Sarah Sands: My BlackBerry lights up the whole world

It has been years since I have had to shout up the stairs to children that their friends are on the phone
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The Independent Online

When BlackBerry users talked of losing communication for three days, this was not strictly true. In some ways, it was a rebirth for communication. We were forced to speak to each other. A post-BBB( BlackBerry Blackout) tweet recorded the agony of having to pay attention throughout an entire office meeting. We stopped crashing into each other in the street. The experience was profoundly disorientating, and the pain and disgust were fully communicated to the CEO, Mike Lazaridis, who made a public apology so abject that even the Japanese might have considered it over the top.

What made the business unendurable was the tormenting complacency of iPhone users. We both know the terms of the deal. They have their Made in Chelsea style accessories. We do business. But suddenly all the Caggie Dunlops were mocking us for being both unglamorous and buggered. Plus, it turns out that the BlackBerry server headquarters is in Slough.

The insults may not be in the Galliano league but they hurt. "Hi, I'm an iPhone user. Just saying. Bye, lol." A furious BB owner responded: "iPhones are for children. Go play angry birds and take your pulse with your stupid phone."

I cannot pretend to have forfeited deals or lost friends as a result of the blackout. I waited in a coffee shop to meet someone whose BlackBerry calendar had gone down. My only worthwhile tweet, having seen Claudio Abbado at the Royal Festival Hall, travelled nowhere. And that was about it. If the distance between home computer and office computer felt like a Sahara, it was actually only half a mile. For some, the blackout must have been a huge relief. Liam Fox comes to mind.

But others considered the matter a profound personal injury. The genius of the new technologists is that they made us dependent on something we never knew we needed. We have forgotten life before technology, yet there was indeed a primitive existence where you phoned someone's home or office if you wanted to reach them and spent the remaining hours of the day in purdah.

I remember being at the races with a former editor of the Evening Standard (life has changed in many other ways) when John Major resigned. I was the only person there with an early mobile phone, and journalists and their guests in their finery crowded round me as if I were Alexander Graham Bell. Fox's resignation was on Twitter within seconds and a surge of online comment followed.

And, yes, I also remember computers without pictures. I remember typewriters. And life without Sky+.

A report last week suggested that home telephone land lines will soon be redundant. I have no idea what my home telephone number is. It has been years since I have had to shout up the stairs to children that their friends are on the phone. All access now is direct and fast, wherever you are. Earlier last week I was with a theatre critic who received a text from her husband, as he sailed towards South America.

The BBB should not make us aggrieved but grateful. It is only when you do without something that you can measure its significance. I realised how monotone and humdrum life was before technology. It conjured up a world of queues and lack of choice or possibilities. Technology has made us all more inventive. It has created more entrepreneurs, it has made us masters of our fate. Inaccessibility has lost its power.



Sarah Sands is deputy editor of the London Evening Standard

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