Good technology makes a task easier. It adapts to us and provides a tool that simplifies what we already do. Great technology redefines a task so completely that we change our behavior, not because we are forced to adapt to the technology but because the technology provides us with new ways to interact with the world and to do things we never imagined doing before. The iPhone is in the latter category. I’ve had mine for only a few days and I’ve been so constantly delighted that I can’t imagine how I lived without it.
When I bought my first Mac (Classic 512K) in 1985, my father couldn’t understand why I spent over $2,000 for “a glorified typewriter” especially when my refrigerator didn’t even work properly. And yet having a computer changed the way I wrote, changed what I wrote, and led me down a new career path to technical writing and finally programming. I might even say that had it not been for my first Mac, I’d never have been working as a course developer at ETI, never met AJM, and never bought this house or gotten married. That purchase did change my life. Now, nearly the same age as my father was in 1985, I find myself wondering why I should spend $500 for a phone. I hardly use my phone. I don’t have it on me when I’m working in the garden and I never remember to look to see if I have messages when I come in.
I had to spend a lot of time justifying the purchase of the iPhone. 1) It is my Christmas present and AJM wants me to have it. 2) My original iPod has been broken for half a year and so with the iPhone I’m replacing both my broken iPod and my old cell phone. 3) I’ve only ever had one cell phone and it is so old that I’ve had it before the old AT&T was bought out by Cingular who was then bought out by the new AT&T. My plan is so old, the new AT&T can’t even figure out how to upgrade me. 4) JQS has a new job which will be providing him with an phone thereby allowing me to drop his coverage from my plan and using the savings to pay for the extra coverage required by the iPhone. 5) AJM, JQS, and SAM all have video-enabled iPods and, although I initially thought watching movies on an itty-bitty screen was ridiculous, after seeing it, I’m sold. So after dragging my feet for six weeks, I went into the Apple Store in the Domain last Tuesday and bought an iPhone. Procrastination paid off. The very day I decided to make my purchased Apple came out with the new 16GB iPhones.
My First Day with an iPhone
7:31. Morning coffee. Each winter morning AJM makes me latte and brings it in to me before he dashes off to work. I gave up coffee several years ago so this latte is decaffeinated and mostly just foamy milk. I only drink it in the winter to warm up in the morning. After giving up coffee, I find the taste rather stale and nasty. Also, I’m not always such a lay-about. Probably half the nights my nose wakes me up and I get up early and go huddle on the couch and trying to sleep sitting up.
8:45. This morning, however, AJM has to testify in court for a coworker whose ex-husband has been stalking her. I offer to drop him off at the court house and pick him up afterwards. While he’s at court, I drive over to the AT&T store on 5th St in order to try to cancel my old phone number. Unfortunately they don’t open until 9AM. So I’m left with 45 minutes to waste and spend it trying to learn the settings on the iPhone and figure out some of the features. I’ve just changed the ringtone and decided to head back to the store when AJM calls. He’s finished his testimony. I pick him up and we go back to the AT&T store (because the old account is his name) and we cut off the service (I hope). As it turns out, we did the entire operation over the phone and they didn’t ask for AJM’s confirmation at all. So it seems I could have done it from home and without wasting either of our time.
9:34. I need to spend some time this morning reorganizing the house. I’m currently cleaning out every closet. As a result, every room is in upheaval with piles of things to be sorted through. Keep. Goodwill. Trash. The house looks like we’ve just moved in with boxes stacked everywhere. I decided to forego one of my other Christmas presents, a metal filing cabinet, because we don’t have any place to put it and it would be difficult to move around. So for about a tenth of the cost of the filing cabinet, I bought some plastic file bins. I used to have cardboard ones but both mice and bugs get into those and shred the papers. When going through my papers, I’m being very harsh. I try to imagine someone else having to sort it all out when I’m dead. Some articles I keep because of they have a historical interest that is also personal: like the 1977 article where I first read about videodiscs, or the 1983 article about the difficulties of wordprocessing Chinese characters. But I manage to put bags of other magazines and articles into the recycling bin. The question remains. What to do with all these back issues of the New Yorker? We pack each year’s issues into a box and put that box in the garage. Seeing it all laid out, even AJM thought we should dispose of them. And yet, now that we’ve thrown out so much other stuff, I’m dragging my feet and thinking we have room for them–at least for another year.
9:35. Why do housework when I can be playing around with my new toy? I’ve wanted a camera phone for a long time. When I travel, I use the timestamps on my digital photographs to record the diary of the trip. It’s faster and more convenient that writing it down. I haven’t figured out how to take a good photo with the iPhone yet. I have trouble holding it steady and the photo turns out blurry. Nor is the picture quality what I’m used to with my CoolPix. It’s especially poor in any light but bright sunlight.
11:43. Lunch with JQS. This is our last Wednesday lunch together because this is his last week at DPS. On Monday, he starts a new job with Vyke Communication and will be working way up north in Cedar Park. After he gets settled in his new job, we’ll have to start a new tradition. Maybe dinner and a movie at the Alamo Drafthouse. We ate at Banzai because it’s faster and cheaper than Mikado where we went last week. JQS always gets the chicken curry lunch special and I always get the unagi bento. This week, we were stymied because chicken curry is no long included in the lunch specials. We’ll probably never eat here again–not because of the chicken currry. But I wonder if they’ll think that’s the reason. “Only two days ’til retirement,” we joke as I drop JQS off at DPS for the last time. Sounds like a set-up for a Lethal Weapon movie.
12:40. Stuck in Austin traffic, southbound on Lamar at 6th St. on the way home. In my Miata, everyone else’s SUV looms over me. Usually I avoid this intersection by cutting over to Guadalupe around 15th St. Usually I run a bunch of errands that I’ve saved for my Wednesday out. This intersection is so much nicer now with the Flagship Whole Foods Market than in was in the 1980s when it was just a used car lot.
14:27. I’m on my way to the dentist when I do a double take at South 5th and West Mary. The old post office which is going to become the new Twin Oaks library is being torn down. Just last Saturday on the way to Central Market, AJM asked me if they were going to demolish it. I thought not. I stop and take a photo to email to AJM. The photo quality might not be great on the iPhone but the ease with which one can snap a shot and email it is fantastic. Although I’m very impressed with the keyboard on the iPhone, emailing a photo is even easier. I see myself sending photo updates rather than typing out email, especially, for instance, when I’m on a trip. This is one of the examples of how technology can change behavior by making it dead simple to do something I never even thought of doing before.
16:18. On my way home from the dentist I swing by Barton Creek Square Mall to buy a protective cover and holster for my iPhone. I want to be able to use it in the garden, both so that I can listen to music and so that I can be more connected to people trying to get in touch with me. Coming down the big hill on Loop 360 near Barton Creek, the phone rings and I realize I haven’t learned yet how to answer it. This distracts me just a moment, just long enough for me to almost hit the car in front of me which has slowed down for the light at the bottom of the hill. Whew! All day I’ve been so happy. It wouldn’t do to have a wreck now, especially given that I just got the car out of the shop yesterday.
I take almost half an hour trying to decide on the cover that’s going to work for me. One of the great improvements of the iPhone over the iPod is that the volume control is a physical button on the side. You don’t have to go through any screens to turn the volume up or down. There is also a button on the top to put the iPhone to sleep and another button to turn it on. I don’t want a cover that will block the access to any of these features.
16:43. When I arrive home, I IM AJM to tell him I got the iPhone holster and cover. He asks me to describe it and then thinks better of it. “Why don’t you take a photo of it and email it to me?” So I do.
I love my iPhone so far. I keep it on all the time just like a communicator on Star Trek. Actually it is vastly superior to a communicator, as that was just a wearable walkie-talkie. I use the timer feature when watering plants while I’m working in the garden. (I’ve discovered that I can use my nose to work the timer when my hands are too muddy to touch the screen; that’s how simple the controls are!) I like having my calendar, address book, and email all integrated. The map feature is fascinating, especially how it knows where you are…even though it doesn’t use GPS.
I was disappointed with the Notes feature. I thought I’d be able to upload Notes and carry them with me…like my book and wine lists which I use when I’m shopping so that I don’t buy something I already have. But no. You can only take notes and then email them to yourself. No way do I want to laboriously type out a note on the iPhone keyboard. In this instance, old technology is still better. And for some reason, the To Do list on the calendar doesn’t work either. So if you want to keep a To Do list or any other kind of list with you, there is no elegant way…yet.
The iPhone is very intuitive. When I looked up a restaurant to get the phone number for takeout, I tapped on the number on the screen and it went immediately into phone mode and asked it I’d like to call the number. Wow! When you are listening to iTunes and a call comes in, your song pauses and then starts up again at the same point when you’re finished talking. However, if you go into other modes that don’t require sound, the song continues playing. Having a physical button for sound control is great, so much better than the iPod. And the fact that the font on the screen is large is fantastic. I could never see any of the controls on my iPod without my glasses but can do almost everything on the iPhone without them. The calendar display is better than the calendar on my computer.