One of the great things about the invention of the hands-free cell phone is that it is no longer immediately apparent that I am in fact talking to myself most days. I can now comfortably and publicly converse with the Royal We without anyone yelling “Get a cat!” or crossing nervously to the other side of 2nd Avenue.
Just this morning, I was reminiscing with my better two-thirds about the olden days and marveling at the other side benefits of technological progress.
1. Hands Free-dom
Way back in the dark ages, if you wanted to know what someone was thinking or eating, you couldn’t just look on Facebook, but instead had to travel (uphill both ways) to the room that had the rotary phone, which was connected to the wall with a long winding chord, and painstakingly dial each number, which of course you had memorized or written down.
In those days, if you saw someone carrying a phone, a phonebook, a stereo, a camera, a clock, a calendar and the correspondence from a few hundred friends all at once, you would suspect that they were either relocating or a thief. Today of course all of these things are on a device you don’t even have to hold, but can keep hands free in your pocket and walk anywhere in the world carrying nothing but a conversation.
With these smaller but smarter devices come a host of other hidden features that one less humble than I might be tempted to take for granted.
I, for one, am forever indebted to my Amazon Kindle for supplying the defects in my education. Not only can I upload the entire Encyclopedia Britannica and a library of other classics and carry it around in my purse, my all-knowing Kindle will correct for me mistakes I may make in my emails.
Take for example, this picture from my recent safari in South Africa:
I was told by natives that it was a warthog. But thanks to Kindle AutoCorrect, I learned that it is in fact an “earring.” And they didn’t just tell me once and expect me to remember on my own. Every time I typed “warthog,” Kindle gently and lovingly corrected it to “earring.” As in: “A family of earrings just wandered into camp and started munching on the grass by the pool.”
And, if it were not for the “autoworkers” at Amazon, I would not have recognized “Hippocrates” lumbering through the Oliphant River either. It’s amazing how much weight a few millennia will add on. No wonder he’s known for his oath.
3. Smart Phone and Contact Filters
I must confess that I initially resisted getting a high tech phone, thinking that my Kindle was sufficient to keep me from looking like a fool. But when my favorite flip-phone finally died, I was forced encouraged by the powers that be at T-Mobile to smarten up. Thank God for this! Not only does this phone correct what I type; I don’t even have to type it. I can speak it in and she translates for me.
How smart is she? She stores all of my contacts so I don’t have to remember who my friends are or their numbers. I can give her one quick tap, start speaking and say, “I will meet you at the office in 15 minutes.” But she doesn’t just listen to my words—she hears what must be buried deep within in my subconscious, and translates accordingly: “I will see you soon, you idiot.” (True story). And thus with one stone she also keeps my contacts list a little shorter than it might otherwise be.
4. Visual Voicemail
Once upon a time, if a friend called you when you were not home to answer, there would be a little flashing red light on the machine by your phone. If you pressed the button, a whirring sound would rewind a tape and play back to you whatever he or she said after the tone. But knowing that modern man doesn’t have the time or inclination to smell the roses or listen to messages, Visual Voicemail has come to his rescue. For $3.99 a month, you can get a service that will roughly translate them into text for you. As in:
“Hey tracy it’s X. I’m at there router with a few other people hygienist is gonna be coming with yours or not. Alright bye, I’ll I need-to-know-what-I’ve-seventy(?) thirty first. Bye.”
Except for the X (name replaced to protect the innocent), this is, verbatim, the actual message that I received on Sunday night. The caller intended to invite me to Bareburger with Jessica, but my smarter-than-that phone no doubt wanted to remind me that a dentist appointment is overdue. (How did she know)?
5. Camera Phones
My first camera was from Santa Claus in the second grade, and was the kind that involved pushing a button, whereupon the film would inch its way out and then slowly dry to reveal your masterpiece. Now you can carry a camera inside your phone, and store 3,399 or so images of the things that matter most to you.
Recently my niece (who for privacy’s sake I will nickname Lollipop) was scrolling through the gallery on my phone.
“Aunt Grace, why do you have so many pictures of food? Is it because you don’t have any children?”
Why yes, Lollipop, you are probably right. (And perhaps vice versa, but we won’t go there).
6. Sleep Machines
It is the height of irony that I currently reside in the City That Never Sleeps. Let’s just say it is a good thing that one cannot take photos of sleep—they just might outrank the 1759 images of Nutella crepes and molten lava cakes.
So I invested a week’s grocery money in a machine that sounds a bit like an old-fashioned television (the kind with rabbit ears that don’t actually work) set on a non-existent channel. For eight hours it produces a steady deafening static that drowns out the sirens outside of my window and any thoughts that might be keeping me awake.
But my omniscient phone has already come up with something better. There is indeed an app for that—one that will replace “Broken 70’s TV Sounds” with the sounds of oceans and flowing streams and other calls of nature, guaranteed to soothe you to sleep, until you hear a different kind of call from nature. But there is no app for that one. Yet.
Way back when, when you wanted to know what was on someone’s mind you had to know them in real life. And have a conversation with them, preferably over a meal and with a few adult beverages.
But thanks to the Internet that is no longer necessary. You have an Insiders Pass to the inner workings of my mind. Just call it Amazing. Or Amazon.