What is one old piece of technology you can’t bring yourself to part with?
For starters, it was less than a year ago when I finally decided to take the risk and part with my good ol’ Nokia E66 with Symbian. For most people, that’s really strange. Even many blind people don’t understand things like that because, yes, smartphones can be a very helpful assistive technology, and many think that the only explanation for when you cling on to your old phone must be that you’re afraid of new things. Which, admittedly, was partly true in my case, as I typically dread change, but that’s only part of it. I would often tell people, and also here on my blog, that the reason I was still clinging to it was my loyalty to Finland (Nokia is Finnish, in case you don’t know). And, honestly, we’ve been through so much together during those ten years. And she was working perfectly fine, so why fix what ain’t broke. Although in those last few years I didn’t use this phone very extensively as I hardly ever talk to stranger people on the phone and don’t feel the need to talk on the phone to people I know ’cause we either see each other IRL or can email, and emails are also way better and more interesting than texting. But mostly, what held me back was that I didn’t think I could deal with a touch screen, and that’s not because of my lack of sight, but more the associated stuff. As you likely already know, I also struggle with coordination and dexterity, and have a hard time with spatial orientation be it on a big or small space. My previous experiences with other people’s smartphones (usually with Android, which is a bit less accessible, and its free TalkBack screen reader) weren’t particularly encouraging either. I did know that you can use a Bluetooth keyboard with iOS and there are various accessibility features that can make it easier but didn’t think that would be enough for me as you can’t do every single thing on iOS via the keyboard because it’s just not made this way really. But then as I’ve already written on here, Sofi got her first iPhone and let me use it, and while I still wasn’t convinced that I could find my way in the world of touch screens, I felt like perhaps it would be interesting to just try. I could buy myself an iPhone and if it won’t work out, I can simply sell it and come back to my old Nokia. Also I would need to find myself some other phone sooner or later, as even if my Nokia will keep going for the next 50 years, it soon won’t be supported and won’t have service, so it would feel safer to experiment now than last minute. Now that Sofi has an iPhone she could help me figure it out and maybe it’ll even work somehow. Then I came across a review of iPhone SE 2nd generation by some blind guy who also has dyspraxia, where he also mentioned that he uses a keyboard and, while in his situation it’s not ideal either, it works way better than the screen. Based on the review, he was a rather advanced user, so that really made me think. I do not have dyspraxia, my difficulties aren’t as severe as that, so if a dyspraxic person can manage an iPhone with a keyboard and use it efficiently, perhaps I could too. I definitely should try, that’s for sure.
And I did, and, as you know, I didn’t sell my iPhone. In the end I decided to use it in combination with my Braille-Sense which is a Braille notetaker which can work as a Braille display plus keyboard with the iPhone, although I do have a little keyboard as well which can be useful as it’s more portable and less clunky, and I can do most things this way. I do find it quite laborious to use the screen itself, but can do it if I have to and have gotten used to the laboriousness. I’m not the speediest iPhone user for sure when I have to do things from the screen, and I have to take my time to do some things, but because I theoretically know how to do most things on the iPhone, I can practically do pretty much everything I want to do, as long as it’s doable with the screen reader and as long as I have the time and patience, which I typically do. Well okay, my pics are still quite bad and I know some blind people do better, but that’s a bit of a different kettle of fish, and sometimes I also manage to take a decent one without any assistance. I still have the Nokia though. Just so it can work as an exhibit for future generations. 😀
But there’s still one old piece of technology I’m holding on to, despite I theoretically don’t have to now that I have the iPhone because the iPhone could do that job. It’s not quite as ancient, actually the current one I have is only over a year old, but generally the technology in it isn’t particularly cutting-edge for our current standards, so much so that many features it has that rely on external services are no longer supported because its firmware is a bit outdated and I guess no longer developed even though the device is still sold. It’s basically a specialised device (with a very specialised price, as with most of them) for reading books and playing multimedia. You can read ebooks on it with a speech synth or audiobooks, listen to music, podcasts, radio, record audio, it also has a calendar, alarm and other such little gimmicks which you wouldn’t normally expect from a multimedia player. Now that smartphones are being very widely used as assistive technology and many expensive, special assistive devices with limited capabilities have a hard time competing and don’t even try, book players like that are seen more and more as something for elderly blind people, say, such who have lost their sight late in life and don’t necessarily feel like dealing with an iPhone, especially if they wouldn’t even feel like having a smartphone if their sight was good, and currently sold “dumb” phones don’t do screen readers.
Why would I use an outdated and pricey thingamajig about which even its own producers forgot when I have an iPhone which can do its job just as well? Well, comfort is key when reading books. PlexTalk is smaller than my iPhone and easier when you want to read for example while commuting. It doesn’t have a touch screen, which could be accidentally activated while you go about your business with it in your pocket or bag. It’s faster to use for me personally. And, what Bibiels like best is reading in bed for a while before sleep or after waking up when I have the time. At the same time, Bibiels don’t do silence at night, so there has to be some music quietly in the background, or a radio station where they talk some fabulous language, it’s good to have a soundtrack to your dreams as long as it’s not too loud or intrusive. The music for a long time used to go from my computer, but my current computer is super noisy and that’s very uncomfortable for sleep, makes me feel like I’m having a sleep study in a lab rather than sleeping in my own room, and my speakers are also weirdly noisy in themselves, making the weirdest sounds, and I can’t seem to be able to fix that in any way, I guess it’s something electrical, which is okay during the day but not at night. So now the way it works is I have my lovely little B&O speaker which I connect to the phone, and it plays. iPhone, as you may or may not know, only supports one audio source at once, so I can’t possibly both listen to music and a book at the same time from it, and then maybe even set a sleep timer for the book, but not for the music. Not doable. Even if I could have two audio sources play at the same time, I think it could get quite overloading if they were both playing from the same device unless you could manage the volume of both separately.
So yeah, there’s an amazing app for reading ebooks, or texts in general, called Voice Dream Reader, which has speech synthesis for many more languages than the PlexTalk which only has, in my case, Polish and English, there’s even the Jacek voice on Voice Dream Reader, the one that I really like but have lost and which is no longer produced in the form in which I had it, so you’d think I’d be super happy to use Voice Dream Reader and have Jacek at least in there. But no, reading on the phone totally doesn’t go along with my habits.
One of the secondary reasons which finally led to me getting an iPhone was that the support of Audible audiobooks had ended for PlexTalk last year. That was super dramatic, as I had only started using that feature extensively and the only reason for why I decided to buy PlexTalk again after my first one broke, instead of another, fair bit cheaper, device of the same kind was the Audible support. I wrote to the Audible peeps describing my situation and asking them if they could have some mercy on people with assistive devices so that their users can somehow still use their audiobooks despite the old format being ditched. They wrote me very diplomatically that they don’t really care, and I guess they couldn’t even do much about it if they did. I wrote to Shinano Kenshi (PlexTalk) peeps, asking them very diplomatically if they could finally update their flippin’ dinosaur firmware so that it could perhaps support the newer Audible format, which, in fact, sounds way better in terms of quality and has been around for a long time before so it’s not like it’s super new. They didn’t even get back to me, which wasn’t a surprise, as I had a feeling they have limited their activity around PlexTalk devices to only what’s absolutely necessary. Then, months later, when I almost forgot about that email, I got a response from them, diplomatically saying that, um, yeeeeah, maybe it is possible, but it really doesn’t pay off, too much bother.
Now, I have Audible on my phone, but I hardly ever use it, for the reason I wrote about above. The good thing is I now have pretty good access to English ebooks instead that, with a little playing around, I can easily read on PlexTalk, so it doesn’t feel that bad not to have Audible on it.
Do you have such an old device? Why is it so difficult to part with? 🙂