It’s only mail and text, but I like it, like it…
I remember attending a Rolling Stones concert at the Dodger Stadium, Los Angeles last year. When it was apparent that the final encore had been given and that the event was over, the audience stood to leave and the darkness was punctuated by the twinkling of ten thousand BlackBerries: the Rolling Stones generation checking their inboxes. No cigarette lighters held up in the air to honour the band (there probably wasn’t one smoker in a thousand at the venue), just handsets held up to their own faces to honour the bandwidth. The moment seemed to distill some truth about our culture that simultaneously amused, depressed and delighted me. Go, as they say, figure.
The Canadian company Research In Motion introduced its first BlackBerry, a duplex pager, ten years ago. Since then RIM has established itself and its device as one of the great success stories of the digital age. BlackBerry is a kind of cult – a verb, a metonym, a synecdoche for corporate life on the move.
Under the RIM
For those of you unconnected with business, the way Blackberryists interface with their phones may be unfamiliar. Typically he or she will have been given the handset by their employer. This is not an act of generosity. The device is a kind of leash, a digital ball and chain not far from the electronic tag that convicts on parole are forced to wear. The email and calendar accounts are controlled by the company, via BlackBerry Enterprise Server connections. Each handset can be zapped, nixed and deactivated by the corporate IT people whose hands are ever hovering over the kill switch, awaiting the command from the Fifth Floor. Or so it must seem to some employees. Like the bonds of marriage, the connection can be seen as a welcome tie that binds you with ribbons of gold to the company you love, or as a set of shackles that confine you for ever in a hateful prison from which there is no escape.