What kind of phone do you have?

Sat Feb 4, 2012

I was reading an interview with Limor Fried, the alpha-geek who founded the DIY electronics company Adafruit Industries, when I was struck by one of her answers:

What kind of phone do you have?

I do not own a cell phone; however, I have designed a cell-phone jammer.

Limor’s response was intriguing to me because of its dichotomy between technological know-how and an anti-technology stance. Here is an ubergeek who could reverse engineer a cellphone, yet who claims not to own one.

Yet, if you think about it, why is there this lust in our consumer culture for phones? Granted, it makes life easier for a lot of people, but there’s more to it.

Some people feel a sense of shame if they don’t own a cellphone. Or even more telling, a twinge of embarrassment if they own a cellphone, but not a smartphone. Look at the poor kid who digs out a quarter and makes a furtive call on the payphone in the mall. The mom who cries inside because the other yummy mummies are tracking their kids’ progress on their iPhone apps while she scrawls in a scruffy notebook. And God help you if you’re a phoneless geek.

Perhaps it is not Limor’s answer which is unsettling, but the question itself. What kind of society have we become when the question that measures geek cred is “What kind of phone do you have?”

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