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Musings on the end of my BlackBerry

Mar 28,2022 - Last updated at Mar 28,2022

At the end of February, my BlackBerry Curve died. It did not actually die, but it might as well be dead, because my BlackBerry only operates on 3G and my phone provider has ended 3G service. As a result, my device turns on and I can still type on it, but because it cannot connect, what I type cannot be sent anywhere.

For years my family and friends warned me that this day would come, but I ignored them because I simply could not imagine life without my Curve. Without exaggeration, it had become a part of my life. For the last 13 years, I had spent the better part of each day typing on it. I wrote drafts of my last two books on my BlackBerry. On most afternoons you could find me either in Lafayette Park or seated at my favorite Washington restaurant hunched over my little friend clicking away either on my weekly column, a polling report, or a briefing memo for my office. There is even a rather large oil painting hanging in the Davidson College library of me sitting on the steps of the college’s guest house writing my weekly column.

As of last month, I have been writing my weekly column for 30 years. Because I had never learned to use a typewriter, and using the computer keyboard felt awkward and uncomfortable, for the first 17 years, I hand wrote my weekly pieces and passed them on to my assistant who deciphered my scratching, typed them up, and sent them out. Because I was writing all the time, I had developed preferences that made my writing easier. The legal pads could not have too smooth a surface and the lead in the pencils could not be too soft or too hard.

Back then, I had been using a BlackBerry for e-mails for a few years and had become adept at it. Then one Friday, I found myself in a Chicago airport, flights home had been cancelled because of bad weather, and my column was not yet finished. 

Because there was not a fax machine available at the airport, I had no way to send my hand-written piece to my office. I, therefore, translated my own near-indecipherable writing to my BlackBerry and emailed it to my office. My assistant sarcastically wrote back “Welcome to the 21st century!”

I was hooked and never looked back. Over the years, I got better working on my little Curve. By the end, I was doing an 800-word piece in just about an hour. I had become so addicted to my BlackBerry that when the company announced that they would no longer be manufacturing the Curve, my office ordered 4 back-up devices.

When AT&T announced that it was phasing out 3G and that BlackBerrys would no longer operate, I did not want to believe it and so ignored the warnings until that fateful day when the system completely died. 

But life does go on. I’m typing this piece on my iPhone. It’s my second column on this device, a bit awkward, but after more than a decade on the Curve, my thumbs do know where to go. I miss the feel of the keys and the handy working of the cursor, but I’m doing it and feeling almost fully a part of the second decade of the 21st century.


The writer is president of the Washington-based Arab American Institute

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