hydrangea blossoming

hydrangea blossoming
Hydrangea on the Edge of Blooming

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Just Give Me a Call...Maybe

Back in 1982, when Ed was still working on a mainframe, I bought my first computer. A Kaypro with 64K of ram, two 5.25-inch floppy drives, and the CPM operating system. It included a series of programs, one of which was Perfect Writer, and I wrote the text of several books with it on my Kaypro. I carried it to work with me each day because UCLA did not yet have computers routinely available for staff or faculty. And it was advertised as portable even though it weighed almost 30 pounds. (Well, we were all younger and stronger then.) It cost $1,795.00. By the time I bought my first PC, I had already purchased half a dozen Kaypro’s for myself, the house, and my children, all at various prices, the last for $25.00 at a yard sale. I recall all this to demonstrate the fact that I am with respect to technology an early adopter. I knew about buses and about how the operating system worked and why wysiwyg programs were a bad idea (because anybody could learn the dozens of commands that would translate into the desired formatting), and I read books about programming. Remember Nailing Jelly to a Wall?

Now, it is 26 years later , and I have an I-pod, multiple computers—laptops, g-cubes, Imacs, pc’s, palm pilots--throughout the house, an X-box that connects to the internet, and a way to turn the heat on electronically between houses and across international boundaries. I have a digital camera, several websites, multiple email addresses, and a blog. Despite all that endless repertoire of early adoption, I am obliged to confess that I do not have a cell phone. Note that I am not saying that I do not have an I-phone. I have NO CELL PHONE. I sometimes appear to be the only person in North America without one. Part of the reason is that wherever we are living, we have no reliable cell phone coverage. But that is true of my neighbors, as well, and they have cell phones. They use them when they are traveling, or when they are driving somewhere where there is coverage, or maybe they just hold them to their ears and talk into them as they walk along the street so that no one will know they suffer from schizophrenia.

So, why don’t I have a cell phone? Part of the reason is that I am seriously discouraged by the way my fellow humans use their cell phones, whether it is while driving at 80 mph down the freeway, or while sitting next to me in the park or at the beach or on a bus or at the airport, those golden moments when they and I seem to be engaged in a loud conversation with some unknown third party. “Yes, the plane just landed and we are walking down the aisle,” my seatmate announces about his and my arrival. It would appear that simply having such a phone inevitably leads to hopeless confusion about the appropriateness of private conversations in public places. If I had a cell phone, I would use it that way, I fear. The cell phone MAKES YOU DO IT.

But, this has all been theoretical because I didn’t have one and, with one exception, I have never even used one. And that one time I had to ask someone else to show me how to turn it on. This is not an encouraging sign for a proud early adopter, I’m afraid. But the moment of truth is soon to be at hand. The news has come down from the County that the Council has approved the building of a Verizon cell phone tower in Point Roberts. We will then all have coverage, or at least, I guess, we will if we have a Verizon plan. And a phone.

I’ve gone so long without one that it seems like the better part of valor might be to refuse to adapt. If you can’t adapt early, is it worth adapting at all? Is not adapting late an admission of error? Of a failure to understand the good deal that everybody else not only recognized immediately but has been enjoying all this time? Could I order a T-shirt that says “Adopt Early or Don’t Adopt at All.” I don’t know, but I do have this very neat little bag that is just the size of a cell phone that would fit nicely in a pocket of my purse. On the other hand, maybe I’ll just write you an email and you can read it when you feel like it. We’ll both be happier that way. ‘You’ve got a phone message!’ seems a burden, whereas ‘You’ve got mail!’ seems like a treat.

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