Manage episode 293937448 series 2912258
The year was 1987. I was on a 9 day 10 city road trip covering the first visit to the U-S by the wonderful Pope John Paul for CBS News.
All sorts of interesting things happened on that trip. I was blessed by the Pope many times as he celebrated mass in Miami, New Orleans, San Francisco and 7 other cities. On a pre-dawn assignment to meet The Pope in Monterey, I met the then Mayor of Carmel Ca, Clint Eastwood, who smiled when I suggested his next film could be Dirty Harry meets The Pope, a Miami thunderstorm drenched our equipment and caused me to miss the charter flight to New Orleans. I watched a Jesuit priest hired as a Papal Sermon Consultant do his best to shatter the TWA record for the number of inflight Bloody Mary's consumed in 2 hours. But the most interesting thing about that assignment was seeing my first cellular phone. It was about the size of a loaf of bread, had battery life measured in minutes, and was the latest equipment for TV producers to reach the NY News desk right from the airplane. Amazing.
Now, of course, cell phones are not bulky and rare. They are tiny and ubiquitous, and we’re told they are addictive to the point of being dangerous.
It may never prove as deadly as tobacco or as physically addictive as crack cocaine, but make no mistake about it, play with your iphone, android or tablet long enough and you will most certainly incur a nasty social disease, one that even an i-condom might not prevent. I’m talking about digital device disease. Somewhere in the 80’s tired of lugging quarters and sneaking into telephone booths some overseas researchers came up with a couple of good ideas. The basic idea was a cellular telephone that allowed one to have a brief conversation, untethered by wires or the need to keep dropping coins into a box or reciting a long credit card number.
Soon some other researchers, these folks up in canada, did the cell phone one better. They made it smaller allowing it to fit in the palm of your hand. And they added a few must have features like a calendar and text messaging and before long, all masters of the business universe needed these palm pilots. Which gave way to the blackberry, the iphone and the android. The prices became more affordable. The amazing technology more common and soon everyone, even the homeless are wired. And not just for a chance to make or receive a call. Our phones have become our addictive little boxes. We don’t snort or guzzle or smoke them but they are just as addicting. Go anywhere; an airport, a meeting room, a restaurant and look around the room.
The joy of good conversation and the exhilaration that comes from a fine exchange of ideas are hard to find as almost all of us have become addicts looking for the next information fix from google, news nugget from twitter, selfie from someone who claims to be somewhere cool or important and are convinced you care. These devices are driving us to distraction and away from human interaction. There's an app for everything, all kinds of entertainment, games, music, helpful advice. Something for everyone and thousands more waiting to be discovered and like a drunk drying out, a lost, stolen or broken device brings on the d-t’s. Digital torture. The phones and tablets have for many replaced the still and video cameras. My wife and son won’t go around the block, unless the trip is mapped out by Siri or google, so no one asks for directions any more and I can’t tell you the last time I saw road map in a gas station.
I don’t know how we break our habit. Not sure if there’s rehab after the last reboot, but recently driving through the plains of Wyoming, miles from the nearest town I saw something beautiful. A real, old time phone booth. I snapped a selfie with it. Then I asked Siri to tell me exactly where I was. Some habits die hard.