Ode to a BlackBerry

Back in the 1990s my employer at the time took away my well-used beeper and replaced it with a new gadget called a BlackBerry, a small flat piece of plastic with a monochrome screen and a small QWERTY keyboard.

The BlackBerry had one function: To receive and send email in real time. When an email arrived, it either beeped or vibrated (depending on settings) and you could respond by typing a reply on the small keyboard with your thumbs.

For someone in the news business, the Blackberry became indispensable.  I could receive assignment changes in the field along with contact names, details, etc.  I could update editors on status.

On Sept. 11, 2001, I first learned of the terrorist attacks on the BlackBerry.  When the call load shut down both the landlines and cell phones in the DC area, I could still get messages over the BlackBerry, which came in handy as I shot pictures at the Pentagon.

Blackberries eventually morphed into “smartphones” and it became a valuable tool.  Soon, everyone in and around Washington carried one, including members of Congress and White House staff.

When I retired and Amy and I moved to Floyd in 2004, I kept using a Blackberry and people would often look at it and ask why I carried a calculator in a holster on my belt. In time, BlackBerries would appear on many belts and in many purses in the area.

When the iPhone came along, I tried one and went back to the BlackBerry.  But when the Android emerged, I finally dropped the BlackBerry and switched to the all touch-screen device I carry today.

Apparently, I wasn’t alone.  Research in Motion, the Canadian firm that owns BlackBerry, replaced its CEO recently because the company is losing market share to iPhone maker Apple and the Android phones created by Google.

RIM‘s market share has dropped 88 percent since its peak and stock prices have tumbled 75 percent.

“RIM had its era, but now it seems very hard to gain back market share in the smartphone market even if the top managers are changed,” says Mitsushige Akino, a Tokyo communications consultant. “The iPhone and Android are well established in the market.”

Two old BlackBerries sit in a drawer in the den.  Looks like they will one day be museum pieces, like my old Atari 800, Apple II and Radio Shack TRS-100 portable computer.

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