My smartphone can do many things. It can send and receive emails. It lets me keep track of my calendar appointments and keep up with the news. It’s a portal to my social networks. It will take pictures and play me music. It even makes phone calls. All of this is useful and good. (I do wish at times it were a little smarter, especially when it tries to correct my diction. There’s an often hilarious poetry in the words it decides to autofill for me.)
The other day, though, I picked up a paperback–it happened to be Evelyn Waugh’s Scoop–and realized how happy I was that it wouldn’t let me do anything but read it. No email, no Internet access, no soft keys, no ringtones, no screens. I could pick up a pencil and annotate it if I wanted to. (I didn’t really want to. I just wanted to read it.) It was a relief to interact with a device, if one can call a codex a device, that only does one thing but does it very well.
So here’s a shout-out to tools and devices designed to do just one thing: hammers, toasters, can openers, typewriters, cheap paperbacks. I appreciate you, I do. Thanks for keeping it simple in a complicated world.