A few months ago, I participated in an accessible technology study where, for two hours in a tiny, windowless back office, I schlepped my fingers around a touch screen trying to set up an email address and read an ebook. Even though there was a screenreader, it was still difficult for me. I re-typed and deleted, and everything I touched seemed to whisk me away to somewhere else, never where I wanted to be. It seemed like the technological universe was trying to tell me something. Get with the touch screen program, Lauren. It’s not 1965 any more.

When I bought my Samsung, about two and a half years ago, it was the last phone in the store with a physical keyboard. Everything else was touch screen operated. That made the choice of what phone to get an easy one, but did not bode well for the future I had hoped for, where there would always be a physical QWERTY keyboard with physical buttons.

The accessibility study was the kick I needed to get myself an iPhone. Since I was due for a “free” upgrade anyway, and since I’m unemployed so ostensibly have nothing else to do, (except grad school), I took myself on an Iphone acquiring date.

The guy who helped me tried, right off the bat, to sell me a case. I was fairly amenable to this, because I have a history of, somehow, cracking my Ipod screens irreparably. Still, I let him give me the pitch anyway.

“Do you drop your phone a lot?”

“Not really.”

“Have you ever gotten it wet?”

“Hmm. No, not noticeably.”

“Well, if you bought this case, you could drop it in the sink and it would be fine. Heck, you could throw it across the street if you wanted to and it wouldn’t break.”

I wondered why anyone would be so ridiculous as to throw their phone across the street, but still, I got the case anyway.

And, a few days later, I realized why some perfectly un-ridiculous person might, in fact, throw this phone across the street.

Before I figured out how to “fix the orientation” of the phone, the keyboard wobbled all over the place. I’d be merrily typing along, and suddenly the phone would make a little “whoop” noise and the keyboard would slither to the other side of the screen. If I physically turned the screen to catch up with the keyboard, it would slither somewhere else. I finally started Googling and learned about the two “modes” of the phone, landscape and portrait, which, as far as I can tell, have to do with how the icons on the screen arrange themselves to fit the space allotted on the screen. (Or something. … Oh, hell, I don’t really know what it means.)

I finally figured out how to lock the phone in portrait mode so that there is no more keyboard slithering. But it still takes me several minutes to write a short text message. To text, I slide my finger around the keyboard and listen for the letter I want, then tap it. Sometimes, I’ve heard so many letters that I forget where I am in the word I’m typing. Or, I forget what the word I’m typing is. Or the whole message, I have no idea what I’m doing, who the message is for, what day it is, what city I’m in. The only logical thing to do, at this point, would be to throw the phone across the street. If I could find the street.

It’ll get better. Right? In the meantime, if you feel like the texts I’m sending you are uncharacteristically grumpy, (even for me), it’s not you, it’s the phone.

One thought on “The State of Technology

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