Chapter 13 – My First Bluetooth

“A Bluetooth headset is a great way of letting the world know how much sex you’re not getting.” — someone on the Internet

My comedy shows in Hong Kong were a big success, even though the first one was cancelled (it was a corporate show, not part of our regular run). That cancellation gave us a full week in Hong Kong before our first gig, with nothing to do but take in the sights and shop. We soon found ourselves on the famous Nathan Road in Kowloon, where one of my fellow actors got himself fitted for not one but two custom-tailored suits. And I paid about as much for an Ericsson T39m, my second-ever unlocked phone. I also walked out with a wireless Bluetooth headset as part of the deal, but since such things have never really found favour with those who know better — “douchebag earrings”, I believe they’re called — you won’t read any more about that here. But we will return to Bluetooth in just a bit.

There was nothing particularly wrong with the Fido-branded Ericsson T28w that I’d brought with me from Canada; it was pretty much a one-trick pony, though, offering dual band “world” service and not much else. But the T39m was a different story. Its killer feature was a GPRS data radio, allowing it to connect to the Internet at will, rather than locking down the phone entirely by making a data call via circuit switched data. The difference was akin to a dial-up versus broadband Internet connection on a home computer.

Sadly, like other Ericssons before it the T39m was cursed with a tiny screen, so browsing WAP pages on it was quite pointless. Thus, upon my return to Canada the Ericsson T28w went back to Fido and my T39m went into storage — that is, until the following April (2002), when I became aware of a Bluetooth module for my Handspring Visor. Like infrared, Bluetooth allowed for a connection without wires; unlike infrared Bluetooth was a lot faster and didn’t require line-of-sight for transmission.

Two hundred bucks later I was dismayed to find that the only task this Bluetooth module could accomplish was dial my phone from my PDA. Shortly thereafter the Bluetooth, then cellular radio died entirely. The only explanation I could surmise was that my T39m was made for developing markets, and was not up to the same build standard expected for the west, or even Hong Kong. To put it another way, I was scammed.

But if it sounds like my imported Ericsson was a waste of time it honestly wasn’t. This wouldn’t be the last Ericsson I’d ever own; the Saturday night Hong Kong movies on a local Chinese television station taught me that Ericsson was the brand of choice for discerning mobsters. And the experience of buying mine overseas showed me the freedom that could be gained in using unlocked devices, along with the perils of buying them from sketchy vendors.