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COLUMN: Don Cunningham Bids Adieu to the Blackberry

By Colin McEvoy on October 24, 2016

This column, written by LVEDC President and CEO Don Cunningham, originally appeared in Lehigh Valley Business on October 24, 2016. (Click here to read Cunningham’s previous columns.)

Don Cunningham

Don Cunningham

I learned last week that I’m a one-percenter. I also learned that I would not be for much longer. It was a short run.

No, I didn’t get a raise.

Blackberry announced it’s going to stop making smartphones. I am one of the few, the proud the one-percent of the smart phone-using population that still owns a blackberry.

I am regularly ridiculed. I’ve heard them all. “Whoa, where did you get that museum piece?” “Hello, 2005!” “Hey, put that thing back in your leisure suit.”

Time and time again, I’d explain that I only use my phone for three things: emails, phone calls and texting, and that magical, wonderful, tactile keyboard with the little light clicks was easier for my ever-fattening fingers and ever-worsening eyesight.

How did I go from cool to a fool so quickly? When I worked for Gov. Ed Rendell in Harrisburg we were the hip “crack berry” kids always busy, always communicating, using our thumbs to save the world or at least the Commonwealth. Somehow, seemingly in the blink of an eye, I became a dinosaur, and a subject of amusement for my colleagues.

But, I was hanging tough, ever loyal, fighting the trend. Then came last week’s headlines: Blackberry exits the phone market.

What? How could they quit on me? Don’t they know how I defended them time and time again? Don’t they know the derision I took on their behalf when I would ask for a Blackberry at the Verizon store? “Ah, I think we have one somewhere in the back but the one guy who knows how to transfer its data won’t be back in until Wednesday.”

I would tell those who laughed at me that Blackberry would come back. That Canadians still used them. You’ll see!

But, it’s over. Soon, no more Blackberries will be made. The company’s market share dropped to less than 1 percent, which is simply astounding since at its peak in 2009 it had 50 percent of the U.S. smartphone market.  They sunk to the bottom of the charts quicker than 98 Degrees, Vanilla Ice, and whoever sang the Macarena.

The only constant in life is change. In the consumer product world, particularly in the technology arena, if you don’t change and evolve your lifespan is equivalent to that of the Mayfly. The cycles are much shorter. It took a lot longer for the blacksmiths pounding our horseshoes to go out of business.

The new technology is always better but, nonetheless, some of us cling to the familiar and the comfortable. I think I was the last one in the late ‘80s to give up my turntable and records, and only after my stylus broke and I couldn’t buy a new one anywhere. Today, records are cool again but only because hipsters are looking for the nostalgia and authenticity of a bygone era, not because they’re better.

Despite last week’s news, I still have my Blackberry. In fact, I think I have my previous two models somewhere in a drawer. This time, I’ll be ready when the hipsters of tomorrow bring them back, or at least, when some prop coordinator working on a movie set in 2005 is looking for a few relics for a movie about the good old days way back after the turn of the century.

Rest in peace Blackberry: 1999-2016. It was a short but memorable life.

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