But, but, but …

This last weekend my cell-phone was finally rendered hors de combat.

It’s been kind of spotty for the last year, fading in and out at irregular intervals, but what kind of did the needful was my agency hauling off and giving me a whole bunch of new responsibilities all of a sudden.

My agency tends to run on e-mail. to the point that I can state, firmly and with no exaggeration, that when the e-mail server goes down, you can feel the incipient panic in the air.

Anyhoo, my beloved cell-phone ganked on me, so I walked into the local Three Letter Acronym store, cell-phone lovingly cradled in my cupped hands, showed it to the lass behind the desk and whimpered, “Fix it.”

Sayeth the lass, “I’ve never even seen on of those before.”

I gently point out the Three Letter Acronym Mega-Corporation logo on the case, what matches the one over the entrance to the store, and she starts looking in her computer, blinks for a moment and says, “Wow. They haven’t made those in a while.”


Sensing an opportunity to make a sale, she starts asking questions. Where do I work, what are my needs, that sort of thing. I remember a gentle admonition from someone Higher In Rank Than I that I should really consider getting a phone that can receive e-mail, so I mention this to her.

Then she starts pulling cell-phones off the display and piling them in front of me, all the while delivering what is probably a well-rehearsed patter that involves the names of phones that have been lifted from an astrophysics lecture.

I raise my paw, look down at the pile of shiny glass and say, “These are all smart phones, right?”

“Yes, sir, that’s exactly what you need!”

I poke something with a fruit logo and enough computing power to run the entire 1960’s NASA program with an index finger.

“Do you have a smart phone that’s been sitting in the corner and eating paint chips?”

She blinks at me. A lot.

I continue, “I need to be able to speak to people, I need to send texts and I need to get e-mail. That’s it. I don’t need a fingerprint ID lock, I don’t need a GPS, and I don’t need to play YouTube videos. I need a phone. Preferably the digital equivalent of a smoky fire and a blanket.”

There was a lot more blinking. I got the impression that there was some kind of IF/THEN loop spinning behind her eyes, but probably not a Blue Screen of Death.

“The ability to function after being bounced off someones forehead is a plus.” I added, helpfully I thought.

She had to go get a manager.


So, I am the new owner of what the manager insists is the dumbest smart phone he could get ahold of.

We’ll see.


Arr, me hearties!
In which the respect due my lofty position is expressed

50 thoughts on “But, but, but …”

  1. So far i haven't given the iphone the 'forehead ricochet survivability' test. But it's given good service so far …

  2. I am so there. I have gotten serious offers from the local museum for my phone.

  3. You want a Casio Brigade.

    Trust me on this. It does all that, not much more… and I know with a certainty that one can bounce it off a wall and it will still work.

    More than once.

    More than twice.

  4. Well done, sweetheart. That is certainly the dumbest smart phone I've ever coonfingered. And the blanket and smoky fire is faster. Unquestionably the short bus of telecommunications. Mission accomplished!

  5. I hope I wasn't overly harsh. I only wanted to convey that your smartphone is running with scissors whilst drying its hair in a bubble bath.

  6. Carteach0 nails it in one. Waterproof (submersion, not just splash), shock-resistant… it's a brick, but a small one. I've been toting mine for about a year now and couldn't be happier. Flips open to a small screen with a real keyboard, no touch-screen typing.

    Unfortunately, I don't *think* it's available on GSM networks (including American Telephone & Telegraph). Worth checking into, or if Ver*spit*izon is in your area…

  7. Sorry, A cell just doesn't have the same impact as a Brick (radio). Ask me how I know.

  8. sitting in the corner and eating paint chips

    When I was little we called that wall candy.

    A Palm Pre might have fit your needs, but they're no longer available. I never tried bouncing mine off of a forehead, but it survived being hurled against the interior of my car several times. (It had a hard time understanding that when I pushed the "next song" button on the music player, I wanted it to play a -different- song.)

  9. Oh man… yeah, I've had the same pleasure causing "techs" to have the IF/THEN loop running in a recursion. But never quite have managed to get them to go to a full on BSoD….. Pretty sure you had her close, LawDog… Probably the only thing that saved her was a recursion checker that sent her off running for her mama…er.. I mean, manager…..

  10. Oh why, oh why, oh why can't they make a phone that is just a phone, ok with the pictures…understand I need to click a pic of he who is about to "make my day" or even a bit of fun re: the voice mail thingy…but I DO NOT NEED little tiny buttons, that I can't push a single one of without getting 12 that I don't need. I DO NOT need facebook, twitter ….aarrrgggh.

    The roomies at the boardinghouse don't understand it when I don't dive for the phone everytime it rings – I will not be a slave to a PHONE!

    Le Conteur

  11. Our culture is plagued by several technological pestilences, all of which magnify each-other;

    1) We are obsessed with "portability", buy which we mean "it has a handle on it". This causes us to carry items that are far too heavy to be carried without pain, because we think we should be able to. Not to be confused with 'miniaturization', below.

    2) We are also obsessed with Miniaturization, which causes us to buy items, like cameras, that are too small to be operated by human fingers. This combines with "Portability" to exacerbate the next plague.

    3) Which is multi-functionality. Because we have convinced ourselves that the presence of a handle or carry strap makes it reasonable to tote around an item weighing ten lbs. , and because miniaturization ensures that no simple, single purpose item weighs that much, we cram functions into an item until it is awkward to carry. This means that we are stuck with an unpleasantly heavy whatsit, with buttons too small to be easy to use, all of which serve several functions (depending on which other button was pressed last) and are labeled in raised black lettering on a black background. It doesn't serve any of its functions well, causes carpal tunnel syndrome and other unpleasantness, and when it breaks or is lost our entire life is up the pipes.


  12. Dog I truly feel your pain and dread my next adventure in phone buying.

    My current stringless tin can is a Motorola Sumthinorother that was advertised as being "mil-spec ruggedized". And y'know what? It has been a pretty durable little gadget for the last few years. I'm a chef so it's been frozen, steamed, dunked, exposed to acids and alkalies of many flavors, bounced off of the tile floor more than a few times, and rolled in flour at least once (don't ask). So far some of the paint is looking a little worn. My building (corporate cafe, yay normal hours) houses all of the magic elf wranglers for a Fortune 500 manufacturer and I get a lot of static from the keyboard monkeys about my "prehistoric" flip phone. That ended the other day after a practical demonstration. I filled a clear five gallon bucket full of water, set it on the counter, opened my phone, and tossed it in. I then snatched the new "phone" out of the hands of the nearest elf wrangler and dialed my number. I'm kind of proud of myself for figuring out how to do that on his shiny little smart phone. My phone, at the bottom of the bucket, starts ringing. I reached in and thumbed the okay-I'll-talk-to-this-idjit button and thumbed the elf wranglers "phone" to speaker mode. Tapping on the side of the bucket made some interesting sounds. When I dangled his phone over the bucket and asked if he thought it would survive alongside mine he went kinda pale.

    I haven't gotten any grief about my phone since.


  13. BGM,
    You sure you dont work up making the "World's Finest Flying Machines"? It sure SOUNDS like it!

    BTw…I'm in the mostly dinosaur camp for portable telephonic devices. Said company wants, WANTS me to get one that will do EMAIL….which means that I would be COMPELLED to turn it off upon leaving the premises as that way I could honestly say "No I didnt get the 11PM email moving the morning meeting up two hours to a time when I'm still ASLEEP"…TYVM.

  14. Woodswalker,

    Nope, all our stuff is firmly planted on the ground. Barring explosions. Or the USAF throwing it out the back of a low flying Hercules so combat engineers can let it get shot up. Saw a few units that had been returned from Iraq to be refurbished. It's amazing how many big holes they could have in 'em and still be running.


  15. I only wanted to convey that your smartphone is running with scissors whilst drying its hair in a bubble bath.

    Well, just when you thought the post wins the internets all by its onesies. The Little Lady chimes in and reminds us that there's always room for improvement.

    I'm assuming he got a Blackberry. ๐Ÿ˜€

  16. I feel for you, LawDog. I had to bite the bullet a couple of months ago and get a new phone. My old one was a Verizon prepaid (I'm too cheap for a contract, as little as I use the thing). It made phone calls and texted and had voicemail capability. That was it. No camera, no browser, no nothing fancy. About as plain brown wrapper as you can get. I moved to a neighboring state and still kept the phone and number because changing anything meant changing my plan. Again with the cheap. Had the thing just a touch over 30 months and the outside screen quit working. It lit up, but no text on it. Then the speakers started to go about 3 months ago. Two months ago, the inside screen just … pixelated … that's the best I can come up with. Press a button for the menu, and get a menu – in a quarter of the screen in teeny bits in the upper left quadrant.

    Then the texting screen would work, sort of, at that point. Get a text, have to close the phone, then reopen it and hope the menu didn't pixelate the screen so I could read the text and HOPEFULLY respond. Hopefully because half the time, the reply screen would split, with the bottom on the top and vice-versa. Definitely time to upgrade.

    So I got a StraightTalk from a friend who bought one and didn't like it. I now have more features that I won't be using on a prepaid than I can shake a stick at. Camera, browser, games, what the heck???? But the friend who didn't like it had gotten himself a DIFFERENT one he did like, so he sold the one he hated to me on the cheap. The only thing I've learned to like on the new one is the slideout keyboard for texting.

    Oh yes, and despite having it for two months, I couldn't get my old number transferred, so had to get a new one, and I haven't managed to memorize it yet other than area code.

  17. The only reason I have a cellphone is that first, a friend gave me one, then the boss insisted that I carry a company phone . . . which is currently dying horribly.

    And since the company requires justification to get a Crackberry . . . I didn't even try. The new one will be a phone, with a camera only because I can't get one without.

    As far as calling the cellphone when I'm at home . . . rots o' ruck! I live in a fringe area, so the cellphone doesn't work unless I'm outside, and frequently not even then . . .

  18. Hey, I need one of those, too. A "dumbest smart phone", that is. What model is it?

  19. sgh-t219s samsung

    This was the cheapest piece of phone at T-mobile. No camera. It texts, calls, & even receives pictures. I love that I can get into a .fed building with it. But, I'd love my old Micro-tac knockoff back.

    Ulises from CA

  20. If Tam can handle it You can .. Man up about it and join the modern world LOL

  21. I used to have a flip-phone. aka a Star Trek Communicator. A couple of months ago I decided I wanted a new phone and a new PDA. To save money I got both in one package. I went back and forth between an iPhone and an Android phone, and finally settled on the iPhone. Not because I'm an Applezombie, but because the iPhone had two features I wanted above all others: the apps for it are fairly well vetted against malware, and as a phone it just works. No fuss, no fanfare required. Perhaps it can't survive being dunked in a bucket of water or bounced off a brick wall, but as long as you don't abuse it and you're not out in the boonies, it Just Works.

  22. I feel your pain LawDog. I upgraded to a smart phone last year and have been keeping it hobbled since then despite everyone saying that I should get this app and get that app.

  23. Got one of those flipper phone only thingies. It lives in the truck for 911 only.
    Nuthin that important it won't wait til I build a fire an' unsaddle Bess.

  24. I had to go get a new phone lately, too. Fortunately it is not important for me to get emails on my phone.
    I told the man I didn't want a phone too smart for it's own good. What I got was a simple-ish flip phone. Thanfully they still make such a thing.

  25. I seriously want my BlackBerry back. I have a Droid now, and I suppose I shouldn't complain much, but I have such issues with the touchscreen on the Droid (which is, natch, a model-no-longer-in-service). I also really shouldn't complain because it's for work, and my boss foots the bill. So, if he wants me to have a Droid, a Droid I shall have.

    Best of luck.

  26. LD,

    Next time you buy a phone, would you be willing to sell tickets to the event. I'd just like to sit in the corner of the shop with a beaker full of popcorn and enjoy the show.

  27. If I may make a humble suggestion to the proud and fearful luddites among us- as proud, intelligent persons whose age is less than the square of your shoe sizes, there are several things you should now understand:

    1. Your recent or next cell phone is not a mere telephone, and, no matter what you say, ask for, want, or prefer, it never will be. It is a computer, camera, data storage and retrieval unit, multifunctional communications device. Stop thinking of it as a phone; it is a little computer that also happens to make calls.

    2. Unless you work somewhere that people really don't trust you, it is a *good* thing that you will now be carrying a camera around with you all the time. You may not fancy yourself a photographer; or you may fancy yourself a *real* photographer, but that is irrelevant. The camera is not just great for documentation, evidence, securing information, or other practical matters; it's great to always have a camera on you, so when something cool happens, you can take a picture. It may be your kids or pets, a lovely lady, a bunny with a pancake on its head, whatever, you are now always ready to take that picture. And video. Cell phone video is good in court, and makes good porn too, just don't get the files confused.
    You can also use the camera to keep a visual record of things. Cars, faces, license plates, etc. Take a picture. Next time you see it again you can look at the picture to make sure you got the right one. You can get good at taking pictures on the sly, pretending to be doing something else, so people watching you don't know you're recording them.

    3. Digital audio recorder. There's one in your pocket now. Whether you're getting pulled over, pulling someone over, being told a secret you want a record of, or just making a note to self.

    4. GPS is amazing. Don't believe it? Try it next time you have to find an address, mark a location in the woods, mark where you parked your car, or get lost.

  28. 5. Internet. Not just email. You now have access to the internet all the time, no matter where you are. On the highway, on the pot, on a mountain, on a ski lift. It's not just felines with misspelled captions and underdressed females; your state's penal codes are all there, as are the repair manuals for your vehicle and your weapon, and a web page with an image of poison oak so you can make sure you're not wiping with the wrong plant. Whatever you normally do on the internet, you can now do on your phone, anywhere.

    6. Data storage and retrieval. Your cell phone is an ereader. It's not just so you can park your car behind a bush and read the latest Stephen King, or Stephen Hawking, book when you're supposed to be working. You can download the Boy Scout Handbook, Army Survival Manual, the entire Paladin Press, or Greenery Press, library, or even a text document with instructions on how to use your cell phone. You can connect to your local library's web site and download books as you need them (usually they're good for 2 weeks or so, then they disappear, to keep with the library rental system). This is not just for entertainment, it's a reference tool you can access whenever, wherever you need it.

    7. APPS! Before you get freaked out by the hype, they're just programs like you install on to your computer. They're a way to add the functionality that you want. Many are free. Take advantage of this to make your device serve you better. Magnifying glass, heart rate monitor, restaurant finder, taxi summoning device, connection to your local public transportation system, etc. This is not a bad thing, drain on your time, or a trap to make you listen to Lady Gaga; apps are tools you can use to do exactly what you want. Look into them, they make your life better.

    8. You can read, and post to, forums and BLOGS from your phone. We'll expect more blogging out of you now, since being away from the home computer is no longer an excuse for not posting.

    It is not now, nor has it ever been, fashionable to be uninformed. Rather than bragging about your ignorance of modern technology. Learn to make the most possible use out of the device that you already own. This stuff can improve your life.

  29. My GF had to get a phone to keep in touch with a client, and I got one later just because she wasn't where she said she'd be when I'd go to pick her up. Hers was an old dependable brick of a Nokia, and she took great joy in getting signal where mine did not.
    Then we took a cruise to the southern Caribbean, and she wanted to call the relatives to say howdy. Her expression when she couldn't get a connection was matched only by her expression when I blandly offered my Motorola with international frequency capability.
    Her new phone is smaller, has a camera and a whole bunch of things she doesn't want or need, and still gets signal where my Motorola doesn't. We're going to bermuda soon.

  30. So in your case you either need a PHONE (that just happens to do the email thing)


    a NanoPup that can
    1 arrest/disable critters
    2 keep track of all your "stuff"
    3 RETURN FIRE (when needed)
    4 ammuse the random kidlet as needed

  31. Jason: "This stuff can improve your life."

    It can also take over your life if you'll let it.

    The reason cell phones aren't phones any more is because the wireless companies are going after the massive "gotta have the latest gadget no matter what it costs Mom and Dad" market. Maintaining a position in that market takes constant novelty, not quality, The revenue from people who want a simple phone that just works isn't worth chasing, since they'll suck it up and by a bloatphone anyway.

  32. I've carried a Motorola C139 for about a dozen years, now, on TF contract. I always had 2, so I used the inactive phone to carry my spare, charged battery.

    I lost the primary in December, last year, so I had it disabled and the number and minutes moved over to the backup. Then I went looking for a replacement. I finally found one! ๐Ÿ˜€

    They are out there, if you really persist. The only thing I don't have is receiving email. I can text to my email address, but can't email to the phone. Personally, I think that is great. ๐Ÿ˜‰


  33. "It can also take over your life if you'll let it. "


    So remember: even the smartest of smartphones still has an Off switch.

  34. Jason is absolutely right.

    Heck, I use mine in place of a note pad. See a book in a book store I want to buy, but don't have the gold and don't want to forget the title? *click*

    Funny sight I want to blog about later? *click*

    Is sweet marjoram a flowering herb? How does a grout bag work, and do we need one? Speak into the portable magic elf box.

    Need directions from the far left corner of town to 500 Guns? Speak into the portable magic elf box and follow the blinky dot on the map like you're in Bond's DB V.

    Oh, you can call people with it, too!

  35. Jason, ti is true that the devices formerly known as cell phones can do lots of neat things. they also do not work in the locations I most need them, unless you get a sat-based service, which I'm not willing to shell-out for. My old analog, pilot-proof near brick could work in the boonies. New stuff – nope, no matter which carrier I go with. So the apps may be great, the camera is useful in certain situations I suppose, but if the thing doesn't do what I need it to do, then what good is it?


  36. Trying to find a cell phone that does NOT have a camera is more difficult than I would believe, considering the number of people who work for companies that do not ALLOW such things in their buildings… or on their bases. The other half needs a phone that is blind…

    @Jason: "it is a little computer that also happens to make calls." Yes… badly. Most "smart phones" are more smart than they are phones – the voice quality on most of them is execrable. Thus making a headset of some sort a necessity for those of us with less than perfect hearing. I don't understand why HTC, Motorola, etc, can't make a phone with a GOOD speaker in it. It's not like it's never been done before; it's more like they're so busy cramming faster processors and more RAM in the little elf boxes that they go "Oh, yeah… gotta stuff a speaker in there, too. Hey, Ralph… go see if Heathkit still sells speakers! that's good enough for our customers."

  37. Ross: Based on a limited sample, I find LG has had the best sound quality so far.

  38. When my wife upgraded to the latest and greatest iWhatever I inherited her old iWhatever. Works well enough for me.

  39. Read Jason's comments again, and Tam's, and weep. Such determined cluelessness emanating from such proven brilliance is…scary.

  40. If it's any consolation, after my last trip for a new phone, I realized the dumbest phone in the store was smarter than the clerk.

    I managed to find a newer version of the phone I was using. It has way more features than I need, but it has the durability.

    The one feature it doesn't have is a magnifying lens for the screen.

  41. I pretty much agree with Jason. I'm a recent convertee to a Tamara Special magic Elf Box, and now find it too handy to give up.

    The only real suggestion is can offer is "Get an Otterbox." You want a Defender if they make one for yours, a Commuter it that's the best you can do. Makes it relatively forehead proof.

  42. Jason: I've been using computers ever since they started building ones smaller than a room, and I understand that phones are turning into miniature computers. However, typing on a keyboard smaller than the palm of my hand is a huge step backwards, and reading e-mail on a 2×3" screen is two steps backwards.

    IMO, the third step backwards is complexity and nonstandardization. Phones used to be single-function devices which required no instruction manual even in the 19th century. Now the basic operations manual is nearly as big as the device – and it's different for nearly every model! I'm an engineer, complexity and thick manuals don't intimidate me, but my productivity would be cut by 75% if I had to learn new commands for every computer I walked up to. (Or think of driving if every manufacturer arranged the pedals differently, and the steering wheel worked in reverse in some models.)

  43. The Freeholder beat me to what I came here to say: Invest in the otterbox case, titanium armored version if available!

    Also need to comment to MarkM – this is why I love Android. It's the mostly-standard OS for the smartphone, and isn't tied to a fruity corporate overlord.

    As to the typing thing, SWYPE(tm) is a *MUST!* With some practice, I guaran-damn-tee you that I can Swype faster than you can TYPE – 80+ wpm. It's the bees knees!

  44. I take my phone back into the store in less than a year. "Wow that's an OLD one. I got into throw away phones about 4 years ago, I can still use about 90% of the toss phones in my collection. I still haven't made the jump to "Smart" phones yet. I'm waiting for one to drop below the $100.00 barrier.

    Congratulations on your assimilation, hope to join the ranks soon!

  45. PB,

    "Such determined cluelessness emanating from such proven brilliance is…scary."

    Such cocksure confidence in one's conclusions based on technological illiteracy and a complete lack of data from a proven pragmatist is annoying.

    Especially a pragmatist with a Google account. I mean, that's pretty funny right there. ๐Ÿ˜€

  46. I liked my old dumb phone. Calmer Half quietly and firmly maneuvered me into getting a smarter phone before flying my plane down from Alaska: the fact that the government can't handle the concept of privately owned aircraft crossing the border without internet-only filed permission and approval was the key selling point.

    I still don't have any extra apps, I don't have any games, I don't text, and yet it works just fine as a good phone, a half-decent camera, and a mostly reliable GPS. It also gets email, and lets me read or post to blogs when I'm really bored, whether waiting out the rain to get closer to home, or waiting at city hall for paperwork. May yours turn out to be as unobtrusive and quietly useful as mine!

    Although I've gotten a few strange looks when I say "Hold on, consulting the magic elf box." Thanks, Tam!

  47. TK:

    Determined cluelessness, in this context meaning dogged refusal to consider the very real and seriously negative potential to that in which one is invested and "assimilated". See also: "fangirl"

    Also applies to an obsessive need to attach handy mis-labels to what one chooses to not understand. Pragmatic? At least in this case, quite the opposite. ;p

    How absurd to have to break down a complex and speculative argument to its most basic terms in a discussion with someone endowed with such rapier perception and logic, but here ya go…

    That Google account you mistook for a Luddite non-sequitir, I would direct you to the masthead blurb there:

    Price. Cost. Value.

    Applied to that aptly named Android of yours and its smart brethren, one can emphatically state that price and value are significant.

    Cost? To be determined.

  48. LOL!!!!!!!
    My phone is still a phone. It can do texts, but not easily, & it has a calendar where I can tell it to remind me of appointments, but that's about it.

    When I 'upgraded' to this one about 5 years ago, I got a similar reaction from the store staff. They couldn't believe I didn't want the newest toy.

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