2012.09.05 My iPad is chasing Siri

Written by David Green.

By DAVID GREEN

I read that three-fourths of Americans age 43 and under use a smartphone. Even with the 12 to 64 age group—yes, I’m still included—the figure still stands at 58 percent.

I’m behind the times. I don’t even have a dumb phone. In fact, in the back of the Observer office we have a dial phone, as in “Dial this number.” It’s just there for fun, but apparently it’s fun enough that I left it in place after a power outage a few years ago.

Here’s my odd admission: I don’t own a cell phone. I just don’t yet have the desire to get one. I see people walking along the sidewalk reading messages. I’ve seen people send messages while bicycling. I see people passing by in cars talking away to someone. I watch people get calls in the restaurant. People come into the office and their phone starts ringing.

It all just looks horrible to me. I don’t want to get a phone call wherever I am at any time. Just leave me be. The unsociable side of me comes out.

I’ve taken my wife’s phone with me a couple of times when I’ve made a long journey. The state track meet, wrestling finals—she insists, so I take it and I’ve successfully completed two or three calls. I’ve also successfully called the wrong person a time or two.

It’s not that I’m unable to learn how to use it; I just don’t try. No interest.

I heard a message come through this morning on her phone while she was still asleep so I took a look and only managed to do two things: lock the keypad and start calling someone. I apologize, Kym Ries, if I woke you up early Sunday morning. Maybe I was able to cancel it in time.

I’m not a technology-hating Luddite and I’m not technology dumb. I can probably answer your questions about Macintosh computers and I can show you how to use your iPad. Many friends and acquaintances don’t know I own an iPad because the first thing I did when I bought it was to disable the e-mail signature that reads “Sent from my iPad.” You don’t have to know that, just like you don’t have to be able to call me on the phone when I’m walking in the woods.

I did become somewhat of a mobile user for a weekend in Savannah a few months ago. I bought 3G service for a month so I could sort of turn my iPad into an iPhone and use it anywhere. That ended when I returned to Morenci. No 3G out here in the hinterlands. 

I suppose I have a little iPhone envy because every time I see an advertisement on the back of a magazine where Apple’s “personal assistant,” Siri, is asked to locate the nearest latté, I go to my iPad, and ask the question to Dragon Go!, but it doesn’t understand.

It thinks I asked “Where can I get a lottery?”

I try again but it comes through “Where can I get a lot today?”

Wait, I can do better.

“Where is the nearest gas station?”

Dragon Go! tells me it’s the Morenci Deli. Very good.

Here’s another iPhone ad: “What does poison oak look like?”

Dragon Go! takes me one click away from a photo. Take that, Siri.

Another iPhone ad: “Am I close to the Central Park Zoo?”

Even Dragon Go! knows that’s a silly question.

Here’s another ad that looks like trouble. “What does my day look like?”

Now that was cruel. It took me to an advertisement for an iPhone.

Let’s get a little more practical. “When does the Waldron Labor Day Festival start?” I should drive over today for photos.

Dragon Go! takes me to a link for the Hillsdale newspaper and that answered my question. The second link listed is for the State Line Observer. It took me right to the story—to an old story, that is. Probably from last year.

It becomes obvious that I haven’t yet jumped over the digital hurdle. I can get over it, but my foot is dragging and I get tripped up every time. It’s not that I don’t understand, but that I don’t want to understand. I’m still in the mind-set that I don’t want to give all my newspaper news away for free on the internet. My website is about one month behind the newspaper. Everything is going mobile and fast, but I still have that dial telephone.

I should bring some young kids into the office and see if they can figure out how to use that old phone. I’m sure it would be a mystery—and no fair asking Siri. 

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