Today, we mourn a friend, for approximately fifteen minutes.
Why so short a moment of time? You see, this person hasn’t died yet. But “a promise is a promise” or so says King Mongkut.
Set the way back machine to somewhere around 2000, give or take a year. Definitely after 1998 – of that I am certain. Witness a [weekly] gather of friends gathering in a backyard. Its summer-ish time in Shelton, Connecticut.
The company I was working for was at the time was trying to be one of the first Wireless Independent Software Vendors for the growing PDA market. Yes, there was a mobile industry before the iPhone and the Apple App Store. In fact, Verizon with the BREW marketplace built the app store blueprint that Apple followed, right down to a submission and certification pipeline that all iOS developers use today. Anyway, because of the growing market – and “the power of the wireless web” – I was tasked with putting real-time stock data on as many devices as possible. Part of the job I was tasked with included putting hands on Palm devices – namely the V and VII – and the Handheld or Palm-sized PC’s that were beginning to show up and a set of RIM’s two-way pagers, trying these devices in the wilds of rural CT.
On this weekend night, I remember passing around one of the PDA that I had decide to use as a personal digital assistant rather than just a quote screen. Back then I hardly ever used a calendar to schedule things or a contact list. I remembered phone numbers and had far less meetings to keep track of. The biggest let down of this experiment in organizing my contacts and schedule was that even though I took the time to put all my information into the PDA, I quickly learned that if I didn’t look at the damned thing, both the PDA and data entry was useless. So I started carrying around the Palm everywhere, and using it to keep track of my so-called life.
Thus began the conversation so long ago on that summer night. Jimmy – the person we will be mourning today – was mocking my PDA before he suddenly and unexpectedly turned into a modern day prophet on a number of different topics. Maybe it was the full moon. Maybe it was because it was so still light out at 10pm. Maybe it was because I was claiming that GM owes me a honkin’ royalty check for the use of the name Saturn for a product line. Personally, what I believe set things off was my statement that PDA’s would be in everyone’s pockets in a year or two.
Do you remember the Palm V? It was pretty much the same length and thickness as the original iPhone; the width was about a half inch wider. Given the size increases that we’ve seen in handsets since 2007, I think it’s safe to say that people are more than willing to carry “large” hardware in their pockets, if it does something for them. Even I never thought someone would want to carry an iPhone + sized device in their pocket; at the time, I was smitten with the Sony Ericsson T68i, because it was soooooo tiny.
Jimmy went in the opposite direction, telling us that the human mind – or something else and different – would replace computers by 2022 [I think]. While I think the human mind has gotten worse in terms of capacity and logic, given the way the 2016 election season is shaping up, he may have tapped onto something. Quantum computing is hardly computers as we currently know them. Nanobots could easily stitch a neural network of logic that would blow away the current level of computing. Maybe that “something else” is coming in the next six years.
As the conversation devolved into various degrees of vulgarity, it came to light that Jim’s mood ruined that night because of some life expectancy quiz he took on the Internet. While we tried to convince him that there’s no science behind such pages – citing the “horoscope” page that told everyone they would die in an hour – he was still convinced that the quiz was legitimate and that he would die on Feb-9, 2016 at 9:44am EST. Remember, that this was back in the days before service-side code could do a lot and when you pushed that red button for a free fortune it brought everyone to the same page that told you that you would die within an hour, so for a page to pass you a date would be… well, almost as ridiculous, but not quite as ridiculous.
Since he was so sure of the date, and I was getting my calendar organized, I immediately put this future date in my PDA. When I showed him that I would keep the mourning to a reasonable level, since the 9th would be a work day, I don’t believe he appreciated my efficient use of time. Since that night, I’ve moved across three time zones, but software seamless adjusted my calendar accordingly. And when the Palm V eventually replaced with the first of a bunch of difference hardware, including Pocket PC’s, Windows Mobile Smartphones, and a bevy of iDevices, my calendar stayed in sync. Through at least thirty OS versions and upgrades, across dozens of application varieties, from monochrome to rich color touchscreens, my calendar went with me.
Which brings us to today: February 9, 2016 at 9:44 EST, where I have a 15 minute slot I can happily free up, since Jimmy is still very much alive, debunking an Internet survey that upset him so many years ago.
And yes, Jim: Saturn is still mine.