Chips With Everything

Richard Quinn

I EXPERIENCED a traumatic event recently: 24 hours without an iPhone. When I left the house, I felt out of touch, incommunicado. What if someone needed me or I needed them? What if I missed the latest Tweet? It was horrible.

My iPhone X was just about kaput, with a cracked screen and a weak battery. On a trip to the mall, I walked into an AT&T store “just to look.” I ended up with an iPhone 13 Pro, gold-colored no less, with a clear cover so everyone can see it’s gold. To what purpose, I have no idea.

In any case, I traded in the old model and my cost for the iPhone 13 was $27.70 a month for 36 months. But it gets better. I also received a billing credit—the salesman said it was some sort of special deal—which brought the net to $13.33 per month, so the total cost was $479.88. When I bought my old iPhone X, I paid $1,000 cash.

Switching your data from an old to a new device is easy. You just set the two next to each other and they do it for you. That’s what happened—except the new phone couldn’t recognize my telephone number. That meant no texting, no calling in or out. We’re talking utter isolation. I tried everything recommended on various websites. Nothing worked. My wife knew I wouldn’t be worth living with until I was again part of the real world, so the next morning we were at the AT&T store when it opened.

After several failed attempts to fix the phone, the technician decided the problem was a defective SIM card, whatever that is. A tiny piece of I don’t know what had disrupted my world.

I’ve come to realize that the most important word in our language is “chip.” Our entire lives are controlled by chips, everything from cars to robotic surgery to your phone’s selfie EKG app. Technology gives new meaning to having a chip on your shoulder. The array of things we can do with our smart phones is truly amazing—and being a phone is the least of its functions.

My love affair with phones goes back to the 1964 World’s Fair when AT&T displayed its new video phone. Imagine that, seeing the person you were talking to. But it turned out few people wanted to see the folks they were calling and the video phone was a flop. Good thing nobody told Steve Jobs.

Communication has changed dramatically. We’ve gone from it taking months to get a message across the pond to milliseconds—-with video no less. I recently butt-dialed a friend in England and woke him at 1 a.m., but at least the call was free using WhatsApp.

What about the ability to communicate without actually seeing or speaking with a person? Is that good? In some ways, I think it is. Still, receiving a birthday greeting via text message is surely different. But at least it’s cheaper than the $6.95 greeting card I refuse to buy.

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