A Real Smart Phone

The subject of this matter comes with a little screen that announces the time, date, and how many calls you missed (if you care). It flashes names of people calling, so don't answer if you want to avoid the guy selling the latest Caribbean trip or a new vacuum cleaner.

In case you've forgotten the phone numbers of everyone you ever knew or likely will ever know, it remembers them for you. If you're too lazy to lift the receiver and then dial a number, just punch the number on the keyboard and lift the receiver--the little guy inside dials for you. Impressive feature: the screen tells you how long you've been talking on a phone call (useful with certain people).

All these things you get in a small item with legible white on black numbers that warms a corner of your desk.

This phone for me is a recent acquisition, brought on by wanting to replace a phone nearly two decades old (I had actually saved the invoice from a Manhattan store that long since bit the dust). The truth is that the old pal was still taking calls and messages and even sending faxes, in one piece of equipment (the kind no one makes today). Then why did I want to ship it out?

That was sort of unintended. I went browsing one day in a huge electronics store uptown, thinking of a new printer, when I spotted a phone so cute that it gave me reason to make inquiries of a good-looking salesman nearby. Jonathan, the salesman, pointed out all the features mentioned above and cheerfully added that with the phone I would get two handsets. (I had seen such things but never had one.) While I appreciate their usefulness if you live in a house and want to talk while in your sub-basement, needing a portable phone (or two!) in a one-bedroom apartment sounded really ostentatious. Still, Jonathan pointed out (as if I should have known) that handsets come with just about all phones today (that aren't already handsets).

Jonathan asked why I was shopping for a new phone and looked nearly incredulous when I reported that it was because I was thinking of giving up one nearly 20 years old--about as old as he is.

With the new phone at home, I started several hours of studying the Operating Instructions, a booklet of 77 pages not including those in Spanish. I figured I could skip the most mysterious looking data and concentrate on learning how to list all those friends, how to turn the phone to silent (nice idea), how to block unwanted callers (nicer idea), and how to connect the phone to a cell phone (which I'll likely never do). I discovered that the handsets' screens produce the same information that's on the daddy phone, a fact that seems really impressive but one more that I should have already known so I've pretended not to be surprised.

As I said, my original reason for visiting the store was to look for a new printer. The phone accomplishes all the listed attributes, but I found a printer that can claim plenty for itself. So I ended up going home with the new printer and the new phone, the phone, though not even half its size, being as expensive as the printer. Learning curve for the printer is still going on.

If I were in the naming game I'd call the new phone a smart phone, but another guy got that name first. It and the printer are joined by wires underneath my desk, so I'll name them smart brothers. If they last 20 years, they'll prove how smart they really have been.

Stanley Ely writes about getting accustomed to today's world of gadgets in his book, "Life Up Close" in paperback and ebook.