Will I Be Left in the Tech Dust If I Don’t Own A Smartphone?

I’ve been using computers since 1971.  Mainframes, minicomputers and microcomputers – labels that have long since disappeared.  I got my first personal computer in 1979.  I used FTP, Usenet, Gopher, email, years before the web, and remember being blown away when Mosaic came out in 1993.  I spent a lot of money on computer and gadgets over the years, but for some reason I don’t want to buy a smartphone.  Oh, I’d love to have a smartphone – I just don’t want the monthly bill.  And since nearly everyone else is becoming a smartphone user, will this leave me in the tech dust?

I have a poor man’s smartphone, the iPod touch and a pay-as-you-go dumbphone.  It essentially does most of what a smartphone does, and I only spend $50 every six months for 500 minutes.  I also have an iPad 2 and a Nexus 5.  I’m not totally out of it, but when I read Engadget I feel like I’m at a black tie party wearing a sports jacket and jeans, and even those are getting threadbare and moth eaten.


Now I’m reading about smart watches.  Pass.  Google glasses.  Pass.  Have I gotten too old to compute?

I am cheap, but then I’m retired.  I now spend about 99% of my time at home, so mobile devices just don’t have a compelling sell to me.  Yet, all the tech glamor is now in mobile devices.  I do use mobile apps on my Nexus 7, but I’d much prefer using most of them on my 23” monitor.

Is the bleeding edge of tech savvy now limited to on-the-go computing?  Am I joining the ranks of the cyber-Amish by not owning a smartphone.  Am I less of a geek for not wanting the latest smartphone every year?

Getting old is getting old, so I must accept that young people are going to do and know things I don’t.  BFD.  I’m not whining, but since I’ve retired I realized, more and more, I’m cutting myself off from the mainstream of people.  I’ve always done this.  Being a gluten-free vegetarian atheist has a way of isolating me from normal life.  Being a computer geek is something I’ve always identified with, so is choosing not to follow the cutting edge of tech another way to isolate myself?  (I can hear my friend Annie growling at me, “Hell yes, you moron.”) 

This reminds me of a friend who died about twenty years ago.  He had become so negative about life that he only like two things, Duane Allman’s guitar playing, and Benny Goodman’s clarinet playing.  Luckily I still love hundreds of things, but I’m starting to realize that list is shrinking.  Is that another way of defining aging – that you list of likes shrinks?

There another way of looking at though.  One I feel is more positive!  As we get older we juggle more balls, or spin more plates.  Remember those guys on Ed Sullivan that would keep plates spinning on sticks?  Back then, we called life “the 9 to 5 rat race.”  As we grew up we learned to spin more plates.  At some point in your life you realize that keeping all those plates spinning is a lot of damn work.  Then you go all Zen dog and start spinning fewer plates.  Retiring is moving into those years when you spin fewer and fewer plates.  And the positive spin I mentioned?  Well, you enjoy life more because you just keep the things you love most in motion.

JWH – 2/25/14

13 thoughts on “Will I Be Left in the Tech Dust If I Don’t Own A Smartphone?”

  1. I once had a Blackberry, Then, an iPhone, Somewhere along the way I picked up an iPad, Eventually, I realized the iPad satsified all my web needs and that I was spending $100+ a month on a phone I used only to make occasional voice calls. I sold the iPhone, bought a cheap dumbphone and a cheap plan, and have something more than $1200 per year in my pocket.

    1. See that’s my thinking. When you spend $199 to buy a phone on a two year contract, you’re actually spending $1920-$2400 + $199. I’m surprised that so many young people have smartphones. I’m also surprised so many dependent children are bought smartphones by parents. I guess I’m just a cheap bastard.

      Some smartphones are $600-800 off contract, which I find really hard to believe, when you can buy a 50″ plasma TV for the same amount of money, or a nice washing machine. I can’t help but believe that smartphones should cost far less, and unlimited service shouldn’t be far cheaper. If you think of just bandwidth, $40 a month cable TV internet service brings you far more bits of information for your money.

  2. I am one up on you. I own a Kindle, a 10-year old computer with a 23 inch monitor,and a “think pad” that work gave me. I am finishing my dissertation — finally — a promise that I made to my self years ago. I do not own a smart phone — in fact, I have a dumb basic flip phone, no key board or texting. The cost is too great and I do not have anyone that I really need to talk to on a daily basis. I have two e-mail account and thank god my husband checks one of them or I would have eternal upside down smiley faces. I hate being tethered to anything. I hate ity-bity screens. Call me old (past 60). I do not want to send great aunt emma a picture of my quilt or a picture of anything. It is nice my grandson shot two free-throws in a row. NOT INTERESTED THAT MUCH. I love my 13 acres, my garden, my horse, my three mile walks (in good weather), a good cup of coffee and playing my flute in a community band (I give flute and piano lessons) Oh yea, I am a retired Latin teacher. Am I old — I guess — but more importantly in this rant, I am hoping for some validation in that there is more to think about than some stupid app that is not important to me. Please give me something that is necessary for me, that is interesting to me, that is vital to me and I may consider buying a smart phone

    1. It sounds like Liz that you do more than the average young person anyway. If young people make smartphone activity a substitute for doing other things, then I think smartphones are bad. But if they use smartphones to coordinate and organize more real activity, then they are good. Or to say it differently, if smartphones become time wasting diversions they are bad, but if they are used to enhance our lives and elevate our true potential then they are good. But I have to wonder if they are good, is it not because we’re turning ourselves into cyborgs?

  3. It must be an age thing. I am also retired and have absolutely no interest in getting a smart phone. I use my existing cell phone for one thing and one thing only, to make and receive calls. if I want to send e-mails, pictures, search the internet etc, I use my laptop computer. Living on a pension means making smart financial choices and I have no intention of spending the few dollars I receive monthly to pay for high priced gadgets and service plans that I do not need. Having said that, I can see why the young generation will see value in these gadgets, after all, they are living in the fast track lane where communication must be instantaneous, I on the other hand am quite contented to move at a slightly slower pace and enjoy the scenery as I go along.

      1. Here is something to think about. Technology has created (I repeat) created needs as much or more than fulfilled needs. When do “wants” become “needs?” There is something inside of me that resents somebody creating a need and then selling me that need — or rather attempting to convince me that this need exists. I wish I could think of this person’s name, but I heard on Canadian public radio last summer an interview with a professor — small college in MN. Her undergrad is in music and math, MA in Tech and a PhD in theology. She is the head of two departments — tech and theology. She writes on the impact of one field upon the other. And she writes from a Quaker standpoint. Many societies that reject technology simply take each situation separately and make a community decision upon the negative impact of each piece of technology. For example: How will this phone affect the relationships I have with family, friends, people I see daily? If the tech. will lesson or diminish the relationship, then it will not likely be adopted. Maybe this is a bit too socialistic, but like many philosophies, not all of most things are evil. We need to stop and assess then analyze what we are doing. Tech is not bad — it is also not good — it has no value of its own. We attach the value to it. It becomes a moral imperative according to the needs we adopt. it is us, not the machine that controls us. By the way, the front cover of one of the Prof’s books has a robotic, mechanical arm touching the hand of God — a take on Michelangelo’s famous painting in the Sistine Chapel.

        1. That’s a fascinating perspective – that we’re creating needs. To me, a smartphone might be a want, but to most kids, if not all, smartphones might be a need.

          And do smartphones bring people closer together. My wife now wants me to text her before I go to sleep every night. Is that being closer?

  4. Here is another side of that coin. If I texted my husband, other than the fact that neither one of us text, before i went to bed, he would resent it — to put it mildly. He would like go out into the barn and pet one of our barn cats. Texting brings you close, like a telephone brings you close, or skyping brings you close. Maybe a better way of stating it is” it brings you closer than if you did nothing. So, if the alternative is nothing, texting is good, so is letter writing, talking on the phone, e-mailing — it is communication and it is one-dimensional communication which is better than no dimension. It is something verses nothing. It we as a society become that diminished in our consistent quality and dimensionality of our communication then we have diminished ourselves. On the otherhand, if texting is done prudently, then it remains an individual choice. Maybe that is also a factor — our choices are becoming limited. Are we limiting ourselves or are we becoming a society of limited choices?

    1. Well, my wife works out of town. I usually call her around 10pm. But then she wants a text just as I’m about to go off to sleep. But she also likes texting people in general. I don’t find texting all that appealing. It’s convenient, but does not bring closeness. I’ve been thinking about the nature of friendship lately, and I think closeness comes from doing something together, especially if it involves working together, whether it’s cooking a meal, watching a TV show at the same time, or reading the same book apart, but discussing it. I would imagine creative work would be a very together thing, like that couple who won an Oscar for best song this year.

      1. One must do things together. I have a Vergil class that I teach and could teach it on line except for the fact that I like to know my students and actually see them. We discuss Vergil’s Aeneid as a class. My husband and I both play in a band on Mon. night. We are both involved in a community garden and in raising chickens. I am involved in research for the dissertation and he teaches firearm safety. Not all things must be together, but most are. My friend, Mary, always texts her daughter, but her daughter does not communicate any other way — so she texts her. Mary’s husband is the head of the IT department and the Math department for a local college. To my knowledge, he does not text — but he could beat anyone in Jeopardy. All of us raise our own vegies and fruit trees. Texting and phones in general are tools — convenient tools. I only think of them as tools and not all tools are used for all things. I have students who hate texting and only do it because their friends do — I only use this computer because work gave it to me. other than that, i could lose it tomorrow and could care less. I can write my dissertation by hand and pay someone to format and type it according to my directions.
        Liz Bird

  5. The primary use of personal computing tools has always been communications. This is very much in keeping with our status as tool-making, tool-using primates with language.

    The one thing that really distinguishes the internet and the cellphone from CompuServer, Genie, and Ma Bell’s wires and solenoids is their ubiquity. The net is everywhere and we can carry a phone everywhere.

    So, given the opportunity to use the tools we made — the net and the phone — to expand the opportunties and impact of that other thing that defines us — language — it is no surprise we’ve jumped into the deep end.

    (I suspect similar things happened after writing was invented: ‘Why are you wasting time scratching out notes on that piece of clay? You should be making bricks and feeding the donkey!”)

    We are making culture when we use the these tools. Some of those uses are wise, and some are self-destructive. As always, the choice is ours.

    1. Plato lamented the written word because he thought writing would diminish the ability to remember. It was something he saw as difficult to control. Writing could preserve what the memory often failed to do. Language is all around us and especially so if we choose not to control our environment. You are right in that we make choices and some are self-destructive. It is not the technology but the choices we make on how to use it. It still boils down to self-control and what is good for the individual. If I had 30 more years in the workforce, I would probably feel pressure to conform. Yes, you can carry the net everywhere and there are times that I would have liked to look something up. The feeling goes away. I do not feel the pressure to know something right away.

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