The way we live now – II

The way we live now – II

There’s a fatuous example of “lifestyle journalism” in today’s New York Times. Headed “A BlackBerry Throbs, and a Wonk Has a Date”, it’s about how the Blackberry [a portable email device] has become an essential accessory for Washington’s thirtysomething elite. Just listen to the breathless gush of the prose:

“A YEAR ago, Tripp Donnelly saw his BlackBerry as a social liability — an accessory with all the sex appeal of a pocket protector. But now the gadget makes the rounds with Mr. Donnelly, 31, even when he sheds his jacket and tie for a night of barhopping or clubbing. He started keeping it with him when he realized he was missing social e-mail from the growing population of Washington women who were carrying BlackBerries themselves.

‘It’s made it much more efficient, much more direct,’ Mr. Donnelly said of the effect on his love life. ‘A 15-minute phone conversation can be abbreviated into a 10-second, one-sentence e-mail.’ Mr. Donnelly, a Clinton White House staff member who is now a managing director of the wireless communication company InPhonic (which once distributed BlackBerries, but no longer does), said he uses his BlackBerry to correspond with “a handful” of women in Washington and beyond. In one recent exchange, he asked a Bush campaign worker out on a first date.

He: ‘You and me — tomorrow night — dinner.’ She: ‘Sure.’ And that was that.”

There’s lots more in this vein. The piece even has the mandatory 9/11 reference.

“The BlackBerry gained a foothold in Washington two and a half years ago, after the Sept. 11 attacks left many in the city incommunicado when cellphone services were overwhelmed. BlackBerries worked fine that day (the proprietary network that carries their signals, for a monthly fee, has far less traffic than the networks used by cellphones), and shortly afterward the House allocated more than $500,000 to outfit its members with them.

Since then, lawmakers have started using their office budgets to provide BlackBerries to even junior staff members. With them, business can be conducted at any hour of the day or night; it is not uncommon, for example, for the staff of Bill Frist, the Senate majority leader, to receive to-do lists sent from his BlackBerry after midnight. In 2001, perhaps a few dozen BlackBerries were in use on the Hill; there are now more than 5,000.”

The interesting thing about this is why Washington’s policymaking elite clearly hadn’t realised that there was a technology for doing this without resorting to the expense of buying Blackberries. It’s called SMS.