Feeling Whole Again: Getting Appropriate Technology Back In Hand

By Terry Calhoun

If you’ve been reading this column since mid-winter, you might recall that my last Treo 650 flopped into an icy puddle while I was photographing a pothole at a local mall. This pothole had destroyed two of the tires on one of our family’s smaller cars.

Treo 650

"Nirvana is a light, powerful notebook and
my Treo, letting me be online wherever
and whenever I have a Sprint signal."

At that time, I decided that I would not replace it with another Treo, but would instead get one of the “cooler” phones that young people are using. So, I purchased a Sprint PCS -capable flip phone. It is red, of course, like my cars. The red phone (called that instead of by its name so that I don’t seem like I am picking on it, since, like Jimmy Buffet sings, a lot of the bad stuff “could be my own ‘darn’ fault”) had seemingly deliberate built-in limitations and lacked the sophistication of input and output controls that the Treo offers.

Last Friday, I gave up and purchased a new Treo 650, handing the red phone over to my delighted high school-graduating daughter, Abby.

There wasn’t a day in between that I didn’t berate myself for not replacing the Treo at once. My inability to master the sounds, volume, mute, and other functions on the red phone actually became a professional liability as co-workers very quickly got tired of hearing it ring at inappropriate times. I took to leaving the phone in my office during the day, and when I forgot, I had to fish it out of my pocket and remove the battery to stop the ringing. Not good.

I could not, or could not make myself, learn how to store and retrieve contact information. The memory was quickly overloaded with images and movies. Not only did I find it difficult to erase them from storage, I discovered that the only way to save such things taken with the red phone was to upload them to a Web site. (And I could not figure out where that Web site was. Still don’t know.) The few things I did learn how to do were learned, not from the manual, but from my children or from my University of Michigan work-study students. (Bright, bright, bright kids, those work-study students!)

Next, like a biblical plague, came the text messages from sources I could not determine or make sense of. Hundreds of them, sometimes several hundred overnight, woke me up or disturbed my sleep as they arrived. My wife and I ended up keeping the red phone at the far end of the house during sleep time to reduce the noise. This is, of course, at odds with the fact that we have adult and nearly-adult children out and all over the Ann Arbor area at night.

Then came the final straw. My son Ben got us kicked off our satellite Internet provider. Twice. (Yes, file sharing. His dad is really grumpy about that.) After the second time, Wild Blue simply would not renew service, although the dish is still up on our roof. That was all it took. I have to be connected at home and I knew that I could do that with the Treo. So I walked three blocks up Liberty Street and made an easy sale for the Sprint salesperson.

I feel whole again, now. I have all of my contacts in hand and easily accessible. I can browse the Web with the Treo, or use it as a modem for my laptop. That is how I will send this in to my editor at Campus Technology when I finish writing. (And I can use it on the highway the next long trip I take – Sprint d'es a good job of covering major highways!)

It’s still a great flashlight for walking around the house in the dark. It has far more memory than the red phone, plus extra memory, and I can back up and store everything, including the great images and movies, on my PC. Best of all, it has that wonderful keyboard plus the touch-screen command ability for so many things. It’s no wonder that “the Treo has been Cnet’s highest rated smart phone for a couple of years now.”

Best of all, I try to be as much “digital” as opposed to “paper” as I can. If I am faithful with storing digital copies of my work, which I usually am, the Treo 650/Dell Latitude X1 that I have re-assembled is all the office I need, no matter where I happen to be.

Nirvana! It’s nice to be technologically whole again. I can literally feel my productivity rising like the flood waters in New England. However, I read just yesterday that a newer Sprint-friendly Treo with higher speed is coming out one of these days. Sigh.

P.S. I am still waiting for Marshall Fields to fork over the $300+ dollars in damage to my car from that pothole. (That’s the store that owns the slice of the Briarwood Mall’s circular drive that did the damage.) I’ve jumped through all their hoops, but the last step of issuing me a check d'esn’t seem to be happening…yet. It will, though. I don’t give up easy.

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