I just came across Haruki Murakami’s The Moment I Became a Novelist. It’s short article and tells a story when Murakami went to see a baseball match in 1978 and had an epiphany:
I think Hiroshima’s starting pitcher that day was Yoshiro Sotokoba. Yakult countered with Takeshi Yasuda. In the bottom of the first inning, Hilton slammed Sotokoba’s first pitch into left field for a clean double. The satisfying crack when the bat met the ball resounded throughout Jingu Stadium. Scattered applause rose around me. In that instant, for no reason and on no grounds whatsoever, the thought suddenly struck me: I think I can write a novel.
I often tell people, when asked about why I do what I do, that I knew I wanted to be a software developer at the age of 10. But it wasn’t a sudden realisation. It came to me after getting an Amiga 500, playing games and then realising I could make my own games. I vividly remember a summer trip to my aunt’s place in Norway where I brought a book on BASIC and devoured a tutorial on how to make a hotel booking system. I was utterly enthralled and thought “maybe one day I can make hotel booking systems for a living”. From then on there was little doubt I would do this.
Except of course when I turned 13 and got into playing rock music on my guitar. I spent the next 7 years feeling lost, because I really wanted to be a musician but the career opportunities seemed unfeasible. It wasn’t until after a brief stint as a data entry clerk in the UK that I came to the conclusion that I needed to get my shit together and go to uni. So I studied Computer Science and here I am at the ripe age of 35 with 10 years of software development experience, thinking I always knew I wanted to do this. But I didn’t, and writing this made me realise that.
I just finished reading the book The Perfect Store: Inside eBay and it was quite enlightening. From what I understand, eBay succeeded because:
- They had a very solid first-mover advantage because they built a strong community of users and thus had a lot of sellers and buyers on their site. This made the switching costs very high.
- They were very frugal, they perfected the art of thriftiness in a time were IT companies blew boatloads of cash on furniture, scotch and acquisitions.
- The founders stepped aside and allowed experienced managers to run the company, as opposed to trying to reinvent the managerial wheels once the business started making lots of money.
Life without a smartphone is slow, awkward and confusing. I didn’t think as much as I thought I would.
How it began
Last christmas my mother said she was curious about smartphones. At the same time I was curious about life without one, so I gave mine to her and bought a cheap flip phone that can’t do shit. Even sending text messages on it is horrible.
Now, 9.5 months later, I’m itching to abandon this experiment. But before I do that, I should summarise my experience.
- I zone out way less during social gatherings, meetings or while coding. Since I am prone to zoning out, this is a huge benefit.
- I could identify with the “unplug” movement in the movie Transcendence (which wasn’t that bad, honestly!)
- When I’m at a restaurant or a bar with one other person and said person goes to the loo, I’m screwed. It feels like everybody in there are staring at me, wondering why I have no phone to look down at. So I panic and play with the cutlery or my beer glass until the loo visit is over (roughly 30 minutes later according to my brain watch). Nobody expects a person to sit around and look bored any more.
- When I get lost, I have to ask people for directions. While this talking to strangers is a human connection that I would have missed otherwise, it is rarely more than “excuse me, could you tell me…” followed by a prompt response and a “ok, thank you very much” back from me. Sure, I could follow up with talking about the weather and make new connections, but older cab drivers aren’t exactly prime BFF material to me.
- I also never know how to take public transport from point A to point B, unless I’ve travelled between aforementioned points often. Even then, I fail a lot since the ol’ noggin doesn’t have the timetables stored.
- People look at me like I’m crazy when I take out the phone equivalent of Mesopotamia to add them my contact book. I don’t know if I’m not, who does really? But still. Shut up, egg!
- I don’t think deeply about things as much as I thought I would. I assumed that the time on the tram that I couldn’t use for Twitter would be filled with grand intellectual dissections that would change the world, but they aren’t. Most of the time I’m bored and think about Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu moves, which actually might be a bit beneficial.
- I get way more Facebook messages than text messages. People tend to assume that you always see their Facebook messages, and key information like “Hey buddy, I’ll be 248 minutes late” will remain unseen by me until I arrive at home, 250 minutes later.
- I take and share way less photos, which means that my poor mother in Sweden knows less about what life down under is like.
All in all, a worthwhile experiment. But it didn’t change that much to the better and made my life a lot less convenient. I’m surprised I lasted this long, I thought I’d break down after 1-2 months.
I won’t be as happy with my new smartphone as I think I will be. Then again, the previous sentence indicates that I don’t think I will be happy with it, so I’ll probably be pleasantly surprised. But now the last sentence makes me realise that that mightn’t be quite so simple.