Sunday, February 08, 2009

A grumpy dispatch from the clickable world

What could this be? The answer my friends: a photo of the inside of my pocket. Yes, a photo of the inside of my pocket. Why do I have such a photo? Well, let me tell you.

My cell phone finally died last month. It was a rugged little thing, made by LG, that was battered and scratched, but had lasted for years. It was simple, without bells, whistles, or a camera. But finally, one day, it went through the wash, and that was just too much for it. Now, it tried to hang on for a few days after The Incident, sputtering to life, screen flickering meekly, seeking a signal from out of the aether, but finally flatlining (and taking down all my contacts and phone numbers with it).

As a replacement, I sought out something also non-flashy, simple; in other words, a phone and not an electronic Swiss Army knife. But cameras are ubiquitous these days and I ended up with a Samsung phone with a camera. It was about a week into my time with this new device when I discovered the Design Flaw. There is a button on the side which, when tapped lightly, turns on the display. I should note as an aside that as a power-saving feature the external screen goes black after a few seconds. My old phone kept the display going, so I could use it as a clock during lectures. This phone I can't. Anyway, if you press and hold down the side button it turns on the camera.

You're way ahead of me.

Every so often, as I go about my daily business, I hear the digital reproduction of a shutter clicking from somewhere in my pants pocket. The button has been pressed by keys or a nail clipper or loose change (or my hand seeking any of these items) and the camera has been activated. It happily starts taking pictures. In the month I have had this phone I have had to delete, I kid you not, over 150 of these pictures. Most are pitch black. I think the above photo, and a couple of its companions, are from a day I was wearing khakis and light seeped through the fabric.

In any case, if we are to make any progress towards wearable computers, someone needs to solve this button problem. An electronic device with a button subject to jostling, gets jostled in a pocket, purse, or bag. This was a problem with my old Palm Zire. The power button was too exposed and it would turn on in my bag and the power would drain away (and when the power was gone, so was the memory, and anything not backed up: poof). This was also a problem with the first set of remote car keys I ever got (being suspicious of them on principle for years: key--lock seems safe; key fob--radio signal--carlock seems less safe, but that's just me). I would accidentally unlock the van or open the sliding doors while I was inside my house. I'd go out and it would be open. Or I'd set off the alarm. I'm glad I don't have one of those remotes which remote starts the car or else my vehicle would head off like the Batmobile. Luckily it seems to have calmed down and for some reason isn't as sensitive anymore, or perhaps I've just trained myself to keep my keys free and out until I'm out of range. That's probably it. "Change for the machines," as Pat Cadigan once wrote in Synners.

1 comment:

Ted Striphas said...

That's a really a hilarious post, Greg. It almost sounds like a Steve Martin skit.