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To Our Readers

By John Flanagan

Saturday, June 17, 2000

The complexities
of convergence

MY new 21st-century telephone arrived this week. Naturally, I immediately retired my old cell phone. Once considered hi-tech, the old Motorola "flip phone" is now hopelessly outdated -- an analog artifact in a digital age.

I felt no pang of regret when I retired my phone. It had developed an annoying trait recently, turning itself off in the middle of conversations. The problem actually wasn't the phone itself, but the power cord that connected it to the cigarette-lighter outlet in my car. The connector became loose and the phone would unplug itself at will -- usually just as I reached the central point of any conversation.

Leaping forward, if not onto technology's cutting edge at least into its current generation, has been a mixed blessing. Telephones just used to make phone calls. Period. Now they act as voice mailboxes, web browsers, vibrating pagers, emailers, address books, call forwarders, alarm clocks, etc.

When I was a kid, a new phone came with a little, round cardboard insert for the center of the dial with a four-digit phone number typed on it. That was all you needed to know. My new Nokia has an instruction manual thicker than my Palm Pilot.

I have been unable to absorb much of that manual yet. Appliance designers used to try to limit themselves to maybe two knobs and a switch per device. For example, my mom's '57 Volkswagen had two knobs, a couple of levers and three pedals.

Converging technologies spawn complexity: alpha-numeric keypads, menus, directories, options, options, options. It's nice to know the new stuff is so capable, but one soon has a deeper understanding of why so many VCRs are perpetually blinking 12:00 PM.

Today your television, radio, computer, checkbook, telephone, file cabinet, greeting card, shopping cart, research library, stereo system, Gameboy, sketchbook, newspaper, photo album, VCR, travel agent and post office are all fast becoming one and the same device. Pick your size, shape, color and price and give us a call -- if you can figure out how.

John Flanagan is editor and publisher of the Star-Bulletin.
To reach him call 525-8612, fax to 523-8509, send
e-mail to or write to
P.O. Box 3080, Honolulu, Hawaii 96802.

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