Chapter 23 – My CrackBerry

Here in Canada the BlackBerry has, until recently, been something of a national treasure — with a fanatical following that would impress any Apple cultist. As of this writing the stock price for parent company Research In Motion has certainly seen better days, but it’s worth noting that both of my brothers, their wives and at least one of their children have one. So maybe it was peer pressure that got me to try out a CrackBerry in the spring of 2007 — though I seem to remember that I was also growing increasingly frustrated with service outages on my hiptop.

Still stinging from the thousand bucks I dropped on my HTC TyTN I turned to eBay for a deal, and managed to find a local seller with an 8700g. It had branding from a carrier in the UK but the radio had been unlocked for use in Canada. I was unsure if the second lock on the device — the BlackBerry PIN — had been cleared, but all fears were allayed when I got the device, powered it up and successfully registered it for BlackBerry Internet Service (BIS).

In many ways, BlackBerries are win-win for carrier and user alike. Just like Danger’s hiptop, BlackBerry data passes through a central server before arriving on your handset. For carriers, this means less congestion on their networks; for users it means faster data — at least it did back in the dark days before the widespread availability of 3G. The BlackBerry operating system had a particularly helpful feature wherein the user could send “service books” to their device. If your email wasn’t working or some other ailment had besieged your handset a binary blob would be sent down the pipe to save the day. I’ve never seen this feature on any other mobile OS.

Though made almost entirely of plastic my CrackBerry was tough as nails; it shrugged off a brutal drop from about chest-high to an unforgiving sidewalk. Chalk this up to its roots as a text-only pager, I guess… And for text-related activities the BlackBerry did very well. Despite the fairly hideous on-screen fonts, dealing with email from multiple accounts was a breeze. Another BlackBerry innovation was the global inbox, a central dumping ground for incoming email, text messages, even missed calls. RIM has since removed SMS from the global inbox by default, which has been a challenge for my older siblings who still don’t entirely get what a text message is, let alone how to send one.

Sadly, any hopes of a CrackBerry addiction for yours truly were vanquished in short order by an absolutely reprehensible app called PocketMac, which RIM licensed as the official syncing software for Apple desktop computers. It routinely ate appointments, contacts and/or to-do items on every sync, and it was a constant game of cat and mouse to suss out what had gone missing. Thankfully OS X now has a proper Desktop Manager, but I’m a proper Linux user now. And to be brutally honest, I don’t think BlackBerry’s proxied Internet is of much use in a world where 3G data is cheap and plentiful. Well, plentiful anyway.

I did use a borrowed BlackBerry Curve many years later on vacation in Bermuda. It was the only way I could get an unlimited data package from the local carrier there. The BlackBerry experience in 2011 wasn’t enough to win me back, but the on-screen fonts were better, at least.