This is an article I researched and wrote for the upcoming issue of IMAGE Magazine:
It’s bullshit, but not entirely bullshit.
People do not need to be in constant communication with each other. Believe it or not, we do not need to have devices that enable us to speak to each other on our persons at all times.
But enough people have been convinced they do that now phones that can send text messages of limited characters, take and send and receive pictures, access the internet, record and create and play music, play games, work as sex vibrators, pinpoint your exact location on the planet, locate the nearest bar relative to your exact location on the planet, or whatever the hell else some shithead developer who really ought to get laid can dream up.
Because people have been convinced that they need devices that can do this, they are willing to pay hundreds of dollars for such devices. And they are willing to subscribe to plans by companies that tell these people they will pay whatever said companies decide these people should pay at any given time.
I know. About a year ago, I bought a Verizon cell phone. It was the cheapest cell phone they offered, but it still played music, took pictures, and vibrated pleasantly against my groin whenever someone called me. It was really swell until I got the first bill. Instead of $40 for the first month, which I had agreed to, I was charged well over $100 despite using roughly half the allotted minutes in my plan.
A phone call to customer service consisted of an hour of several people at Verizon explaining to me that because of something called “surcharge,” which is defined by Miriam Webster as “an additional tax, cost or impost” or “an excessive load or burden.” I told the Verizon people to go fuck themselves and gave the phone back to the store where I bought it.
I gradually came to realize that in this brave new world we live in, people need to have phones. If only so that prospective employers can call us back.
I discovered Net 10 at a Duane Reade in Manhattan. It was a phone that, for $30 came with 300 minutes. Minutes could be replenished at 10 cents per minute.
It couldn’t light up, dance, do tricks, fetch my newspaper, masturbate me, or work as an electric razor, but the phone was cheap and it could make phone calls.
For a year, I was satisfied. I was paying less than half each month on cell phone minutes than most other people and roughly a quarter than the morons who subscribed to “smartphones.” The phone was easy to use, stored all the contacts I needed, and its minutes were easy to replenish. I just went to a website, filled out a form to buy 200 minutes, and a glitch in the system gave my phone another 300.
Then the phone broke. The screen went dead for no apparent reason.
I discovered that customer support for Net 10 is just as terrible as the support for other companies. Several customer support representatives told me in succession that no, they couldn’t do jack shit to help me transfer my old phone number to my new phone, help me restore my contacts, or transfer the minutes from my old phone to the new one.
But I’m sticking with Net 10 as a provider. Even if their customer support is useless, it’s no worse than Verizon‘s or Sprint‘s, both of which I’ve had unpleasant experiences with. And they won’t make me subscribe to a plan and then decide a month in that I owe them triple the monthly fee.
Because my Net 10 phone is easy. It makes phone calls. It stores contacts. And the only game it has is sudoku.
For those of us who don’t need our cell phone to have the capabilities of a military spy plane, that’s pretty good.
It’s strange. Back when mice were new technology, when they had track balls and wires connecting them to the computer, they worked just fine. You could rub your mouse on any surface and–presto!–a neat little cursor on the screen would select whatever you wanted without you having to enter a long and obscure program directory.
We’ve come a long way since those days. Now we have nice that sense movement using lasers. They can operate without wires connecting them to the computer. Keyboards can be wireless too, and they’re often designed to relax the muscles in your wrists. We have ergonomics these days.
I bought one of these devices–an optical wireless mouse from Engage–thinking that it would be a lot easier and cooler to use than the touchpad on my computer. It works fine, except when it doesn’t.
The Engage mouse doesn’t register on most surfaces. It doesn’t register on wood, has trouble picking up glossy surfaces, can’t read on glass, has trouble picking up paper, and often doesn’t work on mouse pads designed specifically for optical laser mice. Because it’s wireless, it runs on AA batteries. These it drains in about a week. There’s a nifty switch on the back you have to remember to turn off to save power. But regardless of how charged the batteries are, the mouse movements may or may not register with the wireless USB receiver attached to my laptop depending on what mood it’s in.
The only nice thing I can say is that it fits nicely and comfortably in my hand. Like a paperweight.
My wireless keyboard is much more cooperative. I have a Microsoft Wireless Keyboard 3000 v2.0. Its keys type easily and smoothly, and the keyboard is packed with shortcut keys for internet, volume control, and even spell check. I hardly notice that I’m using a wireless keyboard at all, except when I type from several feet away.
It would be nice to be able to control my computer from across the room. But I’ll need to buy a better mouse first. Eng