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It can contain an entire collection of classical recordings. It contains numerous videotapes, photos, and it can provide maps and tell me the best route to take

I have a writer friend who has written an essay about his cell phone. It is an old style clamshell version and does nothing but function as a phone. Apparently some folks have chided him at times for not having a more up to date "smartphone." Consequently he has become somewhat defensive about the subject and has entitled his piece, "It's a phone, d**n it."

Unlike my friend, I have a smartphone. Not the most expensive smartphone, I'll admit, but clearly a smartphone. It has a range of features, some of which I use often, others I use from time to time, and some I use not at all.Talney

It can contain an entire collection of classical recordings, for example, which can then hook into the sound system in my car (a plug-in electric "smartcar," of course) as well as through earphones or separate speakers. It is amazing to think, for example, that I have the entire "Brahms' Requiem" at my fingertips. Or my ear-tips, as the case may be. My phone contains numerous videotapes, photos, and it can provide maps and tell me the best route to take to a certain location and if there are any traffic hazards or tie-ups along the way that I should be aware of or avoid. I have access to my computerized documents and can edit existing manuscripts, such as this one, or create some new ones. I can write poems. I can browse the Internet. I can take photos and video of my grandkids and spread them across the Internet for all to see. Even if the kids don't want me to, and even if no one else in Cyberville really wants to see them either.

A feature I use often, of course, is e-mail, both to check my account from time to time and in creating new messages or responding to e-mails received. I can also send text messages, although I do that generally only with my grandkids, as they prefer texting to e-mail. But I don't do it often enough to have developed the skillful thumb action with which they can type (I still type hunt and peck). I can take a look at my Facebook page. I, of course, have a calculator and multiple dictionaries in various languages, most of which I do not know. I can consult Google, who knows much more about the world than I do. I can orally ask it for information on the run, such as an address for a restaurant or for whom I should vote for president. There is the endless supply of games to keep my aging mind sharp. And there are many more features. In short I can access those that I find are helpful or enjoyable to me in my daily life. And ignore others.

The one feature I use seldom, however, is the phone itself. I make perhaps 3 to 4 calls per month and receive even fewer. Mostly it is a means to keep in touch with my wife or she with me, or for emergencies. Otherwise, we still have an old landline at home for most of our telephone communications. Our ongoing tie with the past.

So, for me it isn't, "It's a phone, d**n it," but more likely, "It's also a phone, d**n it." And I'm glad to have it.

I have suggested to my pal that if he really wants to recreate telephonic cell phone history and relive the good old days, he should get one of those old "bricks" we used in the early days. Now that was a cell phone. It was barely portable. But at the time, we thought it was fantastic. And it was. In its day. Who can speculate about what future generations will have to say about our smartphones of today. But they will probably be good for a laugh.

My friend would like that. But for now I even get to tell him how my new "smartwatch" can talk to my "smartphone" and vice versa, even when I am driving in my "smartcar." That'll blow his mind.

Ronald Talney writes a monthly column

for The Review.


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