In the 1960s, a Stanford professor came up with classifications for the people who help spread technological innovations. There are the "early adopters," people who buy new gadgets as soon as they come out. There are the "late adopters," who wait until a technology is well established.
Then there is my dad. On the technology spectrum, my dad falls somewhere between "late adopter" and "Amish."
Not that he shuns technology completely, he just doesn't exactly cuddle up in its warm embrace, either. Take the cellular phone.
See, my dad does own a cell phone. It’s just never turned on. He seems to get that cell phones are an important modern convenience, he just maybe doesn’t get why.
I mean, he's already on his second cell phone. Why? Because he threw the first one away. Why did he throw it away? Because the battery was dead.
"You know, they're rechargeable, Dad."
"Really? That must have been that thing that came with it."
"Yeah, that was probably the charger. What did you think it was?"
“I don’t know. Some kind of holder-thing that plugged in.”
So now even though he seems to understand the rechargeable nature of cell phones, I’m still not convinced he’s totally on board. His policy on using his cell phone is a little bit like other people might have for using, say, a flare gun.
"Dad, you spent the night in the car in a snow bank! Why didn't you call?"
"Oh, I was all ready to! If it had gotten bad."
And even when he does decide to actually use his cell phone, it’s still pretty clear he doesn’t quite get it. He thinks that cell phones are like walkie-talkies, and you have to talk like Mission Control calling Apollo 13. It’s like he thinks he’s being charged by the word: “Ish, Dad. Lunch? 12:30? Okay, see you.”
All my cell phone voicemails from him sound like this: "Ish, Dad. If you can hear me, pick up. Pick up!"
At least he's less subject to the cell phone peer pressure than I am.
Like at work, whenever there’s a break in a meeting and everyone immediately jumps on their cell phone, I have to, too. I mean, I’m hip! I’m popular! I have someone to call too, probably! Usually I just check my messages. And usually, there is just that one from my dad asking me to pick up.
But it’s true. I'm not exactly an early adopter myself. I always have the least cool phone of any of my friends. They all have these great Inspector Gadget-y things that do everything.
(During break in meeting.)
Me: Hey man. Whatcha doin?
Friend: Oh, just paying a bill, taking some pictures, sending an e-mail. Taking a picture of my bill, and then e-mailing it. How about you?
Me: Me? Haha! I just spelled the word "boobs" upside down. See? Yeah, it's 5-8-0-0-8. You should try it some time. You can do "boobies" too. Use the one for an "I" and the three for an "E."
There is a simple reason why I always have a crap phone, and it is this: I am cheap.
I mean, we all have phones, we all need phones, so I find the prices that Nokia and Motorola want to charge for their latest gizmos a tad offensive. And frankly, since I can be endlessly entertained by spelling the word “boobies,” I am happy to settle for older technology. (Though I prefer to think of it as "seasoned" technology.)
This is how I shop for a phone:
Me: Hi, I need a new phone.
Sales Guy working on commission: I can help you with that. We've got this new one here, it's a PDA, it's web-compatible and comes with Java and Blue Tooth. It only weighs 2 ounces. It's $399.
Me, nodding knowingly: Yeah, I don't think I need that java tooth thing. What do you have that's like, free? I don't want to pay anything at all.
Sales Guy, now oozing contempt: (Sigh.) Okay, let's step down to the other counter.
So now we're at the Island of Misfit Toys. It's all the old phones, and the ideas that never caught on. (Apparently the market for a combination cell phone/commuter mug never really materialized.)
Me, pointing to large grey brick of what appears to be space junk: Hey, how about this one?
Sales Guy who wishes he was on break: That’ll work. You'll probably want to get the steel reinforced shoulder harness. And by signing up, you'll automatically become a party to the class action lawsuit over the tumors. Just sign right there, where it says "plaintiff."
So sure, I get what I pay for. The phone’s menu is all in Croatian, but that's okay since it has so few functions. And it still does most of the same stuff the fancy phones do: it drops calls, it dies without warning, and it’s got the same annoying ring tones.
I try not to take my space junk phone out around other people’s cool phones. Plus, by the time I get it set up on the tripod and crank the dyno, the break is over anyway.
It was probably just a message from my dad.