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Farewell to the phone
By Dave Winer on Thursday, September 23, 2010 at 1:14 AM.

I was re-reading a piece I wrote yesterday and focused for a minute on the picture of the telephone. permalink

A picture named phone.jpg permalink

I realized that there are now people in this world who, if you showed them that picture, would not be able to explain how it worked or maybe even what it was. Given a few more years, maybe as little as ten, and the majority of people will not know.  permalink

Then I think of relatives who are no longer with us who would have no context with which to understand my iPhone or Droid.  permalink

That Apple's hand-held communication device is called a "phone" is a total anachronism.  permalink

I've never made a phone call with the latest version, the iPhone 4, seeing it more as a camera that communicates, and a way of logging my daily bike ride.  permalink

These days the only time my Droid rings, it's either a doctor, or a robo-call for a California politician (I have a California number). permalink

There were phone "booths" in public places like airports and subways. permalink

There was something very simple and even elegant about the virtuality presented by the world wide phone network. IDs were strings of ten numbers which people memorized. In other ways it was actually quite complicated. Several people would map to a single number. There were all kinds of social conventions that went with it, like: "I'll get it!" or "She's not here now" or "Can I take a message?"  permalink

That we even have "numbers" is weird. Why haven't we switched over to text mnemonics that map to those numbers? Something like the Domain Name System for phones.  permalink

Why hasn't Google, which is supposedly an advocate for Internet standards, offered this option for their phone products? permalink

BTW, when phone numbers were new, the first two digits were represented by letters called "exchanges." permalink

This was expecially visible when I re-watched a favorite movie, Minority Report. Directed by Steven Spielberg, based on a Philip K Dick story, starring Tom Cruise, Colin Farrell and Max von Sydow. It's set in 2054. The user interface of the computer Cruise uses is now reflected in the touch interface of the iPad. Whether they got the ideas from the movie or not, I don't know.  permalink

At one point, near the end of the movie, the phone rings. It's a tiny little thing on the banquet table. A secretary picks it up, answers, and tells her boss it's an urgent call on his private line.  permalink

A picture named phoneMinorityReport.jpg permalink

Hey they got the form factor right (at least partially, it looks like a Bluetooth headset) but the social conventions they describe are long-gone. And it's only 2010. permalink

Sometimes when people say things change very fast, they're right. Some people still call the hand-held devices phones. But they're not phones. Phones are fading fast. Soon they won't exist. permalink

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