Chapter 6 – My First Ericsson

To be honest, I’m not a hundred percent clear on why I bought Fido’s Ericsson T18z. It might have been to soften the blow of a breakup (don’t worry, we’ve both moved on since). It might also have been that my Nokia 5190, with the removable faceplates and all, was getting to be too whimsical for someone who was now a home-owner and full-time actor. Or it might well have been a lingering jealousy over the first Fido phone I ever saw. In 1999 someone in a bar somewhere was pitching Fido to me via the Ericsson sitting atop his pack of cigarettes — I can’t say exactly which model it was, but I did find it appealing in an austere European kind of way.

The T18z, no less austere, easily passed my informal “cool enough for a gangster” test — like my StarTAC it also had a telescoping antenna that you could pull out with your teeth, John Travolta in Pulp Fiction-style. Another thing I liked was that it didn’t need a protective case. Being a semi-flip meant that the keypad was protected when not in use, and the monochrome screen was so tiny that the odds of it ever being scratched were slim to none. Also, a belt clip was built in to the back of the housing — not that I’d ever wear it on my belt; instead I displayed it proudly on my chest via the strap on my messenger bag, like a bike courier would. Never mind that I didn’t actually own a bike at the time.

The phone’s biggest drawback was its incredibly stiff keys which, when combined with the tiny screen, made texting a real chore. To combat this I found an interesting accessory, a snap-on qwerty keypad that Ericsson called the Chatboard. In theory it was a great idea, in practice not so much. The problem was one of weight distribution — to effectively text you had to hold the Chatboard with both thumbs, and the much heavier handset attached at the top had you constantly fighting the inevitable forces of gravity when using it.

A more usable accessory was the Mobile Office DI-27 — that is, an infrared modem. Snapping this on to the bottom of my T18z enabled me to compose texts on my Palm Pilot, then send them through the air to my phone and onwards to the recipients. Remember, this was still the year 2000; I can remember drawing an actual crowd when a buddy and I broke out our Palms and played a game of Battleship via an IrDA connection… We were gods that day.

The unfortunate thing about infrared was that you needed a line-of-sight connection, just like the remote for your TV. So sending and receiving texts using my Palm and Ericsson meant that both Ir ports had to be facing each other for the transfer to work. And the transfer speed was so slow that I most often had to lay both of them down on a flat surface and wait — hardly an optimal solution for handheld devices meant to be used on the move. Fortunately, there was something better just around the corner…