Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Mobile Masti

Two fun stories that happened recently to do with mobile phones:
  1. I was in Baroda for Raksha Bandhan and was driving in a rickshaw with my Masi. In the middle of the ride we pulled over so Masi could run an errand in the area we were passing through. While we waited the rickshaw driver and I got to talking, and through our conversation he sensed that (a) I was a guy who he could ask for help; and (b) I knew something about cell phones (no, I didn't tell him about my project, but yes, I was twirling a big fat Nokia in my hand as we did guppa). So he says, "My mobile phone doesn't display the clock on the top screen. Can you set it up for me?" Sure, I say, how hard could that be? As it turned out, pretty damn hard. First, his flame orange Nokia was missing the buttons for the soft keys so I had to push the little sensors to navigate. Also for some reason the phone kept saying the camera was using up all the memory so there wasn't enough to let me get into the menu. The phone didn't even have a camera.

    Anyway after about 15 min of solid fiddling, I thought I had fixed it. But when I handed it to him he looked at it and then immediately put it away. He told me it still wasn't working. What?!? Turns out I fixed it so the clock showed up when the phone's keypad was unlocked only; when locked, the clock disappeared. That's just impossible, so I spent another 10 min figuring out the problem. Actually I don't know what the problem was, but it started working once I powered the phone down and back on. I handed the phone to him with a feeling of deep satisfaction. He glanced at the phone and then quickly put it away.

  2. I taught my Ba (a.k.a. dadi, grandmother) how to use a cell phone! I had gotten her one for the times she was out and may need to get into contact with someone. Teaching her to use it was a fantastic bonding experience. All told she learned the basics in about half an hour. The first order of business was to choose a ringtone for her. I wasn't that happy with any of the built-in Nokia tones, but I ended up settling on Samba. Ba was down.

    At the outset I assumed that I would just program the 8 speed dial slots and she would manage to use the phone to dial just those numbers. But before long it became abundantly clear the Ba could easily grasp the concept of a contact list. So I ditched speed dial and went into an explanation about how to browse contacts and call. It's interesting to teach something so committed to your own muscle memory, because you have to break down every component: "Press the arrow to get into the list. Press the arrow again to scroll to the next contact. Notice that it's in alphabetic order. Once you get to the person you want to call, press the middle button on the phone. If a number is in your contact list, when they call you their name will show up on the screen; otherwise just the number will show up." And so on.

    After contact list I taught her how to accept a call, power the phone on/off, and clear the screen to go to the main menu screen. Teaching the last item was cool. Since I had no words for "clear" or "main menu" in Gujarati, I ended up just using those words. But she totally got the abstract concept of top-level screen.

    Ba was a pro by the end. She was a really eager student, which made a difference. My favorite part of teaching her was once we were done, and we were sitting and talking about something else. All of a sudden she would change the subject back to the phone by saying something like, "So to accept the call, I press the middle button, right?" She kept going back in her mind and quizzing herself to make sure she had learned it properly. It's going to be fun calling her on the phone for the first time.


  1. This is fantastic! Bha learning the mobile phone! Totally something you would do...on another note, why are the mobile phones so technologically messed up in india and complicated to use?

  2. dude you had me cracking up! great to hear the stories bro ...


  3. Dude... Ba knows how to use the mobile better than I do!