Trade you my CDMA phone for a brick

Half of Mt Eden must think I'm completely barmy. A couple of Saturday mornings ago I was seen driving through the Mt Eden village, hammering on my car's dash with my cellphone and yelling very unpleasant things.

Half of Mt Eden must think I’m completely barmy. A couple of Saturday mornings ago I was seen driving through the Mt Eden village (which for those who don't know is pretty much in the middle of the Auckland isthmus), hammering on my car’s dash with my cellphone and yelling very unpleasant things.

While I was stopped at the lights, patrons in Fraser’s cafe looked the other way, crossing pedestrians gave the front of my car a wide berth and other motorists left plenty of space between their cars and mine lest they got dragged into whatever it was (presumably road rage) I was in the middle of.

So what was it that drove this normally laid-back, articulate IT manager to throw such a spectacular hissy fit in a public place?

My phone. A couple of weeks ago I was presented with one of Telecom’s whizzy new Kyocera CDMA phones. It’s a really snazzy little beastie. It does all the usual phone stuff. It does data so I can shift stuff between my desktop and my Palm Pilot from just about anywhere. It’s got a WAP browser so I can check the weather before I go fishing and do all those other important work-related things.

The problem was that on this particular Saturday morning my phone wasn’t even doing the basics right. Every time I tried to answer a call it’d just cut the call off. Again and again this happened. My wife was trying to call me to remind me to buy pate or something. My son was trying to call me to remind me that his ballet class had finished. Every time they got cut off they’d try to call back. Every time I tried to call them, they’d call me and then they’d get cut off again.

It was a really ugly scene. Eventually, somewhere in the middle of throwing my wobbly, I tore the battery off the back of the infernal device. Once I’d calmed down and replaced it the damned thing worked just fine.

I couldn’t figure this out so I took it into our hardware supplier who sent it away for testing. It came back and it turns out that the phone – in spite of being beaten mercilessly against my dash – is just fine. Apparently there is some bug (in CDMA or in the phones, I’m not sure which) that occasionally causes the Kyocera phones to do this. Once they start doing it, the only way to fix it is a “hard reset” (that is, take the battery off, put it back on and power up again). Sounds awfully like the bad old days of PCs regularly needing the three-finger salute (Alt-Ctrl-Delete) to bring them back to their senses.

Why can’t we have technology that just works? Having a cellphone that does a zillion other things is all well and good but if it’s to the detriment of its primary function (that is, allowing me to talk to people) then I’d just as soon go back to one of those trusty old bricks.

Swanson is IT manager at W Stevenson & Sons. Send email to Jim Swanson. Send letters for publication to Computerworld Letters.

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