Item #26: Phone collection

This is a set of items, but I’m considering it one because of what the collection represents: my cell phone history.

An image from the stone-age of cell phones.

I remember first seeing a cell phone in 1992. At work, the three guys who owned the company each got a cell phone – one of those giant brick size ones with the big antenna. It was big news when they arrived, and it seemed like a momentous leap forward in communication (although since most of the rest of us DIDN’T have cell phones, we joked that they would really only be able to call the office to check their messages, or each other).

In 1995, I was brought into the world of cellular communications. I worked for an oil company, and was part of the emergency response team, and so was issued with two devices: a pager, and a cell phone. I also had to have a hands-free device for the phone installed in my car, which required wiring and added equipment so it could be safely plugged in. Both became somewhat constant companions, and I learned quickly to enjoy the advantages of talk-and-drive, especially on a long downtown-to-Langley commute.

The pager was a receive-only device – an alphanumeric display could send me coded messages and a phone number to reply to. For emergency response, this worked well, as the codes told us whether it was a small or large emergency, or just a test. I marvel that these devices are still mostly unchanged and used today by doctors and hospitals.

The phone was a flip-phone (also still in use and en vogue). It felt very Star Trek-like to flip open the “communicator” to answer. Mine was quite old-fashioned, it didn’t have a display screen on the outside, and inside just a small screen to display the phone number being dialled. No clock, no call display, no camera, no texting – just a phone. Unfortunately, I don’t have this phone or the pager any more – when I left the company in 1999, I had to return them as company property.

My beloved Sony. The display had a little hummingbird when you powered it on.

For a few years I used various versions of the flip phone (mostly because of the hand-held hardware still in my car). In 2002, I moved into the big leagues of non-flip phones. Behold the Sony Ericsson T206. I don’t know of anyone else who had one, but I adored mine. I could now have call display and text, which again seemed like a giant leap for Robyn-kind.

By 2006, the Sony was getting a bit tired. When something is just a phone, software updates are not an issue. But keeping up with technology was an issue, with need to check emails now becoming a standard requirement. I remember being at a mall and walking up to one of the phone kiosks to inquire about a new phone. The salesperson was shocked by my antique device, even calling the other clerks over to check it out.

My precious Blackberry 8700r

After much hemming about all the new-fangled toys, I settled on the Blackberry 8700r. I had seen it on TV – for a televised debate or town hall during the 2004 Canadian federal election, Peter Mansbridge on CBC used a Blackberry device to take questions by email; I was intrigued by the little wheel think used to scroll on the device.

A familiar sight in the late noughts – me on my Blackberry.

Wow – what had I been doing spending my time with Sony when Blackberry was around? Hello, texting. Good morning, alarm clock. Nice to see you, email. And that little wheel – wheee! My Blackberry went everywhere with me. Including once, very memorably, on vacation. We were heading to a camping vacation, but were spending the first night sleeping in the van. It was very late and very dark when we park, and after moving everything around to make room, we went to sleep. Until 6am, when my morning alarm started going off. My Blackberry was somewhere in the van, but exactly where was unknown. We tried to ignore it, hoping it would eventually shut off. But Blackberry makes quality devices with extensive battery life. So after 45 minutes, we finally got out and removed enough stuff to find the infernal device.

When it comes to this technology, I’m not big on change. I kept my precious Blackberry in service until mid 2011. I was loathe to change technologies entirely, as I was very fond of the click-click of the hard keyboard, so I tried to stick with Blackberry. I tried the Bold 9000, but after just a few days of terrible performance, I made the leap, ahead of Blackberry’s eventual fall from grace and major blackout, to the iPhone 4.

With the iPhone 4, I became an Apple true believer. I had an iMac computer at home, but everywhere else was still a non-Apple user. The iPhone 4 was the gateway drug of technology for me – since then I’ve been an ardent Apple consumer. With the iPhone 4, I advanced to the multi-purpose user. My phone became communicator, music device, camera, mirror, game player, and social media hub. Apps by the dozens and songs by the thousands. And who wouldn’t love the sleek features, starting with the very box it comes in. The smooth look and feel, and near-bulletproof construction, and the ubiquitous utility made it my new little friend.

One other device that it replaced was the camera. This Pentax Espio camera was my last one that used actual film, and I’ve kept it as a curiosity, but also in case I ever get a chance to use those old rolls of film I have. Even this camera was replaced at some point by a digital camera, but that is also redundant to the one-phone-to-rule-them-all iPhone.

Alas, as is the way of all technology, the 4 had to give way. By 2016, it would no longer be updated or even connect to anything. And so, the iPhone SE became the new fixture. I chose this one over the larger fancier iPhone 7 available at that time, entirely because of the size – I didn’t like idea of a phone that was bigger than my face. The SE fit into the spots and slots which the 4 had so recently vacated, and while new accessories and peripherals were required, it was a fairly seamless switch.

I could likely dispose of the old Sony, Blackberry and iPhone. But I like the history they tell of my hesitant advances with technology, each one lasting me around 5 years. Unlike so many I know, and much to the chagrin of my cell service provider, I tend to wait as long as possible before trading up in technology. As long as it works, why change it? So I embrace my inner Luddite, and retain these things as relics of my life.

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