Wednesday, 13 June 2012

My smart friend

When I bought my first mobile phone, many years ago in the Stone Age, I told the very young assistant in the store that I wanted a senile mobile. He was at a loss and called an older colleague who knew exactly what I meant: basic, big keys and one button for everything. It served me well, especially since I never had it switched on unless I was expecting a call or needed to make a call myself. For these two tasks it was perfect. If absolutely unavoidable, I could text.

Some time ago when I was in the middle of something and for some reason had the phone on, I asked a student to answer it. She didn't know how. She had never seen such an antedeluvian artifact.

Since a month ago, I am the happy owner of a smartphone. We aren't quite good friends yet - it hasn't even told me its name. I got it for my birthday, but didn't dare to open the box before Julia and Pontus came to visit a week later. Pontus did all the initial magic tricks, downloaded this and that, and suddenly I could read my email and Facebook on the tiny screen. Some days later I learned how to zoom. I learned how to scroll and swipe. Yesterday I learned how to switch windows. All on my own!

I had resisted a smartphone because I couldn't see what I needed it for. The old phone was just fine to make phone calls. But I do admit now that my new friend can do a lot of nice things. Maps and star charts was what I had fallen for. I am still not going to have it switched on. But it proved very useful when I travelled. Normally I would bring a laptop. This time I thought I would only need to check my email, and that's just what a smartphone was for. I even considered leaving my Kindle behind and read on the phone, but didn't want to take the risk. After all, the phone and Kindle together are smaller than the laptop. Since it's an old laptop they can apparently do ten times as much. Possibly, thousand times as much.

Since I had plenty of time at airports, on trains and in my hotel room, I played like a child with my toy. I checked my email and read my Facebook. I set the Clock for London and Stockholm. I downloaded a ringtone app and set one ringtone for the phone and another for the alarm. I fed my appointments into Calendar (it is, amazingly, synchronised with my computer. New horizons!). I took pictures and shared them on Facebook. I checked my email and read my Facebook. I found an Italian restraurant near my hotel where I went for dinner. I set Weather for Cambridge and found train timetables. I fed my imminent tasks into Tasks. The phone reminded me the next day that I had a Task. I checked my email and read my Facebook. I tried to read an ebook, just to confirm that Kindle was better, but in emergency I would cope. I read a newspaper. I checked my email... I believe each operation takes me ten times as long as an expert user, but I am learning.

Now I am back home, the phone is switched off, and I don't know when and why I would need it again. But we are getting to know each other. I may even use it to make calls.

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