Tim Krohn

I haven’t had many phones. I had the corded kind, sitting on a table or on the wall for much of my life.

Years after cellphones became ubiquitous I relented and bought one of the cheap flip phones. While most everyone else was swiping their smartphone screens I remained screenless, just punching in numbers to make calls.

About 12 years ago The Free Press started providing employees smartphones and I could swipe and take photos, get texts, read my work email. That’s all I needed it to do.

A week ago I picked up that old phone and the screen was displayed at an odd angle and it didn’t respond to any amount of swiping or button pressing. When I turned it in to our IT guy, Glen, he was surprised. He’d replaced all the other original phones long ago. It’d held up well after more than a decade of drops and water spills.

He gave me a new phone. I was like a kid on Christmas morning. I turned it on and a bright, crisp screen appeared. My old screen had gotten dimmer and dimmer under the scratched screen.

Apparently there have been a lot of generations of phones in the last 12 years. This one is loaded with apps and features.

My old phone had gotten quieter and quieter over the years. I’d have the volume cranked all the way up and could just hear it ring. So I set the volumes at 100% on my new one.

I was driving downtown when an extremely loud, wild noise, with a voice yelling “moto, moto” came from the phone as someone called me. I nearly crashed, grabbed the phone, then remembered the hands-free law and set it down. Now the volume’s at 50% and still plenty loud. And I found a different ringtone.

It took me two full days to figure out how to just get the phone keypad to appear. The phone icon brought me to contacts and recent calls and lots of other stuff but the old keypad symbol wasn’t obvious.

There’s lots of apps on the phone. There’s an FM radio app, but I can’t imagine wanting to listen to the radio on my phone.

There’s some app called “slides.” It says you can do slide presentations for work anywhere, even without internet! You can “collaborate with others on presentations from your Android phone. Share presentations and collaborate in the same presentation at the same time.”

I don’t really like to collaborate even when I’m at work, much less somewhere else.

I don’t use the calendar app. I don’t want dinging alerts of all the things I am supposed to get done each day. I have a paper calendar on my desk that works fine.

I doubt I’ll ever need the calculator app to do math on my phone. I have an old battery-powered calculator I like, or I figure things out on a piece of paper.

There’s an app on the phone called “hum.” The description of it makes it sound like it will do everything for your car except drive it. For a $10 a month fee it supposedly can do vehicle diagnostics. It provides a “safety score” for you by monitoring your acceleration, speed, braking and cornering.

My wife tells me when I’m driving stupid. I don’t need an app to pile on more.

Smartphones have a lot of bells and whistles, many of which seem invaluable to us and make us safer.

When you just had a telephone in your house or office you didn’t have the luxury of a road navigation system. And if you slid into the ditch on a lonely rural stretch of road in the dark of winter you could either wait and hope someone else might drive by or start walking to a farm house to call for help. It made life more interesting, I guess.

I do miss telephone operators, though.

There still are some, but I’m not sure how you get a regular phone operator anymore.

  • You used to just push “0.” I pushed “0” on my cell to see if a pleasant woman would answer and ask me how she could help. Instead I got a recording that said “for directory assistance hang up and dial 411, for difficulty in placing a call hang up and press 611, for....” and on and on.

Phones have gotten a lot better but the once-comforting “0” key just isn’t all that helpful anymore.

Tim Krohn can be contacted at tkrohn@mankatofreepress.com or 507-344-6383.

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