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Of Carbon and Silicon
Sunday, 20 March 2011
Ah, so THIS is what the 21st century looks like...

Some time ago, I was debating whether or not I should replace my long-dead mobile phone with an iPhone, a Droid, or a BlackBerry. Well, it turns out that I didn't go with any of the above. I tried out several demonstration mobiles at the local electronics purveyor and discovered that, as per usual, I was woefully misinformed as to the performance of three finalists versus the other smartphones on the market. Whilst it was neck-and-neck at times between the Droid X and the HTC Incredible, the Samsung Fascinate edged out ahead of the competition once they were in sight of the post. Leaving the horse-racing metaphors in the proverbial dust, I ultimately chose the Samsung Fascinate. I liked its archetypal "smartphone" shape -- not as sharp as the Droid X, not as round as the iPhone. The virtual keyboard with Swype was a nice touch, too... stops one accidentally butt-dialing Pantsburg, don't you know.

As with any new gadget, the learning curve was somewhat high upon its triumphant emergence from the box. Particularly Swype... for a man who has spent the past seven years of his life tapping impossibly tiny virtual keyboard keys on the Touch Screen of a Nintendo DS, Swype is the greatest invention since ROM cartridges. One simply draws one's finger across the keyboard, trailing a path through the letters one wishes to type, then as though by magic, the word appears in the text field. I do have an idea of how Swype does what it does, but I shan't bore you.

Now, this may seem hard to believe, but I have just turned 23 and have never sent a text message. I was in high school when texting became the institution that it is today... I always saw people (girls, mainly) walking about the grounds, writing something with their mobile keypads that probably contained at least one instance of "lol", "omg", or "cu l8r". On one occasion, I thought that I should like to send a text message and receive a reply, however texting does tend to cost money -- something which does not come in great abundance.
But, I figured that, if I am to move up in the world, I'll need texting ability. To that end, my new plan involves unlimited texting for an actually very reasonable price. So, yesterday, after the mobile had completely finished charging, I sent my first ever text message -- it was to my cousin in Alaska. I actually don't know if his plan includes texting, but we shall find out soon enough, yes?
After all, I might become a really popular bloke one day -- one who needs a 21st century way to communicate things in a short period of time. Texting is the way to do that.

I recall my mother telling me, on the eve of January 1st, 2000, how her generation had been promised such things as jetpacks, flying cars, colonies on the moon, and visophones by 2000. Well, it's a bit delayed, but the smartphone with Skype functionality is, for all intents and purposes, a "visophone" (that is, a video-phone -- kind of like the viewscreens on Star Trek). Thanks to incessant congressional lobbying by various groups who like their money and dislike any kind of change in automotive manufacture, flying cars proved impossible. And, thanks to a near total cut of any aerospace research funding by the United States government, colonies on the moon are no longer in the stars, either. However, all is not lost...

On various occasions, I've mentioned "Trek Tech" -- technological advances with roots in Star Trek. One of the most influential pieces of fictional technology from the series has been the PADD (personal access data display), which was first introduced in The Next Generation. PADDs could display anything -- warp core schematics, security protocols, duty rosters, scripts for a stage-play, the works of Shakespeare, what-have-you. The smartphone is a real-life iteration of the PADD. But, it's also similar to the communicator and the tricorder. The communicator, obviously, is in the telephony (they are "smartphones"). The tricorder was notorious for being the almighty, omnicient data storage and scanning device that could do anything Gene Roddenberry wanted it to do. That's what apps are for... perusing the Android Market (analogous to Apple's App Store), I, personally, came across speech-recognition language translators, remote keyboards and mice for PCs, phone locators and lockouts which can be remotely activated by calling the app's special number on any land-line, the same but activated by e-mail, satellite locators with augmented reality... and, of course, your standard Foursquare, MySpace, Pandora, and Angry Birds. Soon enough, the smart-phone will rival the tricorder, if not surpassing its abilities.

I've downloaded two apps so far, both of them were free. Perhaps you've heard of them... the first is called "SoundHound", which advertises itself as the world's only viable song identifier to support whistling, humming, and singing. I haven't had an opportunity to test it yet, but I intend to put it through its paces at the Chinese buffet tomorrow (I could swear they were playing an "Orientalised" version of Thunderball the last time I was there).
The second is called... something. I know it has the word "Piano" in it. Anyway, it functions as a small MIDI-based piano with 3-note polyphony. The feedback was mixed -- some claiming it to be a waste of time, others claiming that it is a great teaching tool. Me, I plan to use it strictly for composing purposes. If I'm ever at a location where there is not an actual piano, I'll be able to use the piano app to help me write music. I rather need to see the keyboard in order to assign musical notes.

I intend to post the following feedback message to Verizon's webpage for the Fascinate...

It's your typical smartphone. It looks nifty, costs less than competitors, and does everything you'd expect a smartphone to do. The camera's nice, too.

Posted by theniftyperson at 1:08 AM CDT
Updated: Tuesday, 29 March 2011 12:45 AM CDT

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