When Facebook’s new On This Day feature was first released, I was skeptical.
“Do we really need another way to show off our narcissism to the world?”, was a question I asked a few times, early on.
Then it started growing on me, and I found usefulness in it’s time travelling capabilities.
Perhaps it’s my own narcissistic tendencies getting the best of me, but these days there is joy to be had in looking back in years past.
Eight years ago today, I bought my very first smartphone.
It was an ugly, bulky, thing, the PPC 6700, but it was beautiful to me. I got it less than a year after the original iPhone was released (before the App Store), but still 6 months before the App Store was made available in iOS 2. Android was still heavily under development and wouldn’t see the light of day until nearly the end of that year.
I felt like the cool kid on the block.
Of course, that was just the start. The Windows-powered “pocket PC” was my gateway drug. Within a few months I had upgraded to the Palm Centro. With near-perfect jelly buttons, Palm operating system, nicely hidden stylus, the solid feel in my hand, and its ability to stay alive no matter how many times I dropped it every single day (literally), this was one of my favorite phones I’ve ever had.
I still think back to it sometimes and wish I could get the exact same build of phone with some modern internal specs.
Even though the Centro was by far one of my favorite devices I’ve owned so far, I still only had it for a few months before making another big change.
In 2009, the Palm Pre was announced.
It was labelled the iPhone killer with it’s amazing new webOS operating system with multitasking features that would challenge the entire smartphone industry. It broke sales records on its release weekend, and went on to be a catalyst for smartphone innovation for years to come.
When I finally got mine, I dove head first into the incredibly passionate community of Palm Pre users that spanned the globe. I even picked up a little internet-fame with my Palm Pre Challenge, when I lived for an entire month without using any computing device for any of my tasks (including web development, blog writing, and video editing) EXCEPT for my first-gen Palm Pre.
It was quite fun, and not only did I make some great friends and connections out of this adventure (friends that are still around to this day), I also got a pretty cool job working for the Mobile Nations (then Smartphone Experts) under such fine gents as Derek Kessler and Dieter Bohn (who would go on from there to become Executive Editor at The Verge).
I built apps, traveled the country, consulted with developers, and shot videos while writing daily for an online publication that had millions of unique visitors every month. Thanks to JZ (who worked at HP and Palm), I even landed a gig as Technical Editor of Android Phones For Dummies.
I still felt like the cool kid on the block.
But then something happened, and I’m not talking about the Apotheker-pocalypse.
In 2011, I wrote an article about HP donating webOS smartphones to medical workers in Botswana to help them combat Malaria outbreaks and other diseases. This was a huge moment of excitement for me, when I got to see how impactful the technology in a smartphone could be on the lives of people suffering on the other side of the world.
And then I read some comments and tweets on that news, and my excitement waned.
People actually said that they didn’t care about how the smartphones were being used in another country, they wanted to know what was coming next for them. More app reviews, smartphone releases, and business announcements were desired, not this sensationalist piece about diseases in Africa.
From there I lost my grip. It hit me all at once – I could no longer live my life like this… controlled by a barely quarter-inch thick device that couldn’t even be celebrated when it was used to save people’s lives.
I knew that I was being harsh, that there were others who were excited by this news just as I was and that I was letting the opinions of just a few ruin my excitement. But I couldn’t help it, and it wasn’t long before I’d sold all of my devices, quit my job as a tech journalist and app developer, and went silent for a while.
8 years ago I got my first smartphone, and that quickly led to me building a career around smartphones. 4 years ago, I realized how vain it was for me to glorify modern tech and mobile devices in that way, and I gave it all up. I wrote my last article for webOS Nation on December 9th, 2011, and started my new job as a server at a new restaurant not long after.
For two years after my goodbye announcement post, I stayed away from the smartphone industry and development overall. I did very little blogging, worked at a restaurant, built a single website, got a basic flip-phone, and went silent on social media. Eventually I started down the path of becoming a barista at my favorite coffee roaster in Dayton, OH, and even started my own little coffee company so that I could learn to serve my customers better each day. It was a much needed respite from the impossibly fast-paced nature of the tech industry where I learned more about myself, my truest heart-felt desires, and my greatest skills.
Then I got back in the game, and lately I’ve been doing better than ever with bigger opportunities and smarter plans than I could have imagined back at the height of my tech and development love. All without feeling controlled by the consumer tech that I hope to use to help others.
But that’s a story for another blog post… or what’s more likely, many other blog posts. 😉
It’s good to be back. Looking forward to picking up our conversations where they were left off all those years ago.