I could make that

May 13, 2023

I went off to the mountain alone for a few days this week, which is a longer and more interesting story than this one. And because I didn’t want the internet with me, I picked up one of these.

It’s a Nokia 105 (4th ed). 4G, Dual SIM. Calls, SMS, Alarm, Snake. No data, no photos. Battery lasts about a month.

I bought it from a big shop in Athens where I also bought a Moleskine notebook. Both items cost 22 Euros. Something is obviously wrong about both ends of that but here we are.

I don’t know why I still find this interesting, but I fell in love with it a little. Partly because it’s so small and feels so reliable – robust, but also trustworthy. You press a button, it goes ding, NOKIA appears, you can almost feel it groping around for a signal and then tying on fast. Get SMS; send SMS; turn it off again. Unlike a smartphone, it feels like an actual connection, rather than a constant assault from the outside.

The other thing that I liked was that I felt like I could build it. I don’t mean full toaster, but I’ve used all these basic components before: some kind of board, power, some kind of display, connect to a SIM card etc. (In particular, the State of Sin robots are basically mobile phones: Arduino boards connected to a sensor (including a microphone…), a display, and a GSM shield with a Hologram IoT SIM.)

I think it’s this: the level of technology I am most comfortable with (and I mean actively happy not just oblivious to) is that which I materially understand to the point of being able to build a basic, toy version of.

I’ve used the metaphor of plumbing here before. I probably shouldn’t plumb a whole house (although I am about to try) and certainly should not design a whole city sewerage system. However, I have a pretty robust mental model of what’s going on, which means I don’t have to worry about it – and, crucially, I can tell when something is not right.

Corollary: If I can’t make that little toy version work, even in my head, I think there’s an inherent level of distrust and uncertainty there, which I’m pushing down and ignoring to get on with my day. I suspect most of us are doing this most of the time, and it’s not healthy. That feeling should be reserved for actual magic.

Something something minimum viable model, knack, agency. Working on this.

P.S. Compare/contrast the above image and thoughts with e.g. this post. Trying not to go backwards / trying to go somewhere more interesting, again.

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