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Telephones in the modern era

My first experience with a cellphone was while staying in a Bedouin tent in the Judean desert. It was at a time when Maaleh Adomim, a large Jewish settlement, was encroaching on Bedouin who had lived in the area since they were ethnically cleansed 40 years ago from the Negev desert. In order to protect them from sudden evacuation, activists maintained a nightly presence. If the security forces or bulldozers happened to show up, we were supposed to call a list of numbers, and for that purpose we were given a cell phone – a heavy Motorola device that was about as heavy as a brick, but larger.

When the security forces and bulldozers eventually did come to demolish their makeshift encampment, it was on someone else's watch. Sometime in the mid 1990s, cellphones began to be affordable and we purchased another Motorola – much smaller, though still massive by today's standards. It was possible to receive calls but only to call our home number. From that time on, cellphones have been passing through our household with ever increasing frequency and the drawers of bedside tables are filled with a tangled mass of old chargers, cords, face panels and holsters.

Young people, in particular, seem to replace their phones at a high rate – not because they hanker after the latest models, but simply because the devices break so easily. Every two or three weeks, someone in the family is back at the service labs of the cell phone company, getting a phone replaced after its screen went blank, its ring tone stopped functioning or battery died permanently. The smarter and more sophisticated the phone, the more easily it is broken.

That probably explains why I have so few problems. My phones tend to be old fashioned and featureless. I've had the current one about three years, and nothing has ever gone wrong with it. On the other hand, I don't use it that often. Sometimes I even forget it somewhere in the house until its battery discharges and I can no longer find it by calling myself.

So today I was reading Dave Winer's piece about how the new Motorola Droid sucks, and I have to agree with him. I've never seen a Droid – it will probably be months or years before it ever makes it to Israel - but he's surely right. For, as he says, "Today's phones are marvels of technology. I love them. But they all suck."

Not only did the Droid not make it to Israel, but the Iphone isn't really here yet, either. All three cellular providers are expected to introduce it soon, at who knows what exorbitant fees. I didn't wait for the Iphone. I have an Ipod Touch, which didn't come with any service agreement and costs nothing to use. I like my Ipod very much. Since I'm usually close to wifi, it has everything I want. I've wrapped it up in a double silicone case with screen cover, because intuition tells me that these wonders are fragile and ephemeral.