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Posted at 01:07 PM ET, 03/12/2012

For BlackBerry, losing D.C., the writing is on the Myspace wall


The blue light makes it look futuristic! (Chris Ratcliffe - BLOOMBERG)
I probably shouldn’t admit this, but I still have a BlackBerry.

I've been trying unsuccessfully for several months to pretend that this was not the case. I keep it in an iPhone case and address it as Siri. “Siri,” I yell, ”find me a restaurant!”

Silence ensues. ”Siri’s under the weather today,” I mutter. “She's expressing solidarity with the robot laborers at FoxConn.”

When confronted about it, I try to pretend that I’m just holding it for someone from four years ago. “He emerged from the time machine,” I mumble, “handed me this, and I didn’t see which way he went.”

When we started off together, I thought the BlackBerry was the future. But it turned out to be The Future, As We Pictured It In The 1980s — brick-shaped, with a keyboard, a trackball, and a screen that in no way responded to my touch.

Subsequent models have improved on this. But think BlackBerry and you still picture that funny rectangular object with a miniature keyboard and immobile screen.

I think my BlackBerry senses that we are on the outs. I come home too late from work and my BlackBerry is sitting there in curlers and a muumuu watching back episodes of “Law and Order.” Dinner is loading very slowly, like most thing my BlackBerry does.

”What was it this time?” it asks. It has to ask very slowly because of its limited amount of memory. “Was it an Android?”

I squint contritely.

“I knew it,” BlackBerry mutters. ”I could smell it on you.”

“It had Swype,” I point out, lamely. “Even someone with my fingers could get along on a phone with Swype.” I have giant thumbs, and, generally, if you confront me with a touch screen and ask me to type on it, I produce an unpronounceable smorgasbord of letters that causes my employer to wonder why I am inebriated at 7 in the morning.

“I have a keyboard!” BlackBerry moans, in its misery voice. ”Doesn’t that count for something?”

”I do like the keyboard,” I say. This is what I usually wind up saying in bars as well, as I run my hands over the sleek curves of Androids and iPhones. ”My BlackBerry back home has a keyboard. I don’t know what I’d do without the keyboard.” I say it over and over again, as though this will convince me. But I can sense my resolve weakening.

One morning, when I awoke to the sound of my alarm failing to go off, my BlackBerry had reset itself and deleted all my contacts. At the time I thought it was a memory glitch, but now I’m almost certain it was spite.  

But I can sense my youth slipping away. It’s a technological midlife crisis. The BlackBerry dates me. Being seen with it on my arm really sets me back.

It would be one thing if I were a hipster. I could carry a mobile phone from the Pleistocene epoch and no one would judge me. I could communicate entirely by smoke signal, and people would be awed.

But this plays into my greatest fear, the absolutely consuming modern terror that I will wake up one morning unable to understand how the most recent technology works. I do everything I can to stay informed. I lurk outside middle schools trying to see what they’re using. Should I be on Tumblr? What about Pinterest? I now appear on several registries, but it’s all worth it for the know-how. If only the BlackBerry didn’t keep blowing my cover.

I’m not the only one with this problem. Now there’s data to back things up — something my BlackBerry has routinely been unable to do.  

Once, everyone had BlackBerrys. Al Gore had one. Barack Obama had one. Arianna Huffington had, at one point, two.

D.C. was the bastion of the device.Ninety-three percent of staffers on Capitol Hill had one.

Now the numbers are plummeting. A National Journal survey found that 41 percent of Capitol Hill workers have iPhones — compared to just 13 percent two years earlier. Meanwhile, BlackBerrys are down from 93 percent to 77 percent, implying that some percentage of people who would rather not are being forced to carry around BlackBerrys for work.

Nothing consigns a technology to the Has-Bin faster than being forced to carry it around for work. Nothing says, ”This item of technology has lost its mojo” like “Ken in I.T. thinks it will be easy for the older staff, who have large fingers and are easily startled, to maneuver.”

Sure, BlackBerrys still possess certain advantages. If you drop it into a lake, say, you can revive it by leaving it in a bag of uncooked rice for several days. This is a pretty sad commentary on how cutting-edge it is. “Drop it, and it is so sturdy and brick-like that it will not break.”

Now BlackBerry is involving CollegeHumor founders to come up with a campaign that appeals to youth to “examine a misconception or myth about BlackBerry smartphones and ask participants to help correct it.” Good luck with that.

They’re about to join Palm Pilots and Myspace in the elephant graveyard of Unhip Technologies. Even D.C., land of the terminally unhip, where the same people polled about what device they used noted that they keep up with the news Because It Excites Them, Not Just For Work, is losing its grip on the things.

Like they say, the writing’s on the Myspace wall.

By  |  01:07 PM ET, 03/12/2012

Tags:  blackberry

 
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