Rotary dialing: an iPhone film noir

Posted by Seamus O’Leary

Time was, telephones were for calling dames. They were gray and heavy, and sat on a desk next to a stack of papers and a paperweight.

They  had dials, round bakelite things with holes where you put your finger through to dial—yes, dial—a number. You’d move your finger around the dial till you got through all the numbers, and think about that dame as you did.

Rotary dialing: an iPhone film noirAnd when you were finished, you’d get back to whatever you were doing, like typing a report on a thing called a typewriter. And it was always a dark and stormy night.

Nowadays, all the kids are walkin’ around in fedoras, growing handlebar mustaches and wearing polyester pants, but the phones, well they’ve all got one and they all do everything, short of cooking a steak dinner.

I admit it, I’ve got an iPhone. No use sticking to a rotary when the world’s gone digital. It’s small and flat and it’s got fiddly little virtual buttons that must be made for the fingers of an 8 year old.

But the handsome little bugger can do everything you could only dream of doing with a computer not too many years ago. Ask your dame out to a steak dinner on her Facebook page. Watch a movie. Buy your prostate meds. Long as you can hit the tiny buttons, the world is at your finger tips at an instant. And it’s all instant. No more waiting for the rotation of the dial. Just bip bip bip, and there you are, asking Eunice out for a stalk donor. Damn auto-correct.

Auto-correct. Auto-install. Auto-update. It’s all automated these days. You plug your phone into iTunes and hold your breath, hoping it won’t delete half your apps. Smoke a cigarette to calm your nerves and iTunes tells you it can’t find your Dean Martin album, and, by the way, it needs to copy your books to your computer which it then deletes from your phone. It’s a dark and stormy night again, and now you’re chain-smoking.

iTunes tells you that your phone is out of date. Through a haze of smoke and error messages, you decide to upgrade your phone. Hold the phone. It’s a message from Eunice. She says you can donate your stalk to yourself. Dames. You explain about the steak dinner and she forgives you. She sends you a link from her nephew about jailbreaking your phone, and ups the ante by demanding champagne at dinner.

Hm. Looks like jailbreaking means you can save a dime or two. And do things with your phone they wouldn’t let you do in the first place. But it also means using iTunes again. When did getting on the horn get so complicated?

You plug your phone in again and follow the jailbreak instructions. Hold your breath and smoke some more. If this breaks, the phone company ain’t giving you a new one. Damn Murphy and his Law. The damn thing breaks.

No signal at all, no operator on the other end. You get on the horn to Eunice’s nephew (the other horn, the one with the rotary dial). He walks you through it as you smoke another pack of Camels. The damn thing works again, give or take an app or two.

Damn iTunes. Damn Apple. Why you oughtta... but you don’t. You thank your dame’s nephew and get back to the phone.

Looks like it works. You’re back in business. You call Eunice but get a Chinese take-out joint instead.

Damn phone.