I Still Own A Slide Phone . . . In the Year 2017
I am an Engineer and I have a slide-out keyboard on my phone. Yes, a slide out keyboard. My phone feels like a brick compared to newer models at nearly double the width and yet only a fraction of the screen-size. It is entirely impractical by today’s smart phone standards yet I love it and have refused to give up on this relic of the past (shockingly only 2011 . . . but I suppose that is the equivalent to wearing Bugle Boy shirts in 1997.) The letter ‘m’ gets stuck so when I text my wife it typically says “I love you – see you at hommme.” Something with the SD card is corrupt because I constantly lose whatever pictures I have taken and sometimes cannot even take a picture. My web browser crashes regularly, most interactive forms/features online do not function, and I cannot seem to view GIF files.
So why on Earth would I keep this electro-trash? Why not upgrade to, I don’t know, literally anything? The world is connected like never before and here I am, sitting in a corner, unable to load Facebook more than three times without it freezing up.
The reasons are many and perhaps, by the end of this article, I can convince you as to why I do not own the latest iPhone or exploding Samsung device.
For starters, it keeps me honest in two different ways. First, it reminds me of how satisfied I should be to have a portable phone, in general. This phone does the basics – gives calls when I need them. There was once a time when that alone was such an incredible convenience that nothing more was needed. I never had a cell phone in high school and remember plenty of times where I tried to scrap up enough change to make a one-minute call at the payphone. “Hey, Joe! Hurry up and come get me at . . .” Cut off. Could a person with the latest and greatest smart phone have the same humility? Not likely . . . and I say that with the full understanding that 98% of you reading this have such a phone. Most consumers who have a touchscreen smart phone with 50,000 apps and a 40 Terabyte data limit do not wake up and feel grateful for their phone. They aren’t satisfied with the warm content that comes with knowing you can make an emergency call if your car breaks down. Instead, they will complain that some website is not loading. Or that an app has too many ads. Or that the sound no longer meets their newly-acquired measure of audiophile excellence. Or the Wi-Fi keeps dropping out. Something. But they typically don’t say “I’m just happy to have a phone.” When you have a piece of crap phone like me, you’re merely thankful that all of the keys on the dial pad work.
The second way that it keeps me honest is that I stay connected to the real world. I do not have my face in my phone all day because there is no reason for it . . . unless I enjoy watching the battery charge percentage slowly decrease. My browser works best when I do not load images so that eliminates half of the internet alone. Videos actually do not load, or take hours to download, so that takes care of a remaining portion of the internet usage pie. I’m basically left with scrolling through click-bait articles with no actual content (so, basically the same thing.) With such limited use of data, I can read e-mails and that is about it . . . and you can only read the same junk mail from Ticketmaster with the wrong selected location so many times.) Essentially, I am left with no reason to look at my phone . . . so I don’t. Do you know the last time I pulled out my phone and stared at it while dining out with my wife? Never. Not because I’m better but more because I know that I’m NOT better and that I would do the same thing as everybody else . . . so I limit myself. I remove myself from the temptation and keep a garbage phone with me.
But aside from keeping me honest, have I mentioned the keyboard? There was once a time where texting was literally a chore – the letters were only on the key pad and typing anything with the letter ‘S’ felt like a homework assignment. In 2003, I texted my girlfriend “I miss you” and by time I finished, she had driven an hour and a half and was standing at my door. That’s a joke . . . maybe. Teenagers today probably have no clue what a landline phone is, and if they accidentally saw one they might even wonder why the alphabet is strewn across eight buttons. It’s crazy to think that we used to use that method of spelling out words but it is true. All true.
And so the slide out keyboard was the next evolution. To hold the power of a QWERTY in your pocket seemed like the literal apex of human achievement. I wasn’t sure there was anything more possible beyond that. Using the digits that separate us from the animal kingdom, we were able to blast through text messages with dangerous speed and accuracy. Texting was no longer just an inconvenient way to say ‘hi’ or ‘where u at’ with no expectation of a response – it was an actual means of quick communication. I was in smitten with this new feature, even if it is so uncool nowadays that the below video is literally the best one I can find:
Sad. Yet, humans never stop and we always want smaller and faster (unless we’re talking about . . . well, anyway . . . ) So the touch pad was made as a part of the touch screen and I speak for everybody in the world with poor hand-eye coordination or fat fingers when I say that it sucks. Any time I am confronted with a touch screen keyboard, I revert to the speed and accuracy of an illiterate toddler. “The quick brown fox” comes out as “TGe qyuick borrowed fix” (with auto-correct, of course) and not only that, but it take me twice as long just to create that nonsense. With the slide out keyboard, I produce error-free messages at lightning speed because when I hit a key, there is a physical button underneath it. My fingers can feel the difference between the buttons. It’s almost like braille for the technically blind. As for the touch screen? Not so much. I think I’m hitting the letter ‘T’ but on any given attempt, I’m actually somehow hitting any combination of 25 OTHER letters.
So yes, my phone is old. But it is a phone. It is functional in the ways that I need it to be and most importantly, it doesn’t control me. I can happily toss it onto my nightstand at night and am never tempted to look at it fifteen minutes later because it will still be an pseudo-offline piece of garbage with nothing new since the last time I looked at it. I am an Engineer and I have a slide out keyboard on my phone.