I bought my first Nokia phone in the 90s, back when they all looked the same and the only game available was called Snake. You kept animated lines from colliding. It was incrementally more entertaining than watching your eyebrows grow.
I left the phone on a bus once in San Francisco and went into a big panic, not because I liked the phone that much, but it belonged to my employer at the time. How do you explain that one? The grayscale screen was not what you would call high-tech. It was more like a pager with a bigger keypad.
Later in my corporate career, we all “upgraded” to BlackBerry phones...still with a grayscale screen, barely any games, and what was really a micro version of a computer keyboard. These archaic phones had archaic apps that didn’t quite work correctly and crashed often. This was also long before social networking came into existence. If you lost the phone number and contact for someone, there wasn’t much you could do. Go visit them at work? Maybe this existed back then, but I don’t remember being able to easily drop over to a Facebook profile and grab a cell number. And, people didn’t include their cell number in an email signature line. Why bother? Not everyone had a phone, and those who did have one relied mostly on their desk or home phone.
Usually, using that first Nokia was like fumbling around in the dark blindfolded while having scream rock playing in the background. The phone didn’t really do anything. I can’t remember the model number anymore, but I know it barely lasted a day. We had proprietary chargers for every device. When you wanted to sync data with your computer, you connected the phone to your computer directly. If you dropped these phones onto anything but carpet, it would crack easily and even split apart into pieces.
So my question is this: Why do we want to go back to the dark ages? With the new Nokia 3310, the screen looks terrible, the keypad looks awkward -- the phone looks cheap. It comes in bright colors like yellow and orange (see photo above).
Nostalgia is a funny thing. I understand why people want to go back to vinyl -- I’ve heard before that the audio signal transmitted by digital files is not as wide, that an old vinyl album with trumpets or in certain vocal ranges sounds much better, and there’s a warmth you can’t imitate with binary files. There’s a nostalgia for the album sleeve, the needle placed on plastic, and the best albums by Springsteen.
But feature phones? Even the ones that have extra features beyond the older models? While there is a lot of buzz about the phone, I’m guessing it’s mostly negative buzz. Is that all there is? Nothing to dethrone the iPhone yet again? No Samsung phone to make up for the total catastrophe last year that was the Note 7? No 6.2-inch phones that have some amazing new apps we have never seen before that make smartphones seem new again?
Instead we have old phone that make smartphones seem old again.
I have no love lost for the 90s when phones were hard to use. (For the record, I also hate vinyl -- I’d rather do a 5 second search on YouTube for the old Springsteen stuff than hunt around for a dusty album.) What's next? Thicker tablets? Heavier laptops? Bubble televisions? There's a reason none of those thing exist anymore.
Maybe when I get my hands on the phone, it will suddenly provide some miraculous features -- shed from the tethers of Microsoft, now free to embrace technology innovation with reckless abandon, it will become my all-purpose digital assistant for work and life.
Or maybe it will let me play Snake in color. There is that.
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