Wistful, but not wanting, over BlackBerry's decline

Some days I still miss it.

How thrilling it was when it was new. How liberating. How captivating, fascinating, magical, demanding. So demanding that sometimes I felt stalked.

And still I loved it.

The world wasn't as complicated then, of course, and my needs, too, were simpler. Back then, I didn't even know all the desires I'd apparently been suppressing: the desire for constant contact, the desire for incessant affirmation and stimulation, the relentless desire for novelty.

It opened up those desires in me, back before I understood that one desire leads to another and pretty soon I'd want more than it could deliver.

No. No. In that simpler time, I merely loved it, my little BlackBerry.

Until I didn't love it anymore.

You know how it goes. Everything new eventually grows old. Stops seeming special. Starts to annoy. You start to want the next hot thing, the thing other people have and flaunt, the thing that will entertain you more.

So I got rid of my BlackBerry, only to discover, as the old song says, that you don't know what you've got till it's gone.

"I miss it," I said to a friend the other day. "Kind of. Not enough to want it back. But still."

"I feel the same way," she said.

We sighed. And talked for a while about the good old days, back when the BlackBerry was all we needed.

Why, we wondered, had we been so eager to replace our BlackBerrys? Sure, they were all work and no play, but what did we get in exchange?

Ugly Androids that didn't improve our lives nearly as much as we'd imagined and, in fact, annoy us in whole new ways. With an Android in our pocket, there is no escape from anything ever.

And so we look back fondly to our BlackBerry days, the way you might remember that stick-shift car that you wouldn't want to drive again but remember tenderly because it represents a younger, simpler you.

Such BlackBerry nostalgia seems to be creeping up in various places. It's not nostalgia that will spur the smartphone masses to return to their BlackBerrys, merely the kind of retrospection that comes with the news that something that once traveled through life with you seems ready to expire.

"BlackBerry's days as a mobile device maker are likely numbered," one news account predicted this week. Other reports use the kinder term "ailing."

Whatever term you use, the BlackBerry as we knew it doesn't appear long for this world.

The other night as I listened to a newscast about the latest effort to save the BlackBerry — a buyout by some Canadian investors — the news crew couldn't resist recalling, in the tone of a eulogy, their own early encounters with the gadget that put the "smart" in "smartphone."

Remember the term "CrackBerry?" one of them said, and they laughed. Ha ha ha.

I remembered. CrackBerry. A joke, an insult, a term of endearment, proof of the BlackBerry's addictive power, so clever before it was cliche.

And so 2007. In smartphone time, 2007 may as well be B.C.

A mere four years ago, way back in 2009, almost half the smartphones in the United States were BlackBerrys. A report released in August showed BlackBerry's current share a hair below 3 percent. Its newest model, released this year, sank like a phone wearing cement boots.

So, yes, BlackBerry is the phone we loved, then loved to hate, then abandoned. What modern person wanted a BlackBerry when you needed a smartphone to watch "Game of Thrones" while you were waiting for the bus?

Owning a BlackBerry came to feel like wearing a mullet. Time for a makeover, dude, fast.

And yet I still see BlackBerrys here and there, and when I do, regret washes over me briefly, like the wistful sun of late September.

In the right light, that baby still looks good.

But with smartphones, as in other matters of love, life tends to be a one-way road, no turning back.

mschmich@tribune.com

CHICAGO

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