Rob's Blog Archive

September 7,  2019

I Hate Cell Phones










I hate cell phones.  Actually, it's not them that I hate.  It's the assumption that everybody has one.  Go figure that the person who left Silicon Valley for Montana---that's now sixteen years ago---might have a little bit of a contrarian streak.  

As it ends up, I got my first cell phone as a part of that move.  I figured it would be useful on the road as well as while I was getting settled.  As a karmic irony, the house I rented for a year had lousy reception.  Still, most of the Seeley Lake area, including the trails I run my dogs on, has great reception. 

At this time, I simply have a bottom of the line cell phone account.  My view on its most common use, texting, is combine the inadequacies of e-mail for good communication with an input interface many generations behind a keyboard, and you get texting.  I'm hoping that its current popularity is just a fad.  Otherwise, we're doomed.

Of course, my disdain for the new in vogue devices didn't start with cell phones.  It started with answering machines.  It took about a decade for me to stop screaming in the most obnoxious way I could into any answering machine that I dealt with.  My feeling remains that, if it's important, they'll call back, something we had been doing forever.  Which is not to say that, like cell phones, I didn't finally accede and get my first answering machine.  Still, it was at my  mother's insistence and she paid for it, not me. 

For whatever reason, I always liked e-mail.  Actually, there are three reasons.  First, I enjoy the act of writing.  That was never a problem.  Second, there's a "bandwidth" advantage in that the back and forth can take place at different times for any conversation.  Finally, there's a permanent record.  I'm still shocked by the fact that people don't notice this.   I always kept records and still do, though I wouldn't bet on the DVD's I've used still being readable. 

I also like desktop computers, laptop computers, and will probably get a tablet, or two, once the designs have converged a bit more.  In the mean time I've loved my Kindles.  Cheap books and my being able to avoid reading glasses make my day.  
My primary uses for my cell phone are when I travel, including just heading to Missoula, and on the trail with my dogs.  If I'm actually on the road, I'll turn it on.  If I'm just heading to Missoula or out for a run, I probably won't.  I check my cell phone voicemail each, but not every, month. 

In way of a confession, I do have two unlocked smartphones that I bought for the apps.  I'm taking advantage of the fact that sheer numbers keep the cost of an otherwise amazing bit of hardware down.  And, the universal availability of android systems is why most of  my new electronic widgets---this started with a headcam----have free apps available.  After a year of using a Polar H-10 monitor and downloading data, I came up with a spreadsheet based analysis that lets me figure out how much cardio work I've actually done.  And yes, for all of you STEM types, it incorporates nonlinearities, otherwise the average pulse would work.  Such fun!  I digress.

My first real exposure to the digital age came during the summer of 1972.   Our high school offered a course in Fortran, the primary language used for scientific programming for many years, and I took it.  As a graduate student, I became familiar with the electronics used to acquire nuclear data along with the software to process them.  And, on my second post-doc, I actually learned a bit of electrical engineering, though not a lot. 

I am in awe of four bits of technology that have come into widespread use in my lifetime.  Satellites give us global coverage for weather and communication.  We may still not be able to do anything about it, but we can now talk to everybody and discuss the weather everywhere.  Second, GPS solves one of man's great problems, that of navigation.  I know where I am to two meters any time I turn mine on.  The third is our ability to store information.  I remember, as a kid, walking into a friend's house, seeing a wall or two of National Geographics, and realizing there were still some missing.  Now we can hold many copies of the set in our hands.  Finally, there's the ability to take cheap video.   This started with the VCR, but these were still somewhat bulky.  Now, every smartphone has an adequate motion picture and sound recorder.  I believe this will be as transformative as the printing press was. 

Which gets back to something else.  It's not the technology I distain.  It's the society that lives by it.  Time to get back to the dogs.   

Audio:     I Hate Cell Phones

 Rob's Blog Archive Index
Rob's Blog | Writing | The Dogs | About Rob | Mushing Terms | Equipment | Sponsors | Instruction| Videos