) a happy new year. It was heartwarming.

Got home to NOLA in time to partake in Dad's family's traditional New Year's Day lunch, and spent the rest of the day watching bowl games. (The family is pleased with the outcome of the bowl game what with my brother having attended TCU for all of one semester.)

Just finished deciding on some writerly new year's resolutions, having acted on most of them today whilst still on the train, and turning them into a blog post. Am considering reprising the theme on a different blog.

Judging by purely selfish personal metrics, 2011 is off to a good start. Glad to hear it's starting off well for others!

#64 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: January 01, 2011, 11:24 PM:

"How do I look?"
"Like a hood ornament."
- from 1991's The Rocketeer

#65 ::: David Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: January 02, 2011, 12:08 AM:

Rob Rusick #62: I presume you're talking about cars that weren't actually intended to fly? ;-)

#66 ::: Bruce Cohen (Speaker to Managers) ::: (view all by) ::: January 02, 2011, 12:45 AM:

Rob Rusick @ 62:

Been there. Not going back.

I don't have a problem with cars that were intended to fly as long as they're controlled by automatic systems and not by people. To be sure, I would prefer that cars on the ground be controlled the same way, just as soon as the technology permits.

Let me tell you stories about some of the teenagers I knew back when. I recall one kid, nice fellow actually, who totalled 2 cars in the space of one month. The second one he ran into an overpass abutment on the New Jersey Turnpike doing over 100 mph. He didn't hit it dead on, only sideswiped it, so he didn't turn the car into a flat piece of metal, only flipped it over so that it slid down the grass in the center median area on its roof for a very long distance before stopping. He not only survived, he didn't have any serious injuries. I've always wondered what affect he had on the drivers who watched him pull that maneuver.

#67 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: January 02, 2011, 01:15 AM:

In the realm of news...

I am going to be moving, come July (if all goes according to plan).

The new locale... Jersey City.

There is some other stuff in there, but it will wait.

#68 ::: Sandy B. ::: (view all by) ::: January 02, 2011, 01:24 AM:

Pre-welcome to Jersey!

Add to the list of "not around a decade ago": [encyclopedia, email, GPS] in your pocket if you want it.

#69 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: January 02, 2011, 01:36 AM:

Sandy B @68:

Add to the list of "not around a decade ago": [encyclopedia, email, GPS] in your pocket if you want it.

Ha-RUMPH! I had a Palm Vx in my pocket in 2000, with a GPS cradle that allowed me to go geocaching. It was my primary geocaching GPS at the time.

I read eBooks on it, too.

No email, no ubiquitous connectivity, but there's a reason it took me over a year to start calling my iPhone by the correct brand name.

#70 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: January 02, 2011, 01:36 AM:

Steve, Lizzy, Paula, et al: I notice that a lot of the stories that feature flying cars also feature some variation on automated traffic control for them -- manual control is reserved for takeoff/landing or emergencies. For that matter, even regular non-flying cars are often seen as having that sort of control available -- you can input your destination as with a GPS, and the car just takes you there by the best available route (automatically going around things like traffic jams). You can even set your car to go home (or to another pre-set destination) without you. I'd like to have that, with or without the flying part!

#71 ::: Elliott Mason ::: (view all by) ::: January 02, 2011, 03:05 AM:

B. Durbin @56 quoted my @20 and then replied: "A cheerful, well-rested, perky kid demanded breakfast sharp at 10AM"
10AM? I'm lucky if I can get to 7:30AM. Today, for once, little man actually slept in past 8AM, but little miss was rarin' to go before 7AM. They don't sync.

I know, I was amazed we made it that late, too. Must've been the nursedown and thorough resettling at 5AM when we got her back to her crib.

Thankfully, she was well-rested and cheerful enough that, after 30-45min of breakfasting, she was willing to be reinstalled in the crib with copious books, dolls, toys, and other accoutrements to amuse herself without needing adult supervision, and I could go fall over again. THAT one lasted quite well also, as she went from 'quiet play' to 'nap' without demur, and I was offduty till a lateish lunch.

As you can see from the posting time, my circadian is apparently still somewhat askew. And I doubt she's going to go until 10 THIS morning -- I should be so lucky twice! Still, I think I've earned a spousally-supervised morning next. We'll see if he agrees with me. :->

#72 ::: Kevin Marks ::: (view all by) ::: January 02, 2011, 03:48 AM:

My son Christopher last night: "Children born in 2000 got robbed; I've been alive for 3 decades, 2 centuries and 2 millenia, and I'm only fourteen"

BTW Jim, it's 2011 - you can stop using <table> for formatting now.

#73 ::: Julia Jones ::: (view all by) ::: January 02, 2011, 04:44 AM:

abi @269: I'm blanking on exactly when the modem was released, but you could probably have had email on the Palm as well, had you been willing to spend an eye-watering amount of money on the modem, a compatible phone, and an account.

I didn't acquire my own Psion kit until after manufacture had ceased, but I did know plenty of people on Usenet who posted in the late 90s via their paleolithic palmtop and its modem. (I still use my Psion 5mx occasionally as a pocket word processor, because I've never met another device that fits in a handbag yet has a touch-typable keyboard.)

#74 ::: Angiportus ::: (view all by) ::: January 02, 2011, 04:56 AM:

It was a quiet decade-turnover here, at least after the godawful racket wound down outside.
I one summer day saw a car seem to fly--out of a parking lot and smack right into a tree. A handful of teens emerged from it and stood around looking perplexed; by the time I got my business done in the library, they were all doing the Perp Walk. I was just so glad the trajectory hadn't happened to coincide with my own.
The decade was a rough one for me, but the light finally appeared at tunnel's end, and I must also note that the population of trebuchets in the Angiportus domicile increased by 300%.

#75 ::: dcb ::: (view all by) ::: January 02, 2011, 06:31 AM:

Julia Jones @ 73: Re. Psion - I still have and use my 5mx. Word processor in my pocket, yup. Also holds my databases (books, beers), address book etc. and a fair-sized library of books*, so I'm never caught without one. People still look at it in amazement and ask where they can get one; I explain it's old tech. They're envious of the battery life and marvel that something with so little memory can function. Pity I never got it Internet connected. I'm still waiting for someone to bring out a similar-sized device that will run what I need for work. It helps that I've found someone I can send it to change the screen cable when it goes.

*Okay, those are on the CF card

#76 ::: Nancy Lebovitz ::: (view all by) ::: January 02, 2011, 08:23 AM:

I saw Philly's fireworks (will not use the South Street bridge again-- it's close to pessimal for fireworks) and the Mummer's parade.

Even though that bridge is pretty close to the fireworks, half the view is obscured by masonry and the other half has closely spaced railings, so that about half of what can be seen is iron. And it's brightly lit.

The Mummer's parade was gaudy and silly, as it should be. There was a fancy brigade (costumed dancers, recorded music) which was mostly sort of ancient Greek soldiers (ostrich plume crests instead of horsehair, of course) in two or three color combinations, several kinds of demons()?, and cobras. And really, why not?

#77 ::: Bjorn ::: (view all by) ::: January 02, 2011, 09:02 AM:

Organised fireworks shows are boring.
This isn't:

#78 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: January 02, 2011, 09:13 AM:

Circa 1997, our team was provided a... gasp!... cell phone for whoever would be oncall. No email. No nothing but being able to make/receive phonecalls and that darn thing was as big as a bag of Blackberries, but they sure beat the fracking pagers we had to carry around.

#79 ::: Julia Jones ::: (view all by) ::: January 02, 2011, 09:44 AM:

dcb @75: I keep my address book, LibraryThing database, and a handful of ebooks on my Palm IIIxe, which is why my Psion doesn't get used for those. I also use the Palm for making quick notes using the handwriting recognition, as that's easier than the Psion if I don't have a suitable flat surface for a keyboard.

Only a handful of books, because I have acquired a Cybook, and that's where recent downloads have gone. The Palm's just got a couple of things I like to read while waiting in queues (usually The Jungle Book).

I'd probably use the Psion more often if I could get PsiWin to work with XP. Since I can't, I need to be motivated enough to use the CF card to transfer stuff.

#80 ::: Cadbury Moose ::: (view all by) ::: January 02, 2011, 11:55 AM:

Serge @#78

This moose still has a pager for Ork and is determined to keep it that way.
It has several advantages, such as forcing the caller to think about the problem rather than just pick up the phone.
It also makes them raise problem tickets that tend to be comprehensible rather than a gabble of high-speed "Bombay Welsh" from the offshore helldesk.
On top of all that it covers the whole country, something that cannot be said for the company telecom provider (Lemon), and does not warehouse messages for some hours (like the said telecom provider).
Another bonus point is the battery life: two months (or more) on a single AA cell.
(It also serves me well as a backup alarm clock!)
If it ain't broke, don't fix it.

#81 ::: dcb ::: (view all by) ::: January 02, 2011, 12:04 PM:

Julia Jones @ 79: You can't get PsiWin to work with XP? Which version of PsiWin? I'm using 2.3.3 and it works just fine on several computers. It's downloadable from

I doubt any system would recognise my handwriting (one teacher back at high school asked for the name of the spider I'd trained to walk across my page, which I thought was a bit cruel). If there's no surface available, I hold the Psion in one hand, or hold in both hands and type a short note with my thumbs.

I'd probably be more motivated to get an e-book reader if I didn't already take my Psion everywhere and my netbook most places (I can use that for work and get on the internet).

#82 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: January 02, 2011, 12:16 PM:

Moose @ 80... forcing the caller to think about the problem rather than just pick up the phone

In my case, they didn't think before paging me. That's becauser the only thinking that needed to be done had to be done by me because, after being buzzed, I had to think about where I could find a phone.

#83 ::: Cadbury Moose ::: (view all by) ::: January 02, 2011, 01:31 PM:

Of course, having just extolled the many virtues of the humble radio pager compared to the mobile phone, it has now rewarded this moose by going "Beep! Beep! Beep!" aka "Lo! Battery".

I shall now track my stash of AA cells to their lair and capture one in order to shut the pager up.


#84 ::: Julia Jones ::: (view all by) ::: January 02, 2011, 01:32 PM:

dcb @81: I made it work in the user account once. After that, the serial port assigned to it kept being higher than it was willing to recognise, and it refused to let me manually set the serial port. I'd do it, start it running, and it would have determinedly set itself back to looking at serial port 3-8 only. After spending an entire weekend on prodding it, I decided the cost/benefit ratio didn't make it worthwhile pursuing it any further.

I run in a user account, and I refuse point blank to run in an admin account for the sake of PsiWin (or any other software that assumes that it will get root privileges). If I have to log into the admin account and then repeatedly beat it with a stick just to transfer data, I might as well get out the CF reader, which is what I used before I got hold of a copy of PsiWin.

It's one of those chicken and egg things -- I'd probably use it more if synchronising was a matter of plugging in the cable and pressing the start button. I'd be willing to put in more hours on making the synchronisation work if I used it more...

#85 ::: Linkmeister ::: (view all by) ::: January 02, 2011, 01:59 PM:

dcb @ #81, "one teacher back at high school asked for the name of the spider I'd trained to walk across my page"

I agree that's unnecessarily cruel, but one of the proper answers might have been "Itsy Bitsy."

#86 ::: Bruce Cohen (Speaker to Managers) ::: (view all by) ::: January 02, 2011, 02:17 PM:

In 1997 I had an Apple Newton (I still have it, but it stopped working a year or two ago) that did almost everything that my iPhone does now except make calls. I had a calculator program on it that beats most everything I've seen recently for handheld devices except the very high-end symbolic math systems. I waited 10 years to get something that replaced all the functionality I used in the Newton.

#87 ::: Kevin Marks ::: (view all by) ::: January 02, 2011, 02:43 PM:

Bruce #86: indeed - and the Newton's highly amusing handwriting recognition cock-up's are now replicated by iPhone Autocorrect.
I am a fan of Wolfram Alpha for iPhone/iPad/Android

#88 ::: Cadbury Moose ::: (view all by) ::: January 02, 2011, 02:49 PM:

Cue the joke about one UK police force being issued with the Newton, leading to someone being charged with "Rubbery With Violins".

Coat? It's the white one with the tin of antler polish in the pocket.

#89 ::: Bruce Cohen (Speaker to Managers) ::: (view all by) ::: January 02, 2011, 05:00 PM:

Kevin Marks @ 87:

I never got those amusing handwriting problems; it took some time to train the recognition, but once that was done I got a reasonable rate of correct recognitions, and bad recognition typically only when I tried to write too quickly.

#90 ::: dcb ::: (view all by) ::: January 02, 2011, 05:05 PM:

Julia Jones @ 84: Ah. I've never considered using my computer other than with admin. privileges (that's one reason I use my own laptop as my work machine).

And chicken and egg, yes. *grin*

Bruce Cohen (Speaker to Managers) @ 84: The Psion offers choices of a desk calculator (great when you're doing various calculations and want to compare the results) or a scientific calculator - not that I've really needed the latter.

#91 ::: Erik Nelson ::: (view all by) ::: January 02, 2011, 05:20 PM:

and an auto correct feature would back your car up if it made wrong turns

#92 ::: Julia Jones ::: (view all by) ::: January 02, 2011, 05:53 PM:

dcb @90: it didn't help that even running in the admin account (which I'm perfectly prepared to do to install and set up, that's what it's for, after all), I couldn't persuade PsiWin to work more than one time in three. I'd put up with that level of wonkiness in the user account, but really, from the admin account it should just work once it's up and running.

One of these days, when I've got time to do the backup dance and give the machine a good fettling beforehand, I might have another go at it. Or I may just spend the time on writing 3k words instead...

#93 ::: Angiportus ::: (view all by) ::: January 02, 2011, 06:05 PM:

Teachers and penmanship--way back in my own school days, one teacher wrote on the margin of my handwritten paper, that I should type instead. I had to go up and ask her about it because I could not read HER handwriting.

#94 ::: dcb ::: (view all by) ::: January 02, 2011, 06:55 PM:

Julia Jones @ 92: Sympathies. I really hope that I never get that level of problems - at least not until someone brings out a replacement machine that does everything the Psion does for me (including keyboard, instant-on and decent battery life) at an affordable price.

Angiportus @ 93: Oh yes, that brings back memories - end-of-year reports in which the teacher's comment was finally deciphered as saying that I needed to take more care with my handwriting.

#95 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: January 02, 2011, 07:33 PM:

Erik 91: Is that called an auto backup?

#96 ::: Bill Stewart ::: (view all by) ::: January 03, 2011, 12:25 AM:

Re: fleeing Karneys - Terry, it's been very nice having you on the Left Coast. Enjoy Jersey City! My main dealings with that area were buying my van there in the late 80s and driving vaguely by it on my way to Hoboken when I was taking classes there; I lived a few miles south of the Raritan.

#97 ::: Bill Stewart ::: (view all by) ::: January 03, 2011, 12:36 AM:

Re: Psions and such - my Psion 3A was wonderful, and not really replaceable by the time it had too many encounters with airport floors and the like. It was replaced by a Palm IIIx, which was ok, though about half as fast for taking notes with, but was a good platform for reading ebooks on the train and almost as good at syncing with Outlook as the Psion had been. Eventually one day my laptop hard disk crashed, and a day or so later a cup of coffee left my non-flying car's dashboard and landed in my briefcase, taking out the Palm and my other data backup (chunks of dead trees.)(An iPod Shuffle also later proved to be incompatible with coffee.)

The Palm VII that replaced it probably still works, but some years back I couldn't get the Windows software to work on WinXP or Outlook version N+1, and the more recent laptops haven't had RS232 ports, so I've stopped using it. My Nokia phone claims to be able to sync to Outlook Calendar over Bluetooth, but that trick only worked once, and I never could get the iPod to do that.

I think I can still find the slide rule, which is the right tool to design a Flying Car with, even if you do have your household robot help you with the assembly.

#98 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: January 03, 2011, 12:37 AM:

Terry, Hoboken is bordered by Jersey City on two sides. We'll be neighbors! I'm telling you right now, we WILL meet.

Unless, you know, you like avoid me and stuff. *looks sad*

#99 ::: Julia Jones ::: (view all by) ::: January 03, 2011, 05:05 AM:

dcb @94: Yes, the keyboard, instant on, battery life combination is why I still use the Psion.

Bill Stewart @97: I bought an Airlink RS232 to USB adaptor cable to connect my Palm to my laptop. Works well, although it's one more thing to lug around if I want them to talk to each other while I'm travelling. They can allegedly communicate via infra-red link, but the one time I tried it, it drained the batteries in the Palm before much got transferred -- it's much harder on batteries than the cable is.

I had to download an XP-compatible version of the software from Palm's website, but didn't have too much trouble getting it working. Outlook I can't comment on, since I don't use it at home.

#100 ::: Charlie Stross ::: (view all by) ::: January 03, 2011, 05:57 AM:

Julia, apropos Psion Series 5's (EPOC32 machines): I gave up on them a few years ago. However, if you want to continue using your Series 5 as a pocket word processor, you probably want a copy of nConvert:

nConvert is an on-board conversion application for all Symbian platform devices.

The application allows you to seamlessly convert between Symbian EPOC native files and their external counterparts (in both directions). nConvert is primarily of use for those people who are operating in a mobile environment and therefore do not have access to a PC containing an Symbian Connect variant (such as PsiWin), the Microsoft Windows-based conversion suite. It is important to note that nConvert supports additional conversion functionality beyond that of Symbian Connect (including full embedded object conversion and improved graphics support).

Used to cost £25 but it's now abandonware, and there's a free regcode in the kit I linked to above. (Neuon also did a bunch of other EPOC32 software which is now free and unsupported; poke around if you're interested.)

The other killer tool for the Series 5 was: you can get CF-to-SD card adapters -- a CF card that contains an SD card reader. Get a Type 1 CF card SD reader and you can fit it internally in the Series 5 and use SD cards for storage. EPOC/32 can't recognize cards of more than 1Gb, but that's plenty for text. Now, it just so happens that Sandisk make a range of SD memory cards with a built-in USB interface. Get a SanDisk Ultra II Plus USB card (1Gb ones currently sell for about $10), shove it in a SD-CF adapter, and you end up with a Psion where you can pull the memory card out and plug it straight into your laptop or PC's USB port and pull RTF files off it.

Ah, nostalgia. I'd be tempted to go hunting for a second-hand Series 5MX on eBay, except I know from bitter experience that my ageing eyeballs don't get on with monochrome half-VGA LCD screens any more.

#101 ::: dcb ::: (view all by) ::: January 03, 2011, 09:26 AM:

Charlie Stross @ 100: Thanks for this information. I am clinging to my Psion because, really, I've not found anything to replace it (see points above). But my netbook doesn't have the necessary serial port for plugging in the Psion cable*, which has meant I couldn't copy files while travelling (when I'm carrying** the 1.3 kg netbook with the theoretical 10 hr battery life, not the 4 kg laptop with the 3 hr battery life). It does, however, have a built-in SD-Card reader...

* Yes, you can get serial-to-USB converters, but it's apparently luck of the draw whether they work reliably or not with a Psion cable - it's a "buy it and see" situation.
**as well as the Psion, of course.

#102 ::: ddb ::: (view all by) ::: January 03, 2011, 10:16 AM:

I want the flying car as much for the auto-control that they mostly seem to have as for the "flying". And it would sure save money on road construction, and on snow removal! (Or, as we call the seasons locally, "snow construction" and "road removal".)

I don't believe it will happen until we have anti-grav or tractor beams or something. I don't think even a transcendent AI can control it precisely enough just by interacting with the air to operate near other vehicles and buildings, or to park it. I suppose maybe if the air is loaded thickly enough with wind-born localizer chips, so the AI could tell what micro-weather was coming its way well in advance, something could be done.

#103 ::: ddb ::: (view all by) ::: January 03, 2011, 10:17 AM:

Serge@78: 1997??? I'd had a personal cell phone for 6 years by then, and they had replaced pagers and radios for local SF con-running operational communications as well.

#104 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: January 03, 2011, 10:46 AM:

ddb @ 103... The technology was still costly, I think. Also, I work for a huge and evil corporation, and huge and evil corporations are reluctant to grant someone a 'privilege' (or a neat toy) because then everybody else will want it, and that adds up to a lot of money. I had that cell phone for a brief period of time, by the way, and I was stuck with a pager until 2006. My employer had no choice about getting me a cell phone by then. They wanted me to be oncall all the time and to respond to pages within 15 minutes, except that pay phones were by then nearly impossible to find. Even then they got me the cheapest clunkiest cell phone they could get away with. It had email capabilities at least, but with a very primitive keyboard. My fondest memory of that cell phone happened at the Denver worldcon in 2008. I was backstage during the masquerade, when an email popped in: it was Abi, in Holland, asking me to get in touch with Kathryn from Sunnyvale about when they'd contact her about the Gathering of Light that evening, which she was going to join remotely. After I wrote back to Abi, I then used my phone, which has a New Mexico area code, to call Kathryn's phone, which has a San Francisco area code, even though she was in Colorado, and only a few blocks away from me.

Yes, the Future definitely is here.

#105 ::: ddb ::: (view all by) ::: January 03, 2011, 12:28 PM:

Serge@104: I don't remember the cell phone being too terribly expensive (I skipped two previous generations). It was a big win for me at the time; I was self-employed, and it let me be responsive to clients without being chained to my desk, so that was very good. I didn't actually use very many minutes, which is where a lot of the expense was.

SF conventions had a lot of great opportunities for cell phones (and still do; we just take it for granted now), because finding people and coordinating plans are the two big issues (well, plus getting enough sleep; two out of three isn't bad). Text messaging is even better for many stages of the process.

I do remember using my Motorola Flip Phone as a modem for my laptop, running Linux, in a NYC hotel room in around 1999.

#106 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: January 03, 2011, 01:41 PM:

ddb @ 105... True, they were not that expensive, but I wasn't willing to pay out of my own pocket for something required by my employer, and the latter's cost for one phone would have had to be multiplied by everybody else saying "Wanna!". This was long before we started seeing kids texting to each other. That being said, I'd really like getting a wireless modem, but that's something my boss isn't willing to shell out dough for.

#107 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: January 03, 2011, 01:55 PM:

The future being here, an obsolete joke:

Q) What did the photographer say to Cinderella?

A) Someday your prints will come.

#108 ::: Roy G. Ovrebo ::: (view all by) ::: January 03, 2011, 03:25 PM:

I don't remember the cell phone being too terribly expensive

So you didn't get sponsored phones in the US, then. I paid a whole 100 kroner (US$15) for my first one in 1995 - because I didn't want the Motorola that was sold for 1 krone...

#109 ::: Sandy B. ::: (view all by) ::: January 03, 2011, 03:40 PM:

Let's make the list of things that date your favorite song!

I'll open it up with four:

1. Jukeboxes
2. Waiting by the phone
3. Faded pictures
4. Sounding like a broken record

#110 ::: OtterB ::: (view all by) ::: January 03, 2011, 03:44 PM:

Sandy B @109, things that date songs

Operator, let's just forget about this call ... you can keep the dime

#111 ::: ddb ::: (view all by) ::: January 03, 2011, 03:50 PM:

Things that date songs -- Kodachrome.

#112 ::: eric ::: (view all by) ::: January 03, 2011, 04:59 PM:

I'd say that the record scratch noise dates songs, but... it's still a common foley effect.

#113 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: January 03, 2011, 05:00 PM:

Things that date SF movies... Bulky computer screens. For example, "Brainstorm". If I remember correctly, "Forbidden Planet" had flat screens. So did "This Island Earth", but its screens also came with disintegrators.

#114 ::: Steve C. ::: (view all by) ::: January 03, 2011, 05:07 PM:

Serge @ 113 -

I always thought it a bit dumb that 2001 had flat screens and 2010 had CRT's. Unless they were making a comment on Soviet tech.

#115 ::: Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: January 03, 2011, 06:12 PM:

I'm watching Max Headroom episodes on DVD. They get around the flatscreen / CRT problem which they probably didn't anticipate in 1985 by using deliberately archaic technology, like computer terminals with mechanical typewriter keys.

#116 ::: Mary Aileen ::: (view all by) ::: January 03, 2011, 07:20 PM:

Things that date songs: dialing a number.

#117 ::: Bruce Cohen (Speaker to Managers) ::: (view all by) ::: January 03, 2011, 07:57 PM:

Bill Stewart @ 97:

I went looking for my old slide rule a couple of weeks ago and couldn't find it. Mind you, I hadn't seen it in at least 2 decades, probably longer.

So I downloaded a slide rule app for my iPhone. You can set it up with your choice of a lot of different scales. Pick the right ones and it looks just like a K&E log-log slide rule.

#118 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: January 03, 2011, 09:02 PM:

Mine (which is a K&E log-log etc) is on a shelf in the closet. I think my father's slide rule is in one of the Magic Boxes, along with the manuals. (I remember mine cost about $40, at a time when a good scientific calculator would run you $300 or $400.)

#119 ::: xeger ::: (view all by) ::: January 03, 2011, 10:50 PM:

Mary Aileen @ 116 ..
Things that date songs: dialing a number.

Er ... what do you do now, then? I certainly still dial numbers...

#120 ::: Bruce Cohen (Speaker to Managers) ::: (view all by) ::: January 04, 2011, 01:14 AM:

xeger @ 119:

with a rotary dial?

#121 ::: Linkmeister ::: (view all by) ::: January 04, 2011, 01:31 AM:

Songs about phone numbers with prefixes, e.g. BEechwood 45789.

#123 ::: Linkmeister ::: (view all by) ::: January 04, 2011, 02:25 AM:

Songs with outdated technology embedded:

#124 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: January 04, 2011, 03:12 AM:

John Henry
Casey Jones

#125 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: January 04, 2011, 07:12 AM:

Terry Karney... In a few years, the Beatles's "Paperback Writer"?

#127 ::: Mary Aileen suspects spam ::: (view all by) ::: January 04, 2011, 10:34 AM:

#126 is very generic, and the URL is a commercial site.

#128 ::: Cadbury Moose sights linkspam ::: (view all by) ::: January 04, 2011, 10:57 AM:

This moose concurs with its spammish appearance.

#129 ::: ddb ::: (view all by) ::: January 04, 2011, 11:59 AM:

You know, IP will date a song, one of these years -- if we ever really go to IP V6.

#130 ::: Sarah S. ::: (view all by) ::: January 04, 2011, 04:12 PM:

dated songs?

"If I should call you up, invest a dime,
And you'd say you belong to me, and ease my mind..."

A dime? For a phone call?
Heck, what is this thing called a "pay phone" for that matter?

#131 ::: Henry Troup ::: (view all by) ::: January 04, 2011, 05:08 PM:

I have two slide rules here on my desk, a Faber "Calculating Rule for School Use 51/91" that was my father's, and a Faber-Castell 6" with Dynamo and Motor scales. Alas, the cursor is broken on my father's slide rule.

I also have a Newton (v1.05) that needs a new home if anyone wants it - it was working early last year.

#132 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: January 04, 2011, 05:20 PM:

Wait, what's outdated about a bicycle built for two? Tandems are still very much in use by couples (when one is a poor bicyclist).

#133 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: January 04, 2011, 05:21 PM:

Oh was the carriage. DUH.

#134 ::: Doug K ::: (view all by) ::: January 04, 2011, 05:29 PM:

like the moose, I still have a pager for work;
unlike the moose's friendly daytime low-battery beep, mine always gets into a low-battery panicked beeping frenzy at 2am.

This is the year I break down and get a personal cell phone. Boldly into the 20th century I go.. pfui. It's probably the experience of carrying a work pager for the last thirty years that has soured me on being reachable. I liked being inaccessible (as Greta Garbo observed, I never said I wanted to be alone, just that I wanted to be let alone).

#135 ::: xeger ::: (view all by) ::: January 04, 2011, 05:36 PM:

Bruce Cohen (Speaker to Managers) @ 120 ...
xeger @ 119: with a rotary dial?

Yes -- it's attached to my VOIP line...

#136 ::: David Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: January 04, 2011, 05:58 PM:

Last couple of days before the jump. And I just now bought a booklet of "Costa Rican Spanish". Doubt it'll do me much good, but we'll see just how far I can push my hyperlexia.

Doug K #135: The other day my Mom was complaining about her car: When the gas gets low, it lights a little sign on the dashboard. But when the windshield wiper fluid gets low, it not only lights a sign, it beeps continuously until the fluid is refilled! I told her: "Well, that little imp who lives in the engine, he can deal with getting a little hungry, but when he runs out of booze...."

#137 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: January 04, 2011, 08:06 PM:

Xopher, #133: Indeed.

One might think that "with the radio blarin', she goes cruisin' just as fast as she can now" would be hopelessly outdated. Not in Des Moines, IA! Every Saturday night there's a friggin' parade of teenagers just driving around and around the downtown city square, hollering and waving to each other. Feels like having dropped thru a bloody time warp!

#138 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: January 04, 2011, 08:27 PM:

In "Brainstorm", Christopher Walken hacks into the lab by going to a pay phone and plopping its speaker/receiver into a suitcase-sized modem.

#139 ::: Paula Helm Murray ::: (view all by) ::: January 04, 2011, 08:35 PM:

Our favorite mid-town diner, Chubby's, has a big Wurlitzer-looking juke box (the one with the bubbles trailing around the front face). It plays CDs. The booths also have smaller coin-operated music boxes, also with CDs.

I still have my first home phone number firmly in mind, as well as two others that belong to friends. One of those friends is gone, the number was shut off Dec. 2009. I may be able to remember that number until I'm Very Old.

#140 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: January 04, 2011, 09:46 PM:

Lee, that has a Coefficient of Wonderfulness in excess of 1.8!!!!* Unless my calculations are off because I'm grinning ear to ear!

That must have been such fun!
It's a log scale. One luscious homemade truffle has a CoW of .7; it would take ten to achieve .8.

#141 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: January 04, 2011, 09:49 PM:

Sorry, the truffle figures should be 1.1 and 1.2 respectively.

#142 ::: Kerry ::: (view all by) ::: January 04, 2011, 09:56 PM:

Seriously, I thought that was a Dalek at first. Man I'm watching to much Dr. Who.


#143 ::: Andrew Plotkin ::: (view all by) ::: January 04, 2011, 10:18 PM:

Somewhere in my filk file:

"Oh for one thin dime,
I would call my friend Ted Savage
He lives right down on Frankfort by the wide Pacific Sea
We'd have one fine time
But my plans have all been ravaged
A two-bit call is just too rich for me."

The lyrics were obsolete by the time I heard them, and that was in college.

#144 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: January 04, 2011, 10:26 PM:

"Brother can you spare a dime?" has a theme that applies now, so long as you ignore the silly notion of bothering to beg for a mere dime.

#145 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: January 04, 2011, 11:23 PM:

"You will laugh, you will cry, you will kiss three bucks goodbye!"
- Hardware Wars.

#146 ::: Erik Nelson ::: (view all by) ::: January 05, 2011, 12:01 AM:

cursor is one of those words like cockpit and cavalry and firewall that don't mean the same thing they used to.

#147 ::: Erik Nelson ::: (view all by) ::: January 05, 2011, 12:03 AM:

they intend to send a wire to the moon, to the moon
and to set the Thames on fire very soon, very soon

#148 ::: Tim Walters ::: (view all by) ::: January 05, 2011, 02:11 AM:

albatross @ 145: Not to mention "How Can A Poor Man Stand Such Times And Live?"

Prohibition's good if it's conducted right
But there's no sense in shooting a man till he shows fight
Officers kill without a cause
Then they complain about the funny laws
Tell me, how can a poor man stand such times and live?

#149 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: January 05, 2011, 04:01 AM:

albatross, #145: I had to go look up the lyrics, because what little I remembered of them suggested that it was about CEOs and CFOs and robber barons being reduced to beggary. But there's only one couplet which really supports that interpretation, and the rest of it applies nicely to current issues.

The uppermost 2% are gambling that they can survive the complete collapse of the economy with their wealth largely intact. And they may be right, which is more depressing than the state of the economy.

What do you call 100 Wall Street bankers jumping out of a window? A good start.

But that won't happen either, because it requires one quality that the uppermost 2% have completely left behind: the capacity to feel shame.

#150 ::: Cadbury Moose ::: (view all by) ::: January 05, 2011, 07:35 AM:

Doug K wrote @ #135:

...unlike the moose's friendly daytime low-battery beep, mine always gets into a low-battery panicked beeping frenzy at 2am.

Temperature related. As the room cools down at night so the cell/battery voltage drops (10 degrees rise in temperature doubles the rate of a chemical reaction) and the Lo! Battery! detector will operate.

This is the year I break down and get a personal cell phone.

They can be very useful, and have a surprisingly long life between recharges if you leave them turned off except when you want to make a call.

It's probably the experience of carrying a work pager for the last thirty years that has soured me on being reachable.

To a very great extent that depends on how much time you are required to be 'on call', and also how likely (and for how long) you are to actually get called. This moose is 20% of the rota and calls are touch wood infrequent and usually short.
The other 80% of the rota know that I keep the pager on and that I can be contacted if they think I can be of immediate assistance with the problem, but that's a courtesy rather than a requirement.

I liked being inaccessible (as Greta Garbo observed, I never said I wanted to be alone, just that I wanted to be let alone).

True, you can get a lot more done with no interruptions.

#151 ::: Cadbury Moose ::: (view all by) ::: January 05, 2011, 07:50 AM:

xeger @ #136 wrote:
Bruce Cohen (Speaker to Managers) @ 120 ...with a rotary dial?

Yes -- it's attached to my VOIP line...

I really ought to add my rotary dial cellphone[1] to the New Year Resolutions list, but it's long enough already.
Oh, why not? <FX: sound of moose scribbling>


[1] A GPO type 332 telephone coupled to a Fixed Cellular Terminal powered by a 6-volt battery pack - all crammed into a large(!) briefcase. It's a pity it doesn't do the proper "Strowger purr" for dial tone, but it does support UK ringing cadence, with Real Bells.

#152 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: January 05, 2011, 07:53 AM:

Two things date 1997's "Contact" - having Clinton as President, and people using NetScape as their web browser.

#153 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: January 05, 2011, 09:13 AM:

Xopher #133:

A tandem requires having a fiancée named Daisy, about whom one is half-crazy with love. I, sad to say, am not so equipped.

#154 ::: Paul A. ::: (view all by) ::: January 05, 2011, 09:19 AM:

Lee @ #150: I had to go look up the lyrics, because what little I remembered of them suggested that it was about CEOs and CFOs and robber barons being reduced to beggary. But there's only one couplet which really supports that interpretation, and the rest of it applies nicely to current issues.

Which couplet is that? I've always understood it as being pretty clearly the song of a working man out of work.

#155 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: January 05, 2011, 09:20 AM:

Fragano @ 154...

"Daisy, Daisy, give me your answer do. I'm half crazy all for the love of you. It won't be a stylish marriage, I can't afford a carriage. But you'll look sweet upon the seat of a bicycle built for two."
- HAL 9000

#156 ::: Paul A. ::: (view all by) ::: January 05, 2011, 09:20 AM:

Erik Nelson @ #147: Also "computer".

A general observation: My favourite instance of "work dated by presence of slide rule" is Kelly Freas's cover for the February 1959 issue of Astounding.

#157 ::: Paul A. ::: (view all by) ::: January 05, 2011, 09:22 AM:

Serge @ #156:

Michael, Michael, you must be crazy, dear.
I can't cycle - it makes me feel quite queer.
If you can't afford a carriage, there'll be no bloomin' marriage;
For I'll be blowed if I'll be towed on a bicycle built for two!

- anon.

#158 ::: Andrew M ::: (view all by) ::: January 05, 2011, 09:48 AM:

Erik Nelson@147: Cavalry?

#159 ::: Ginger ::: (view all by) ::: January 05, 2011, 10:08 AM:

Andrew @ 159: I suspect he is referring to the change in method of transportation: cavalry used to be on horses, and now they ride machinery.

#160 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: January 05, 2011, 10:39 AM:

Paul, #155: "Once I built a railroad, made it run, made it race against time. / Once I built a railroad, now it's done; brother, can you spare a dime?"

If that's all you really remember about the song, it sounds more like the work of building up the company rather than being a track-layer.

#161 ::: Dave Luckett ::: (view all by) ::: January 05, 2011, 11:19 AM:

This may have application to new telecommunication tech:

My wife has bought a cordless 'phone - a pair,
One each. You can't just lift the thing and speak,
Oh, no. That would be fuddy-duddy, square
And not the way that things are done this week.
You have to push a button on the set!
(It has a little television screen,
And keys, enough to fly a fighter jet,
With little glyphs. I don't know what they mean.)
To end a call, another you must press.
If held, it turns it off. So if you stall
A bit too long, you'll find, to your distress,
Days later, that you've had no phone at all.

The morons that devised this lunacy
Have sheepskins in design, which is their field.
My God! What bloody fools these mortals be!
Has Murphy's Law been suddenly repealed?

Why can't I simply pick it up and talk?
And when I'm finished, simply put it back?
Why not? What's hard about it? Yes, I balk
At paying out for stuff I cannot hack,
And neither need nor want. Ten buttons, ten,
Is all I want - each number, and that's all.
I only want a phone, and even then
I only want to make or take a call,
Not queue, divert, wait, hold, text messaging,
Or mute or three-way. Want no choice
Of call tone. What's the problem with a ring?
I do not want to hear its cutesy voice.
I do not want the power to command
A bunch of things I do not understand.

It turns out there's no choice. They're all like that.
You buy, or go without. And if you do,
You get a user's manual, as fat
As phone directories my boyhood knew.
I can't be having with it. So, no phone.
And here's the thing: I don't think I'm alone.

#162 ::: ddb ::: (view all by) ::: January 05, 2011, 11:30 AM:

Lee@161: The key, as I see it, is that the singer's source of income appears to have gone away when the building was done. Thus, track-layer, not executive!

#163 ::: Andrew M ::: (view all by) ::: January 05, 2011, 11:35 AM:

Ginger@150: I would have said that 'cavalry' as a word still meant soldiers on horses. As a name it can be applied to armoured units, because they were originally mounted.

#164 ::: ddb ::: (view all by) ::: January 05, 2011, 11:35 AM:

Dave Luckett@162: "What's the problem with a ring?"

What, he's never been around other people with similar technology? I currently sit in a room with 9 wired phones all with the same ring (plus mostly that many personal cell phones), and let me tell you, having them all set to different rings would be an immense improvement!

Similarly with having to hit a button to answer, and to hang up. "Just picking it up" works when the handset sits on a base, but to be portable, the base was removed. Sometimes the handset goes in a pocket, or hangs on a belt. So, having a button to answer makes perfectly good sense. ESPECIALLY with caller ID, when you might want to take the phone, look at the display, and not answer.

It's quite a good poem, but the sentiments it expresses seem to me entirely wrong-headed and ignorant.

#165 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: January 05, 2011, 11:49 AM:

Remember the futuristic phones in "The Prisoner", which were cordless?

#166 ::: Bill Stewart ::: (view all by) ::: January 05, 2011, 12:48 PM:

ddb@165 quoted: Dave Luckett@162: "What's the problem with a ring?"

Turns you invisible? Makes you want to keep the precioussss? Attracts Sauron? I guess it's not that much of a problem....

#167 ::: OtterB ::: (view all by) ::: January 05, 2011, 12:52 PM:

Dave Luckett @162, applause.

I get ddb's point of the options sometimes being useful, even necessary ... but it would be nice to have the choice of a reduced option set. I don't have this problem so much on a landline, but it's a constant problem in the past few years when I get a cell phone.

Speaking of which, I remember recently reading (and perhaps participating in) a whole long discussion about rebooting old mystery novels because of the immense difference cell phones make to what is plausible. Was that on ML?

Re obsolete technology in the movies, spinning 9-track tapes on computers.

Re the original question about things that make songs obsolete, I keep going back to Jim Croce's "Operator". Not only is he asking the operator to help him connect the call, and telling her she can keep the dime when he decides to disconnect, he has the phone number written on a matchbook that's old and faded. There used to be free matches with a logo cover at many bars and hotels, so somebody might easily pick up a matchbook to write a phone number. Lots of the places I go now don't allow smoking; I find this an improvement, but it's made the promotional matchbook obsolescent if not obsolete.

#168 ::: dcb ::: (view all by) ::: January 05, 2011, 01:22 PM:

Dave Luckett@162: I have some sympathy. I've certainly seen my father-in-law wondering which button to press to finish a call, when using our house 'phone. And there are so many options it can seem overwhelming.

As for mobiles/cell phones, I finally changed mine about six months ago; my old one (which was dying) was really simple, this one is definitely not, and I'm constantly irritated by it doing things I don't want, or hiding options I do want (I'd throw it and go for a simpler Nokia - same make as my old one - but that would be wasteful, now I've bought this one).

I dread, if we ever get a TV and video recorder again, trying to work out how those work, not having used one for more than a decade.

OtterB @ 168: There was certainly discussion of the matter of problems with mystery novels/films in an era of cell 'phones, not long ago.

#169 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: January 05, 2011, 01:31 PM:

Cell phones and book plots was here.

#170 ::: ddb ::: (view all by) ::: January 05, 2011, 01:41 PM:

dcb@169: I have in fact fumbled to figure out how to answer my mother's cordless phone, and how to hang it up, so I'm not completely blind to the frustrations that can arise.

I've always been a phone feature guy; early owner of answering machine for home, early user of call waiting and call forwarding, early owner of hand-held cell phone, etc. These things seemed to me to give me more flexibility in my life, and hence were highly desirable.

I'm at least somewhat sympathetic to people who personally don't want some of the features I want, and wish they could get something simple that did just what they wanted. Personal taste is everything in most areas (short of public policy debates).

What bugged me was the attitude exhibited by the character in the poem (I'm not attributing the attitude to Dave Luckett) that everybody wanted what he wanted, and nobody had any real use for additional features.

#171 ::: ErrolC ::: (view all by) ::: January 05, 2011, 01:44 PM:

Ginger/Andrew M
Cavalry also has a stricter military meaning, having morphed into a type of role description for what light cavalry used to do (there being a considerable period when horse-mounted solders were of no use for shock attacks done by heavy cavalry).

#172 ::: Cally Soukup ::: (view all by) ::: January 05, 2011, 01:49 PM:

I remember a Suspense radio show from no later than 1962 (which is when Suspense went off the air) with a plot that revolved around establishing an alibi by using a car phone. Alas, there was a dead zone....

Sorry, but I don't remember the title, and can't find a plot summary on the Interwebs.

#173 ::: David Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: January 05, 2011, 01:51 PM:

In Scientific American, I've seen advertisements for a stripped-down cell phone, IIRC called the "Jitterbug"... <google>... Ah, here, the Jitterbug from Greatcall. It's pitched mostly to seniors, but I'm sure it would be useful to lots of folks.

#174 ::: OtterB ::: (view all by) ::: January 05, 2011, 01:52 PM:

Thanks, dcb and abi. I thought the plots/cell phones discussion was probably here, since few other places I go on the interwebs have such free-wheeling conversations about books, but didn't remember for sure.

#175 ::: Mary Aileen ::: (view all by) ::: January 05, 2011, 02:00 PM:

David Harmon (174): I seriously considered getting a Jitterbug when I needed to replace my cell phone a couple of years ago. (I'm in my 40s.)

Much to my bogglement, my parents, both 80 and far from techophilic, have started using Skype for phone calls.

#176 ::: dcb ::: (view all by) ::: January 05, 2011, 02:20 PM:

ddb @ 171: Looking at the last six lines, I understand that the author is bemoaning the fact that there isn't a simpler option for those who want it: "It turns out there's no choice. They're all like that./You buy, or go without.", rather than asking for all 'phones to be without the complex features.

#177 ::: Lin D ::: (view all by) ::: January 05, 2011, 02:31 PM:

I got my mother to IM thru Skype because I could never get her to figure out her email system. She learned she could leave me messages even when I wasn't on line, and I'd get back to her with answers. It suffices.

Apparently, no cellfone maker wants to run afoul of "look and feel" issues, so every accursed one is different. I, the tech geek, have to ask someone how to make a call on their cellfone, find a contact, or other "simple" things, because the buttons all have different labels. Or glyphs that are unique to the fone manufacturer. There wouldn't be a list of words and glyphs used by each manufacturer somewhere, per chance?

#178 ::: Linkmeister ::: (view all by) ::: January 05, 2011, 02:42 PM:

dcb @ #169, hiding options I do want

My Motorola cellphone with Tracfone software does not list its number in the PhoneBook section, but under the PrePaid section. Since I only recently (after about four years) committed my cellphone number to memory, that has been an annoyance for a long time.

#179 ::: Mary Aileen ::: (view all by) ::: January 05, 2011, 03:08 PM:

re #176/178: My mother recently got Skype because she's currently on the board of the American Recorder Society and needs it for their virtual meetings. And it turns out that my father can hear phone calls much better when they're routed through the computer's speakers.

It's a very recent acquisition. When I went home for Christmas, I was greeted with a request to get sound back on their computer. It turned out that when Mom shut down Skype after using it the first time, she managed to uninstall the system sound drivers. (Don't ask me how!) The recovery disk restored everything handily.

#180 ::: David Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: January 05, 2011, 03:33 PM:

re #176,178,180: My paternal grandmother (years deceased now) was using E-mail via AOL, back in the late '80s. On the other hand, she was also the grandparent I suspect of "founding" the Aspie streak in my family....

Mom's been an E-mail fiend for years (probably inspired by her ex-mother-in-law), though I've spent a lot of time trying to teach her the fine points. Happily, she's sensible enough not to fall for Nigerian scams and such, but I still worry about her getting phished or Trojaned.

In other news, my new watch is here! The original style I ordered was out of stock, but the vendor E-mailed back and let me pick a new one. This one doesn't have the magnifier, and hangs a little lower, but I'm sure I'll get used to it. They tossed in a "free gift" of a flag pin... made in China, natch.

#181 ::: Tim Walters ::: (view all by) ::: January 05, 2011, 04:08 PM:

"I have always wished for my computer to be as easy to use as my telephone; my wish has come true because I can no longer figure out how to use my telephone."

--Bjarne Stroustrup, inventor of C++

#182 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: January 05, 2011, 04:24 PM:

ddb, #171: What bugged me was the attitude exhibited by the character in the poem (I'm not attributing the attitude to Dave Luckett) that everybody wanted what he wanted, and nobody had any real use for additional features.

Yes -- and moreover, that nobody should ever want anything but exactly what he wanted. It's the TPer movement in a nutshell.

dcb, #177: The ironic thing is that there are less tech-heavy versions of most things available (see David H. @174) -- but you have to be somewhat tech-savvy in order to find them!

My cellphone does a lot of stuff that I don't need or want. I've figured out how to use the features which are useful to me, and if I ever start to need any of the others I'll figure them out too. I do rather miss one option that my previous cellphone had -- the ability to dump a call either straight to voicemail, or straight to disconnect, without answering. The current one picks up the call as soon as you open the lid.

#183 ::: David Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: January 05, 2011, 05:34 PM:

Lee #183: Yes, I was always amused that the only place I saw their ads is in Scientific American -- and those are full-page ads!

#184 ::: OtterB ::: (view all by) ::: January 05, 2011, 05:51 PM:

David Harmon @184, I think I saw their ads in Science News (though it might have been Scientific American). I remember commenting to my husband that I thought it was the wrong audience for their message. But it occurs to me that perhaps it's the audience they want to reach, not to purchase for themselves, but to provide advice to less tech-engaged friends and relatives.

#185 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: January 05, 2011, 05:57 PM:

One of the pleasures of watching Gerry Anderson's "Thunderbirds" is its vision of the Future. Don't you wish toy factories shipped out their cargo from a nearby rocket launch pad, after which they'd jettison the parachute-equipped containers?

#186 ::: MD² ::: (view all by) ::: January 05, 2011, 06:46 PM:

dcb@81: one teacher back at high school asked for the name of the spider I'd trained to walk across my page

"Can't say, I killed it when it bit me. Seems like it was radioactive though, and I kept its superpower."

#187 ::: David Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: January 05, 2011, 06:47 PM:

OtterB #185: Also, perhaps folks who would appreciate tools specific to the task, and recognize the problems with excessive bells-&-whistles. SciAm's target audience seems to range from "the interested layman", up through scientists keeping an eye on fields outside their own.

Perhaps that readership is just an older crowd, as well -- certainly, I'm old enough to have been irritated when SciAm recently tried "popularizing" their format. I actually ditched Discover when they did that, deciding the mag had slid below my range. Happily, SciAm backed off a little, and avoided sliding down to Discover's old range. They kept most of the extra graphics, but also kept enough detail to hold my interest.

#188 ::: Dave Luckett ::: (view all by) ::: January 05, 2011, 10:14 PM:


"Dave Luckett@162: "What's the problem with a ring?"

What, he's never been around other people with similar technology?"

Yes, I have. But this phone is the only one I use to make and answer calls. I don't need a different ring tone for it, and therefore don't want to have to program it.

"I currently sit in a room with 9 wired phones all with the same ring (plus mostly that many personal cell phones), and let me tell you, having them all set to different rings would be an immense improvement!"

You therefore need phones that you can program with different ring tones. I don't. You should be able to buy what you need. I should be able to buy what I need, too. Neither of us should be forced to buy what we don't need or want.

"Similarly with having to hit a button to answer, and to hang up. "Just picking it up" works when the handset sits on a base, but to be portable, the base was removed. Sometimes the handset goes in a pocket, or hangs on a belt. So, having a button to answer makes perfectly good sense."

Yes. That makes good sense - for you. For me, it doesn't. The phone in question is a shared cordless phone, which is portable in the sense that whoever is on it can move around the house, when necessary. It has to be returned to its cradle when not in use, so that others can find it. It rapidly loses charge, so it needs to spend most of its time there, anyway. The button is small, hard to find, and any accidental pressure on any one of the many other buttons causes disconnection. That's why I want a phone that connects when I pick it up, and I don't want a button.

"ESPECIALLY with caller ID, when you might want to take the phone, look at the display, and not answer."

Yes, if that is what you want to do. I don't want to do that.

"It's quite a good poem, but the sentiments it expresses seem to me entirely wrong-headed and ignorant."

So they may seem to you. From where I'm sitting, you appear to be insisting that what suits you must suit me, and that I may not buy what suits me. And yet I'm the one accused of saying that "everybody wanted what he wanted" and am placed in the Tea Party (!) because of it.

I can only state again that I do not want what you want, but that I find this wholly unexceptionable. I am not in any way implying that you should not be able to buy what you want. I have no idea how you can conclude from what I wrote that I think that "everybody wanted what he wanted, and nobody had any real use for additional features". I wrote "I don't think I'm alone". The distinction seems plain to me.

Given that, how is my wish to be able to buy a smaller, easier, simpler and (possibly) cheaper phone than what is actually available "wrong-headed and ignorant"?

#189 ::: Josh Berkus ::: (view all by) ::: January 06, 2011, 02:25 AM:

Dave @ 189:

I'd like to forward your poem to a couple of people. Is it original? Do I have your permission?

It certainly expresses how I feel about my cell phone. Or rather, pocket computer. Note that there are still cordless phones which answer when you pick them up. Maybe you need a different model?

Even as a computer programmer, I am constantly bewildered by both the rapid pace of change of electronics and the constant drive towards complexity and away from simplicity. Products are constantly released which are faster, bigger, with more features and all-new interfaces, to the point where every piece of electronics is a learning experience. Even (especially!) stereo systems.

This is an unfortunate side effect of the economics of consumer technology (at least for the last 30 years). New, cutting-edge products have 4 to 10 times the profit margin of last year's models, so 100% of product development is focused on those new, cutting-edge models. This means that there is zero attempt to make products standardized, more reliable, or easier to use, let alone simpler.

I think the car might be the last piece of technology to be rigorously standardized. And that had government regulation involved.

There are a few merchants currently trying to exploit the market for simpler technology; I see adds for "just a phone" in National Geographic. Netbooks were a (premature) attempt to do the same thing for the PC. But since people expect simpler products to also be *cheaper*, it's a low-margin market and likely to be unreliable.

#190 ::: Dave Luckett ::: (view all by) ::: January 06, 2011, 02:36 AM:


Yes, it is original, and yes, by all means.

#191 ::: David Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: January 06, 2011, 07:09 AM:

Josh Berkus #190: Also, user interface design is often treated as a frivolous distraction (since it impedes getting the new model out the door). The results of that are widely apparent, not just in cell phones.

#192 ::: ddb ::: (view all by) ::: January 06, 2011, 09:49 AM:

Dave Luckett@189: As I said, I was reacting to my perception of universalism in the viewpoint of the character in the poem. Possibly it was only there in my reading (though I do still see it; but my initial reading may have set a bias on that).

#193 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: January 06, 2011, 10:06 AM:

This talk of rings reminds me of a line in the Beatles's movie "Help!".

"With this ring, I could - dare I say it? - rule the world!"
#194 ::: Steve C. ::: (view all by) ::: January 06, 2011, 10:20 AM:

Serge @ 194 -

I just had a vision of Gollum covering Coldplay's "Viva la Vida".

I used to rule the world...

#195 ::: Rob Rusick ::: (view all by) ::: January 06, 2011, 10:43 AM:

Dave Luckett @162:

"I have always wished for my computer to be as easy to use as my telephone; my wish has come true because I can no longer figure out how to use my telephone."

Bjarne Stroustrup, creator of the C++ programming language.

#196 ::: Rob Rusick ::: (view all by) ::: January 06, 2011, 10:45 AM:

Ah, Tim Walters @182 beat me to the relevant quote.

#197 ::: Dave Luckett ::: (view all by) ::: January 06, 2011, 11:23 AM:

If the creator of C++ has problems, what hope for such as I?

ddb, the character in the poem is me, and his attitudes to buying more functions than he needs or can use are my own. But now that I have explained why I wish it were possible to buy a simple, robust cordless phone without extra functions, buttons and programs, but that I do not wish to deprive you or anyone else of them, may I take it that the words "wrong-headed and ignorant" are withdrawn? I must admit that I resent them.

Lee, I would appreciate it if the attribution of those views to the Tea Party were also withdrawn.

#198 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: January 06, 2011, 12:07 PM:

Dave, #198: Certainly I will withdraw it now that you've clarified your position.

On further reflection, I think what set me off was the implication (whether accurately perceived or not) that there is something inherently offensive about a piece of tech that has more functionality than you want. And that's partly because this is an attitude that I have only recently* become aware of in myself and am striving to eradicate -- not just about tech, but about a lot of different things. I may very well be hair-triggered about it, and inclined to read it into things where it really isn't.

* As in, within the past 5 years or so

#199 ::: ddb ::: (view all by) ::: January 06, 2011, 12:50 PM:

Dave Luckett@198: It was the impression of universalism I was objecting to -- just as you are, in fact. I do not regard your views, as I currently understand them from the series of messages, as either wrong-headed or ignorant.

#200 ::: Mycroft W ::: (view all by) ::: January 07, 2011, 12:37 AM:

Ah, but it's universalism in the market that is the problem.

As Dave says, *if* you're not the "all bells and whistles, 100-page manual" type, *there is no phone for you*.

Now I don't want a cell phone - at all - because I'm an introvert who's spent enough time in IT on-call (and, coincidentally, working the night shift this week), and while it may sometimes be of use to me (especially to call transit scheduling), it's not worth the advantages to be available. "you don't have to answer it, you know." Yeah, I know, and I also know what a load that is - what they mean is "you don't have to answer it, unless it's me calling."

If I did, however, I wouldn't want an all-singing, all-dancing thing that is going to take me 30 minutes to figure out how to do any of the 40 things it can do - including actually *make a call*. I would want something like what I had in India - a cheap Nokia brick and a SIM card I could add money to when I needed it (oh, that's something else I can't get here - true, *sanely priced* PAYG phone, with no "monthly minimum topup"). But even that was too complicated for me - for a phone. (Yes, I administer computer networks for a living. I can learn. But I don't *want to*, and shouldn't *have to*.

Yes, I do want a PDA, that will do what I want it to do, and if I bought in to the cell phone hysteria, I could get it for a lot cheaper (counting the plan contract itself as "no cost", which it would be) than the one I'm currently looking at. But that's not the same thing.

And Dave, for another option, see John's Phone. It's easier to get if you're European, mind you.

#201 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: January 07, 2011, 12:51 AM:

I don't think I am a Luddite: I am sort of Amish in my tech.

I know that when I adopt a new tech (or feature) I will end up with it making some changes in my life. I resisted a cell phone until I felt the advantage it provided (ready access) was needful (I was deployed, and had no other way to reliably speak to Maia).

That was 2003.

Now, in 2011, I am pondering the idea of a phone which does text.

I'm a simple man, in this regard. I want a phone that makes phone calls. I don't want a camera. I don't want the internet in my pocket. I don't want it to be my MP3 player. I, for reasons semi-obvious, want a flip phone; with a screen to tell me who is calling.

Apart from the idea that communicators ought to flip open, I don't want my phone to make "pocket calls". I don't want to have to push buttons, unlock it, or some other strange thing.

I do want it to be able to tell me, before I decide to answer, who is calling.

I happen to like that my phone has a reliable alarm, and a calculator.

But that is about the limit of bells and whistles I want, or need.

This makes me a frustrated consumer, who has a phone going on five years old, because it (basically) does what I want. The only reason it's not going on eight years old, is the first one got damaged, and the battery wasn't reliably attached anymore.

#202 ::: Tim Walters ::: (view all by) ::: January 07, 2011, 01:03 AM:

FWIW, I think my iPhone is a lot easier to make phone calls on than my old just-a-phone was.

#203 ::: Niall McAuley ::: (view all by) ::: January 07, 2011, 06:43 AM:

I use my phone for calls and texts only so most models on sale are ridiculously overspecced, but the internet connectivity, camera and MP3 player on mine are well hidden, so they don't annoy me.

One feature I wouldn't have thought I'd bother with is the ability to add ringtones and then link them to particular callers, but it's actually quite cool. My SO is Mahler, her side of the family are Smetana, mine are Prokofiev, and the kids are Star Wars. This is like the display of caller ID, but much more efficient.

#204 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: January 07, 2011, 07:02 AM:

Niall McAuley @ 204... I wonder what music I should associate calls from work with. Maybe the Benny Hill Show?

#205 ::: Niall McAuley ::: (view all by) ::: January 07, 2011, 07:50 AM:

I spent a while on-call last year, and I had to change my text-alert sound afterwards as the sound of John Lennon singing "Riight!" gives me flashbacks to servers emailing me automated bad news at 6 am.

#206 ::: Ginger ::: (view all by) ::: January 07, 2011, 08:33 AM:

I'm due for a new phone (Verizon's "new every two") and I'm pondering the feasibility of a Droid. Currently I have a Samsung Knack which has no camera, no internets, no bells and whistles at all. It does have a sampling of ringtones, but even though I use different rings for different people, I still can't tell who's calling without looking at the screen. It's a flip-top, naturally, and the volume is loud enough for me.

My Fabulous Girlfriend keeps suggesting a Droid, for all the bells and whistles that she likes on her phone (and I do carry a blackberry for work, so I am comfortable with those luxuries such as GPS, making calls from the email program by highlighting phone numbers and pressing "send", and the camera has actually turned out to be very useful both at work and at home...)

I'm torn. I could just replace this simple phone with another simple phone -- which I like -- or I could go with a more sophisticated upgrade and leave my blackberry for work-related items alone.

My new phone won't decrease the number of electronic items I carry, so there's no advantage to getting something high-tech, other than some privacy. Maybe.

Eh, I think I'll have to go to the Verizon store and see them for myself.

#207 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: January 07, 2011, 08:44 AM:

Ginger #207:

A lot depends on what you want. I just got a BB Bold as my "new-every-two", and I'd thought of a Droid also. I'd liked the look of the Droid Pro, which seems to combine the features of a BlackBerry and Android. But I don't like the price very much.

#208 ::: Dave Bell ::: (view all by) ::: January 07, 2011, 08:52 AM:


Text is useful on a mobile phone. A message arrives, and you can take a minute or two to safely stop the vehicle you're driving, before you pay attention to the phone. You can send a message, and not have to wait for somebody to answer their phone. For receiving messages, at least, it gets around any problems from patchy coverage.

It can take a while to get used to the keypad for text input, but it's useful. Things such as contact lists also help.

An MP3 player is wasting your phone battery. My mobile does have a camera: it's a very limited camera, but I have it with me. More pixels than my digital camera, but fixed-focus wide-angle lens, so maybe more like the point-and-shoot compact camera a photo-journalist might have carried in the Seventies.

Yes, there is a lot of stuff on some mobile phones. Sometimes, the tools are useful. Sometimes, they're just clutter.

#209 ::: ddb ::: (view all by) ::: January 07, 2011, 09:49 AM:

I don't really want a phone, at this point; I want my email in my pocket. This works well with most of the people in my life, none of whom like to talk on the phone, and all of whom do email. Text messages are a poor substitute for real email, but since they're on the same platform, they're sometimes useful.

This last round of upgrade, what I really wanted was a phone that also provided wifi or bluetooth internet connectivity to my other devices. This doesn't exist (except bundled with lots of other features, and a very high monthly rate). I did consider the mobile hotspot approach (and no phone, or a separate simple phone), but the startup time was too long (to get the hotspot going AND the Nokia tablet or whatever running and talking to it). The phones are better designed for instant-on, and integrating the connectivity and the terminal in one device eliminates one synchronization step. So I'm doing everything on the Evo, and not using the Nokia tablet. The Evo has the hardware to be a mobile wifi hotspot, but I don't have the plan coverage currently, and haven't done a jailbreak. It's also hell on batteries, of course.

There are enough people still phone-oriented that having a phone is somewhat useful.

The car issues are complex. Voice is probably lots safer at least in my setup; my phone connects via bluetooth to the car audio system, so I don't have to look at the phone or handle it to receive calls (or make them; I can dial by name by voice). Whereas for text messages, I have to handle the phone, and look at it; and the handling part is illegal in Minnesota. (I'm not absolutely sure if it's "when moving" or "when in the driver's seat and on the road" or what; not sure if I can use a stop light to legally deal with an issue on my phone. I should find out.)

#210 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: January 07, 2011, 09:55 AM:

Ginger @ 207... My Fabulous Girlfriend keeps suggesting a Droid, for all the bells and whistles

These are not the droids you are looking for?

#211 ::: Mary Aileen ::: (view all by) ::: January 07, 2011, 10:11 AM:

Mycroft W (201): I have a cell phone for emergencies, and convenience while travelling; the rest of the time it's off, with a voice-mail message that says "call my home number" (unspecified; anyone I want to hear from has my home number). I have T-Mobile pay-as-you-go, because it's good for 90 days, not 30 like the other companies' PAYG plans; I only have to pay $10* every 3 months to keep it topped up. The phone is fancier than I want (although I went with the most basic flip-phone available), but actually making calls is straightforward enough. Setting up the phone book required extensive consultation of the manual, but that was a one-time thing.

*okay, $10.87 with tax

#212 ::: Ginger ::: (view all by) ::: January 07, 2011, 10:25 AM:

Serge @ 211: Why am I even looking for Droids? Oh, look, Sir! A tavern!

#213 ::: Ginger ::: (view all by) ::: January 07, 2011, 10:40 AM:

Fragano @ 208: A lot of what I want is already fulfilled by my issued blackberry, so my phone is truly a luxury. I'm leaning towards another plain phone unless the discount trims enough off the data plan to make it worthwhile. I'm all for spending less money on the plan, so I can use more of it where I need it..

#214 ::: Lila ::: (view all by) ::: January 07, 2011, 11:16 AM:

I've been pretty happy with TracFone for pay-as-you-go service. My phone was $20 and came with a "double minutes for life" card which makes the price per minute reasonable; time is added along with minutes in an adjustable fashion; and when my daughter's phone was stolen TracFone quickly deactivated it and transferred the number and the remaining minutes to a new phone which also cost only $20.

#215 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: January 07, 2011, 12:27 PM:

I'm amused, and it's why I can sympathise with Dave Luckett.

I said, "this is what I want a phone to do."

With the exception of Dave Bell (addressing a tangent in my comment) it feels the response has been to tell me why a more spiffed model is better.

I realise this may be part of the sort of hyper-sensitivity which comes of being out of step with the time (and living in Silicon Valley, the times they are a changin'. I know people on their fourth Android... they are just keeping up with the state of the art... it's good for buying phones on Craiglist. I know someone else on his third... all used, all pristine), but that's how it feels to mention why I have the phone I've got (and I get a fair bit of... "wow... that's an old phone, how can you stand to have practically obsolete?).

I don't use ringtones. I use vibrate. I've used Blackberries iPhones, and Androids, and non-flips. I don't care for them.

I've also had all sorts of phones (including an iPhone) call me when the owner wasn't using the phone. I've never had my flip phone do that. I've never had anyone who has a flip phone suffer that.

Since a fair number of my calls are toll (as in 50 cents a minute international calls), I don't want the slightest chance of it.

I also (and this is purely personal) don't like the mass of things like an iPhone, a Blackberry, etc. I am a small guy. I keep too much in my pockets as it is. A bigger phone than my LG whatever it is, is not what I want.

I've actually thought about this (in detail) in the eight years I've been using cell phones. My desires are tolerably well considered, as are my dislikes.

I know that getting a new phone will mean having to put up with changes in how things work (and if I could lose the reverse polish notation of things like my alarm status, I'd be a bit happier, so there are things to look forward to), but I don't need to be sold on why a fancier phone will suit me better.

#216 ::: Doug K ::: (view all by) ::: January 07, 2011, 12:48 PM:

Mycroft W @201: I got Virgin Mobile which allows for $20 every 3 months as the minimum payment. The T-Mobile is cheaper but Consumer Reports says its network is decidedly inferior to the Sprint one that Virgin uses (yes, I am a geek).
Agreed, they manage this better in other countries - S. Africa similarly lets you buy a SIM and minutes only as needed.

I broke down for two reasons:
1. now everyone has a cellphone, no-one is allowed to not have one: since the public phone infrastructure has withered away;
2. as a coda to 1, not having a cell is the mark of a Luddite weirdo. That's me of course, but I'm trying to pretend. Really I'm with Sol Gilles in Dombey and Son, "I have fallen behind the time, and am too old to catch it again. Even the noise it makes a long way ahead, confuses me."

After 3 hours last night fighting with the Virgin website and automated phone system, I managed to get the phone activated, but have not yet persuaded them to accept my $20 so it can actually make calls. Website says helpfully, "an error has occurred", automated voice hell says "I don't understand". Nor do I.. me for the cleft stick.

#217 ::: Clifton Royston ::: (view all by) ::: January 07, 2011, 01:54 PM:

I am pretty retro in my cell phone preferences myself. (I have a computer, several of them in fact; I have carried a PDA. I know I don't need a computer in my pocket, and at present I don't want a PDA.) Mostly I want a phone which makes phone calls; sometimes I will text with it or read texts.

At present I am quite happy with a Samsung Alias, which I claimed from my wife after she upgraded to a Palm Pre smartphone. It's a flip-phone, with a clever twist in the hinge so that the screen can flip open horizontally rather than vertically, and then the keypad works as a typewriter-style keypad rather than phone-style. Sound quality is fine; you can choose ringtones but need not. Picture and reviews. It's now outdated, but there's a newer model or you can probably find this one used very cheap.

The term my friend Kit uses for those accidental phone calls from a pocketed iPhone, Android and their ilk is "butt-dialing." "I'm sorry, I must have butt-dialed you." It amuses me.

#218 ::: Bill Stewart ::: (view all by) ::: January 07, 2011, 02:34 PM:

I live in Silicon Valley; I only work in outer space\\\\\\\\\ one of those other valleys across the Bay. My phone's fancier than Terry's, but not by much, even though I work for a phone company, and I got it because it was cheaper to replace the phone than to replace the battery on the old one when it died. I've grudgingly accepted that texting is useful, but I need to put on my reading glasses to read it. I'd rather carry a very small phone than a big clunky iPhone/Droid/Blackberry, but that does make text even harder to read. The feature I really do like is having voice note-taking built in and accessible.

On phone cameras - they're really there to make phone users buy data plans, and because low-res camera chips don't cost anything any more. The social effects of having everybody always carrying cameras, combined with convenient internet picture services, have been interesting, and mostly good. My Nokia's a really lousy camera, but I was already carrying around small cheapass digital cameras anyway, and this means I only have to carry the good camera if I'm planning to go somewhere photogenic. But that probably wouldn't work for Terry, who does actual artistic photography and not just the point&shoot snapshots that I usually do. I don't usually carry an MP3 player around, but if I did that it would make sense to build it into the phone since most of the mechanism's already there.

On flip phones - mine's a flip phone, but it manages to open itself in my pocket anyway. Usually it doesn't pocket-dial; it prefers to take series of black or dim photographs instead. It's the Bluetooth headset that like to pocket-dial, because pressing the button on it twice dials the last number you called, even if you've got the voice-dialing feature turned off.

On Jitterbug phones - we got one for my mom years ago, and it's worked really well. It's big and clunky, with few buttons and very simple menus, so people who have limited vision (her problem) or limited hand motion can use it, and it got her to take the phone with her when she goes out so she can call taxis when she needs them. She's got the fancy version, which has a number pad; the simpler version just has three big buttons (911, hangup, and "call the voicebot or operator to dial for you".) You probably can set up your address book from the phone, but it's made to do it from the web (so your kids can do it for you) or to have the operator add names.

#219 ::: Lizzy L ::: (view all by) ::: January 07, 2011, 02:40 PM:

I also have a T-Mobile pay as you go phone. I have it only for emergencies -- my emergencies, as in, the car broke down on the freeway, help! I give the number out very rarely. No one calls me on it; I have voice mail on my home phone, messages can be left, thank you very much. I don't want to be at the world's beck and call, I don't want to talk to people while I'm (choose one) waiting on the post office line, shopping at Trader Joe's, or walking my dog.

I got the free phone. It's not even a flip phone. I kind of like the idea of having a flip phone, and the numbers/keypad on the basic model flip phone are actually larger than the phone I now have, so I'm thinking of purchasing the flip phone, ($69 plus tax) but I haven't done it yet.

I don't want to access the internet on the phone. I don't want to read my e-mail on the phone. I want it to be a phone -- oh, and I like the clock. That's all.

#220 ::: joann ::: (view all by) ::: January 07, 2011, 03:03 PM:

I have to say that the thing I use my iPhone most for is to see where the traffic jams are.

#221 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: January 07, 2011, 03:08 PM:

I want Dick Tracy's 2-way TV wristwatch.

#222 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: January 07, 2011, 03:09 PM:

I also want one of those flying garbage cans with crutches that Diet Smith had invented for the police dept.

#223 ::: Niall McAuley ::: (view all by) ::: January 07, 2011, 03:30 PM:

Lizzy L mentions that she likes the clock on her phone, which reminds me that I stopped wearing a wristwatch somewhere between 10 and 15 years ago, as I always have my phone anyhow.

#224 ::: Mike McHugh ::: (view all by) ::: January 07, 2011, 04:05 PM:

Phone plans in other countries are like the past: they do things different there, so I'm hesitant to recommend anything. That said, the Samsung SGH-A197 from AT&T would seem to meet the criteria of "simple flip phone with the minimum of bells and whistles". I had an A127, and it was perfect: it made calls, it sent texts, it fit in my pocket. It looks like Samsung do similar phones for other networks.

Weirdly, I stopped wearing a watch when I was about 13, as a breakfast cereal gave away a cheap plastic lozenge clock, a little bit smaller than a pack of Tic-Tacs, that turned out to be indestructible when kept in a pocket.

#225 ::: Linkmeister ::: (view all by) ::: January 07, 2011, 04:33 PM:

This anti-wristwatch sentiment is deplorable if you're Longines or Timex or Rolex or Patek Phillippe or . . .

I kinda like mine, but then I think of them as pieces of jewelry which keep time as a bonus.

#226 ::: Cadbury Moose ::: (view all by) ::: January 07, 2011, 05:06 PM:

Serge @ #206

The thought of having "Yakety Sax" as a ringtone for Ork is almost enough to persuade me to get a new 'phone. It fails, of course, because the offshored helldesk does not present usable caller-id.

Other things I'd like: the Nokia default ringtone performed on tubular bells (just for the annoyance value when a cow orker allows their mobile to ring and ring while they finish what they're doing.

Tanuki had the last word: "What I really want is a phone with Caller IQ".

#227 ::: Thena ::: (view all by) ::: January 07, 2011, 05:18 PM:

Am I the only person in America who does not have or particularly desire a cell phone?

(Rhetorical question: no, my other half doesn't have one either, except occasionally for work.)

If I could get the internet in my pocket without having to have a phone contract (that is, if I could buy the gadget and not have to pay a recurring usage fee every month) I'd consider it. That would be handy, I suppose.

But do I need it? No, not really. And at this point the expense and annoyance still outweigh any benefit I'd get from being able to surf discreetly at work, on my own connection.

#228 ::: Steve C. ::: (view all by) ::: January 07, 2011, 05:33 PM:

Thena, you can get an iPod Touch and pick up the Internet via Wi-Fi.

#229 ::: nerdycellist ::: (view all by) ::: January 07, 2011, 06:18 PM:

My phone's a Paygo dumbphone - it's not a flip anymore because I found myself texting rather than calling people. I have always hated the idea that I could be interrupting someone's day, even though I recognize that most people who carry cel phones don't mind having their pants ring every now and again. I upgraded to a non-flip phone because it's marginally easier for me to text with a minuscule keyboard than having to scroll through numbers. It has a fairly robust "lock" function so I have never butt- or purse-dialed anyone.

At about the same time I got the dumbphone, my roommate got an Android phone of some sort and I decided to observe in case I wanted to upgrade. The internet's slower than I'm used to, the keyboard's just as minuscule as mine, so you wouldn't want to use it "for fun" and small as my fingers are, the touchscreen never seems to take me to the places I actually have indicated by touch. Altogether frustrating to try and interact with The Internet and feel like you've gone back to dial-up. It's nice to be able to get sports scores or phone/map info - when the damn thing's working, which despite being a major carrier in a major city, is rarer than you'd think. I can't imagine trying to read a book or watch anything more than 30 seconds of youtube pet videos on it.

I have a netbook for mobile computing needs, a small point&shoot for pics, and a nook for all other entertainment. My phone only has to be a phone.

#230 ::: eric ::: (view all by) ::: January 07, 2011, 06:38 PM:

What I'd really like is an ipod Touch 3g, or alternately, an iPhone with a (cheap, limited) data only or pay as you go plan.

Why? Because I live and work in a cell phone null, and I don't commute, and I'd like something for when I do go out. The iPad's to big for that. And I've already got a cell that's on the $100/yr prepaid tmobile plan. (It's a '99 nokia candy bar. with Voicestream on the plastics) I don't want a newer phone, I've had two and they've sucked as phones.

I'd like a decent camera phone for taking pics and sending them around. Something smaller than my dslr, so I'm likely to always have it with me. I'd like something to get google on the go. And dammit, I like the iPad, and could find a use for a smaller one around the house. What I can't take is 60+/month for service on one.

#231 ::: Bruce E. Durocher II ::: (view all by) ::: January 07, 2011, 07:18 PM:

I was part of the telephone support team for the Nexus One, and was thereby given one. I like it for reasons that wouldn't matter to most of Making Light, so I won't proselytize for it or for Android. I note that the call I got laying me off the Google contract came over the hospital phone when I was waiting to be discharged after surgery rather than from the Nexus One or I might have come out more cranky towards my employer.

#232 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: January 07, 2011, 08:30 PM:

I have one of those cellphones with built-in camera and a hundred-page manual. I can make calls with it: that's the only reason I have one, and I can't figure out how to get it to do anything else, because it's so complex.

I wish there were a cellphone that's simply a phone, and that's priced the same way.

#233 ::: Dave Luckett ::: (view all by) ::: January 07, 2011, 09:27 PM:

Mycroft W @ 201:

Thank you for the linky to John's phone. I think the "snow" variant might be what I want, so long as it works in Australia. In this case, I don't mind a button to answer and terminate calls, since I would be carrying it on me, and I am really impressed by the appropriate technology for recording phone numbers - a pad and pencil in a compartment!

I have mentioned this to Sally, and I have a birthday coming up.

#234 ::: Paula Helm Murray ::: (view all by) ::: January 07, 2011, 10:27 PM:

We all have simple flip phones, one of the advantages is that you pretty much can't butt-dial (you don't want to hear the cursing when we still had a house line and someone kept butt dialing 'home'. While at a Royals game, which pretty much prohibited her from hearing the phone or me cursing on the phone.

We had our texting turned OFF by our phone company: a) none of us used it very much and b) we kept getting bogus bills for signing up for services that no one even knew what it was.

I'd vaguely like to be able to check my email during the day, and an IPad or and ipod touch would be a peachy toy. But we'd need to catch up all our bills, and then some to afford the device, much less the fees for service.

#235 ::: Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: January 08, 2011, 12:10 AM:

I have a Tracfone; the simplest possible Motorola model. It doesn't butt dial, but the pressure of the case sometimes results in the ringer being turned off.

I only turn it on when I travel. It is very handy for that, but I resent the assumption that I have to have it with me at other times.

I rarely text. My longest text message exchange occured just before Christmas, when I arranged to pick up and hold a neighbor's Omaha Steaks package. I can type fast but texting is so awkward.

#236 ::: Paul A. ::: (view all by) ::: January 08, 2011, 02:17 AM:

Thena @ #228: Am I the only person in America who does not have or particularly desire a cell phone?

Well, I'm not in America, but apart from that...

I have a phone at work and a phone at home, and both take messages; if I'm not within earshot of either of those, I'm almost certainly doing something where I don't want to be interrupted so I'd have a cell phone switched off anyway. I can see where one would be useful for emergencies, but so far I remain confident in my ability to survive without. (The one time I can think of where I could have really used a cell phone, the circumstances were such that I probably wouldn't have had it on me anyway.)

Lately, I've been vaguely tempted by the new iPhone, but not enough to actually move in the direction of actually buying one. This conversation has reminded me that it's all the non-phone features that tempt me, anyway, so maybe what I really want is an iPod instead.

(And even though I don't have a cell phone, I don't have a wrist watch either: I don't like having things wrapped around my wrists. I have a pocket watch instead, a deliberately old-fashioned hunter-case pocket watch that never fails, whatever the occasion, to look out of place.)

#237 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: January 08, 2011, 03:49 AM:

On watches. Pocket watches for me. My hunter case watches all seem to need new mainsprings now, which is a nuisance. Less of one since I have my phone in my pocket (which I think of as my watch).

I will have to get a larger phone, because I can't use a number pad to text. Apart from the nuisance of the serial button pushing to get the letter I want, my joints won't take that sort of repetition.

So the new phone will be, to me, a nuisance, if I decide I need to be able to text.

#238 ::: OtterB ::: (view all by) ::: January 08, 2011, 07:53 AM:

Huh. Thought I'd written a post on cell phones yesterday, but looks like I didn't post it.

I do not use my cell phone as often as many but wouldn't want to be without it. It is my source for time-sensitive family messages like "your kid is sick and needs to be picked up at school" or "your spouse has a sudden business trip and is leaving tomorrow." I'm something of a moving target otherwise; I work full time, telecommute irregularly, work some flexible hours to do kid chauffeuring or attend an odd meeting. This way I can be reached. I also give the number to my office when I'm going to be on vacation and not checking the work e-mail; they have good judgement about not calling for minor stuff. It gives me peace of mind, because if I haven't heard anything, it means there's nothing to hear.

I also quit wearing a watch, a combination of having problems with my wrist breaking out from the metal in a buckle, and the fact that the phone has the time and I normally have the phone with me. I did realize the problem with that on a long flight, though; I have a fairly Luddite phone with no "airplane mode" and so had no way to tell how long we were from landing.

My older daughter got me into texting some last year. I was reluctant, but did find the modestly-asynchronous nature somewhat more convenient than leaving phone messages. I could text at a time I knew she couldn't answer the phone, but know she would get the message shortly. My next phone upgrade may have a full keyboard; I find texting with a numeric keypad annoying.

#239 ::: Rikibeth ::: (view all by) ::: January 08, 2011, 09:12 AM:

I have a three-year-old Samsung flip phone with a low-resolution camera in it. I actually kind of love it. I text ALL THE TIME, and have learned to game the T9 predictive text option for what feels to me like the least number of button-pushes available, and I text so much in preference to voice calls that I can get away with the lowest possible number of minutes on my family plan -- into which, I'm delighted to report, T-Mobile has finally incorporated unlimited texting at no additional fee. It only took one month of having a tween (now a teen) on the plan to realize that unlimited texting even at a fee was the cost-effective option.

What I like about texting is the asynchronous aspect. I don't have to answer right away! I can think about it! This is also why I prefer IM to voice calls. I reserve voice calls to my family for holidays! On regular days, we IM.

The flip phone prevents me from butt-dialing, and the tiny capsule nature of the phone means it fits in an evening purse, the pocket of my jeans, or even down the cleavage of a corset (and I'm pretty small, these are not Huge Tracts of Land, the corsets range from 22" to 24" waists). The camera means I actually take and send pictures of myself and my kid, even if they're not the highest quality -- but my parents appreciate getting them more than a high-quality picture that never arrives. It's CONVENIENT.

I don't really want to upgrade, because data plans are pricey. I'd rather have an iPod Touch that can hold my music library like my failing 30GB iPod Classic, and give me the internet on wifi WITHOUT a data plan as a recurring expense. No MORE gadgets than I carry now, and improved functionality.

I remember doing long car trips before I had a cell phone. Even with AAA, the risk felt higher, especially in a beater car, far from home, middle of the night. My car's not a beater now, but accidents still can happen -- but with a cell phone and AAA, I have a lot more peace of mind.

There are way more functions on even my little flip phone than I use -- I'd probably be wise to use the calendar feature, frex -- but I don't find it burdensome that it has them.

I hope they don't stop making ones enough like it for me to replace it, because eventually the numbers are all going to wear off, and it might break otherwise. I really like it.

#240 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: January 08, 2011, 05:17 PM:

My Blackberry may have way more bells & whistles than I need, but it's set up so that all emails sent to my computer go thru it too. That means I'm not forced to stay by my computer if I'm waiting for an urgent response, and that's quite liberating.

#241 ::: dcb ::: (view all by) ::: January 08, 2011, 05:58 PM:

Terry Karney @ 216 "it feels the response has been to tell me why a more spiffed model is better." I read the comments as various people indicating what -they- want in a 'phone - with as many variants as there are people, which pointed up to me the irritation of the lack of choice in the market, in that mostly you cannot pick and choose - commonly, if you want (a) and (h), then you have to accept (and pay for having) b - g which you not only don't want but would prefer not to have.

Needs change, of course. My parents got me my first brick so I'd be able to 'phone for help if the car broke down in the middle of nowhere. For many years I used that and the following version as a call-box-in-my pocket: turned off unless I needed to make a call. Now, however, my mobile is my main work number; it's the number i give out to colleagues. I still don't like texting, but many members of my family do like it, so it's useful for keeping in touch. My husband has only just got one, and for him it's a PAYG* call-box-in-a-pocket, and is only left on if e.g. we are travelling separately and meeting up.

*No time limit on the minutes bought, here, only on any "free extras" they throw in, such as free internet access for a month with £10 added to the 'phone.

#242 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: January 09, 2011, 01:34 AM:

dcb: I know that is what most people were doing, but I've been the so frequent recipient of, "Oh, 'x' feature is wonderful," "What, you don't...", etc. that the well meaning (and not really related; this being asynchronous,and not "all about me") tangents strike nerves.

And some of it feels as a quiet nudge, in the way that people who like some food one doesn't will start to reminisce about how great x/y/z is when you mention that artichokes are nasty, and spinach is revolting. They aren't trying to actively convince one, but they can't really see how it is that something they enjoy isn't something everyone enjoys.

#243 ::: dcb ::: (view all by) ::: January 09, 2011, 06:11 AM:

Terry Karney @243: Oh yes, I recognise that (re. your second paragraph) experience only too well.

#244 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: January 09, 2011, 09:30 AM:

Terry Karney @ 243... they can't really see how it is that something they enjoy isn't something everyone enjoys

This is a situation that SF fans should be quite familiar with.

#245 ::: Tim Walters ::: (view all by) ::: January 09, 2011, 01:24 PM:

Terry @ 216: I don't know for sure whether I'm being addressed here, but just in case: my comment @ 203 came after yours, but was not intended as a response to it.

#246 ::: Mycroft W ::: (view all by) ::: January 10, 2011, 12:06 PM:

Mary Eileen, etc: Thank you for the suggestions re: T-Mobile. $40/year, I'd be willing to spend for emergency access (and that's probably about how many minutes I'd use, actually).

While I can't actually use it, being Canadian, I do see that 7-11's phone system is 365-day expiry on PAYG time. Still $0.25/minute, but that might be a useful idea.

#247 ::: Ginger ::: (view all by) ::: January 10, 2011, 12:29 PM:

Serge @ 241: All of my emails, personal and professional alike, get routed to my blackberry -- which means that I get duplicate or triplicates but I also get important personal emails as fast as important professional emails. This is of tremendous assistance, particularly when traveling.

#248 ::: OtterB ::: (view all by) ::: January 10, 2011, 12:33 PM:

I want to thank the discussion here, I think. It prompted me to do something I've been intending for months, namely get a cell phone with texting capabilities for my daughter with limited speech, and begin teaching her how to use it.

The "I think" reflects the fact that I took the opportunity to upgrade my own phone, and with TWO new phones (not the same, of course, that would have been too easy) spent several hours Saturday afternoon in fury and frustration, able to make phone calls but not get back to the main menu afterward, able to send texts but not receive them, able to add first names but not last names to the contact list ...

Over the initial hump now, I think. But it certainly would be nice to have a way to get to the features I want without picking my way through a minefield of things I don't want.

I would not have done it for myself, but it's a necessary step toward greater independence for her.

#249 ::: Mary Dell ::: (view all by) ::: January 10, 2011, 02:02 PM:

OtterB @#249: Depending on your daughter's needs, you might be interested in Proloquo2go, an augmentive communication app for Iphone & Ipad.

#250 ::: OtterB ::: (view all by) ::: January 10, 2011, 02:24 PM:

Thanks, Mary Dell. I'm aware of Proloquo2go and was thinking about it seriously. It turns out that there's a new app (I see it's available now - was still "coming soon" last time I looked) that implements the vocabulary organization my daughter is used to on her standalone communication device, called WordPower, on a TouchChat platform for the iPad/iTouch, and I think we may opt for that.

After much contemplation I decided that it was better, for her, to separate the phone from the voice-output communication rather than have too multi-function a device. I also didn't want to pay the data-plan rates that an iPhone required. Though I may be wrong. (And whether I'm right or wrong, new technology will overtake this all soon, anyway. For better or worse.)

#251 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: January 10, 2011, 03:13 PM:

"Progress has never been a bargain. You have to pay for it. Sometimes I think there's a man who sits behind a counter and says, 'All right, you can have a telephone but you lose privacy and the charm of distance.'"
- 1960's "Inherit the Wind"

#252 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: January 10, 2011, 03:36 PM:

Ginger @ 248... And it allows friends to reach out quickly even if they never meet in the physical world. I'll definitely take the Future over the Past, if only because of that.

#253 ::: Ginger ::: (view all by) ::: January 10, 2011, 07:53 PM:

Serge @253: Amen!

#254 ::: Elliott Mason ::: (view all by) ::: January 10, 2011, 11:26 PM:

I initially purchased a cellphone for a Really Stupid Reason* ... scratch that. For strong psychological comfort against a vanishingly-unlikely chance that terrified me.

However, once I HAD one, I KEPT having one and found it useful for two reasons:

1. Texting to my husband about transient both-of-us-moving schedule notes: "I'm going to be late," "What did we need at the grocery store," etc. It worked through intermittent signal far better than making a call, and was also far more frugal of prepaid minutes ($.25/min for the first ten in any given day, then $.10/min for the rest ... or $.10 per text, sent or received. Even a five-or-six message exchange was usually cheaper than trying to be heard through static/traffic noise/misunderstandings). Leaving post-it notes on his forehead is definitely a capability I don't want to be without. Especially since now I can text to Twitter. :->

2. Making calls when I am away from land lines. Initially this came up useful when flying to cons in faraway cities and trying to coordinate with my fannish free rides, through unexpected airport delays. Not having to find a payphone, AND have enough change on me to make the call? That was totally worth it. Of course, nowadays, payphones are even harder to find, but I was ahead of the curve.

* On the now-decade-old Date Which Shall Live In Infamy, I was working in an office kitty-corner from the Sears Tower, and they didn't let us go home until after 10AM Central Time. We were all convinced we were dead already, if they were targeting Tallest Buildings. As the days and news coverage followed, and they were finding bodies (and the occasional breather) by following their cellphone signals, I finally walked into a store and bought one, so I would have it with me and they could find my suffocated corpse.

#255 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: January 11, 2011, 12:04 PM:

Thena @228: Am I the only person in America who does not have or particularly desire a cell phone?

No. :-)

#256 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: January 11, 2011, 12:23 PM:

Doing the grocery for someone whose list is not very specific about which variety of this or that they want is made much easier by a cell phone when the list-maker's unspoken assumptions were quite specific about the variety of this or that.

#257 ::: Earl Cooley III ::: (view all by) ::: January 11, 2011, 01:24 PM:

My smartphone has a grocery list app which I like a lot. It beats the heck out of carrying hard-copy and a pen to shop.

#258 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: January 11, 2011, 01:36 PM:

Jacque #256: Even some young people don't. My younger son, for example.

#259 ::: ddb ::: (view all by) ::: January 11, 2011, 01:40 PM:

Earl Cooley III@258: My smartphone (HTC EVO) has a grocery list app that I don't like at all (that I chose from the marketplace; a free one). It also has lots and lots of others. Any chance the one you like is available in an Android version? (I'll eventually work through enough of the ones I've found to probably find one that's decent or better, but I'm not averse to short-circuiting via outside advice.)

#260 ::: Earl Cooley III ::: (view all by) ::: January 11, 2011, 02:02 PM:

This shopping list app runs on a Symbian platform, a Nokia e73 Mode.

#261 ::: Mary Dell ::: (view all by) ::: January 11, 2011, 04:25 PM:

OtterB @#251: I think the Ipad beats the Iphone for ease of use on apps, because it's a lot bigger, so a person doesn't need awesome fine motor skills to use it.

That Touchchat/wordpower app looks cool...the icons seem more varied and intuitive than proloquo2go.

#262 ::: OtterB ::: (view all by) ::: January 11, 2011, 04:58 PM:

Mary Dell @262, agreed the iPad has less motor skill issues, but it doesn't meet our exact needs. My daughter already has a full-size communication device (a DynaVox) that she's been using for years, that gives her access to pretty much anything she wants to say - when she's sitting some place where it's convenient to have it. I'm looking to supplement it with something highly-portable with more limited but more convenient vocabulary. So she could more easily order a cheese quesadilla and a root beer, or ask a friend what she's doing this weekend, or ask her boss at her internship what she should do next.

There exists, by the way, if you're interested and not familiar with it, an online list at Yahoogroups called PACT, for Promoting Augmentative Communication Together. I used to be an active participant but now mostly lurk.

#263 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: January 11, 2011, 05:07 PM:

Meanwhile, HERE is a YouTube film (in French with subtitles) showing kids of 2010 trying to understand the technology of 30 years ago.

#264 ::: Mary Dell ::: (view all by) ::: January 11, 2011, 05:18 PM:

OtterB @#263: Sorry, I didn't mean to come off like I was saying which choice would be best for your daughter's particular situation. The ipad is not very portable at all, unless carrying a bag around all the time is an option. I was thinking of my own situation - I am generically clumsy, and my son has some fine motor limitations (limb difference) so the ipad is our video game platform of choice at the moment--he's only 2, so his need to play games is questionable, but he seems to be an incipient geek :).

My nephew uses an AAC (also dynavox, I think) but might benefit from something more portable as he gets older. I'll mention the yahoo group to my SIL, she may want to join.

Do you read Rob Rummel-Hudson's blog? His daughter uses an AAC. He did an interesting post about the coolness factor of iphones etc.

#265 ::: Soon Lee ::: (view all by) ::: January 11, 2011, 07:32 PM:

Confession time: my cellphone is a fossil; it's a 'pay as you go' Nokia 1100.

All I really need is a phone for txting and the ocassional call; people txt more than call here on account of the ruinous call rates. The bells and whistles don't trigger my "SHINY!" reflex.

The advantages for me are that my phone just works (I'm not the beta-tester of the latest whizz-bang new product from [INSERT COMPANY HERE]) and it's cheaper than the latest gear. And it's not a thirsty phone. My Nokia, for example, needs charging less than once a week.

#266 ::: OtterB ::: (view all by) ::: January 11, 2011, 07:53 PM:

Mary Dell @265 Sorry, I didn't mean to come off like I was saying which choice would be best for your daughter's particular situation No, I didn't take it that way - the motor skills can be a major determinant of what system works for a kid. She does have motor issues, but they don't interfere with pressing small buttons, fortunately.

I wasn't familiar with that blog, or the book he's written. Thanks for mentioning it.

I've been running across lots of mentions of people using iPads with babies and toddlers, though I haven't been reading them, since she's well past that age. But I think it's great that there are so many technological tools becoming available.

#267 ::: Janet K ::: (view all by) ::: January 12, 2011, 06:49 AM:

Last week at the animal shelter where I volunteer several of the cats (we let a bunch run around on the floor) had the opportunity to play with an iPad app that simulated a mouse running around the screen. Landing a paw on the mouse produced a rewarding squeak. A couple of the cats really got into it.

#268 ::: dcb ::: (view all by) ::: January 12, 2011, 08:51 AM:

Janet K @ 268: Almost makes me want one to try it out on my cat. On second thoughts, perhaps not - I have enough problems already with her walking on the keyboard*; I really don't need to encourage her to play with the computer.

*The time she switched the display 90 degrees was particularly - entertaining, let's call it entertaining, now I've sorted it out. I didn't even know you could do that with key presses.

#269 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: January 12, 2011, 11:09 AM:

dcb: Obligatory PawSense plug....

#270 ::: Carol Kimball ::: (view all by) ::: January 12, 2011, 04:04 PM:

#269 ::: dcb

[...switched the display 90 degrees was particularly - entertaining, let's call it entertaining, now I've sorted it out. I didn't even know you could do that with key presses.]

On my recent upgrade from Windows XP to Windows XP Pro, Ctrl + Alt + [arrow key] does this.

Anyone know how to disable this default? It was a keyboard shortcut I used all the time in PhotoShop. About gave me heart failure when my screen suddenly had a minor earthquake, went black (at least not blue!) and reset sideways.

#271 ::: dcb ::: (view all by) ::: January 12, 2011, 05:32 PM:

Jacque @ 270: Yes, I keep thinking about getting that.

Carol Kimball @ 271: Yes, so I discovered (the keyboard shortcut, I mean) - and I had about the same reaction. I've no idea how to disable it, but it's Ctrl + Alt +[arrow key left] or Ctrl + Alt +[arrow key right] that turns it 90 degrees. Ctrl + Alt +[arrow key down] has the effect you'll now expect, and luckily, Ctrl + Alt + [arrow key up] puts the screen back the way it's supposed to be!

OR, if you can manage to get onto the desktop, there's the option of Right click - Graphics options - Rotation - Normal (which is how I sorted it out the first time my dear little kitty did this to me, although navigating the mouse when it was moving 90 degrees from where I was asking it to was a real pain).

#272 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: January 12, 2011, 08:10 PM:

Linkmeister, #226: I gave up wearing a watch for two reasons. One was the common "I have a cellphone now and don't need a watch any more" -- but the other was that it had become impossible to find a plain black leather watchband that fit both my watch (a 30-year-old antique with springbars in a size no longer widely used) and my wrist (larger than most women's watchbands will accommodate). I don't want a stretchy band, even a pretty beaded one. There are times when I still wish I had a watch -- it's much harder to discreetly check the time on a cellphone -- but c'est la vie.

eric, #231: There are a lot of very good small digicams now in the $100-$150 range. My Fujifilm Finepix lives in a case on my belt-pack, and is small enough not to be heavy, and takes amazingly good pictures -- and it's several years old. The ones out now in the same price range are better.

Serge, #257: Oh, yes. It's not unusual for my partner to send me to AutoZone or Lowe's for some particular item, and they don't have the one he told me to get. And if I use my own judgment about what to buy instead, it's always the wrong thing, or the one he specifically doesn't want! Much safer and easier to call him and check.

I use a cellphone more than I had ever imagined I would, but still far less than most people. I don't give out the number to that many people, and most of them are out of town; the only person I regularly get calls from is my partner. But the personal-directory feature is very nice; when I had a filling fall out on the way to a con, I was able to call my dentist's office and make an appointment to have it replaced the day after I got back.

We have texting disabled on our cellphones. While I can see the potential usefulness of it, there's no way to block or reject spam texts, and we are both very much NOT interested in being charged for the privilege of being spammed!

There are two things which have tempted me in the direction of an iPhone or similar: (1) the ability to look up something online no matter where I am, and (2) Shazam. But it will be a smartphone, not an iPod Touch, because I don't want another thing hanging on my belt-pack; I want one that fits into the built-in cellphone pocket. And I keep hearing about enough problems with all the various smartphones that my resistance is still high.

Smaller type (our default)
Larger type
Even larger type, with serifs

Dire legal notice
Making Light copyright 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017 by Patrick & Teresa Nielsen Hayden. All rights reserved.