Remembrance of Technology Past

The BlackBerry Bold 9000 circa 2008. Look at all those cool apps and that gigantic color screen. And it supported full 3G!


In a novel I’m currently reading (I won’t say which because my point isn’t to pick on it), the author keeps Getting Things Wrong about the 90s, and not to provide deliberate creative anachronisms from what I can tell. The “internet” and “Brooklyn” of 2008 (roughly) are being presented as happening in 1998 and it’s really annoying me.

If this was only a problem in novels, it wouldn’t be so bad. But people have bad memories in real life too, and it has real-life consequences. Hillary Clinton, for example, made her fateful decision to use one email account in 2009. It seems pointlessly stupid to us today, with our iPhones and phablets and smart watches able to do anything we want them to. It’s hard to remember what 2009 was like, but the iPhone was still brand new back then and official Washington was still smitten with BlackBerries. Unfortunately, BlackBerries had serious limitations on handling multiple email accounts in a secure way. In practice, hauling around two BlackBerries was your only real solution.

But we forget about these pesky limitations of the past. BlackBerries today seem about as ancient as fax machines. Being limited to one email account is unfathomable. And yet, for security-minded folks that was reality back in the dim mists of 2009 unless you carried two devices. It was a pain, and Hillary had always used a single email account as a senator, so she just kept on doing it. Plus it was a busy time: everyone had a ton of transition stuff to attend to and no one really wanted to tell the Secretary of State that she couldn’t do this. So she did. And now Donald Trump is president.