Cellphone Memories

It’s hard to get lost anymore. I remember back in the days when we didn’t own GPS devices or have smartphones, finding a place you hadn’t been to before being such a daunting task. You’d have to ask for landmarks, which roads to use, and so on. You’ll even get traffic information to help you plan what time you should leave home. Last time we’d have to meet at a common point and convoy together to a destination. Now, we just look it up on the internet and send the address to people. They’ll find a way to get there.

Before cellphones, we’d have to schedule appointments using our home phone and head to the meeting point at the right time. If a person was late, there was nothing to do but wait around because there was no way to get in touch with them once they left home.

I remember making phone calls to home using a payphone in school to inform my mom I’ll be home late. Sometimes the payphone wouldn’t accept my coins and I’d have to run around scrounging for change from other people or the canteen. If the phone call was unanswered, I would have no other way to inform her.

That was solved when my parents got cellphones, but I remember they charged like a ringgit a minute, so calls would frequently cut off because I didn’t have enough coins. That was partially solved with phone cards. I don’t remember if they could be topped up or you had to replace them. Either way, most of the time I was stuck with coins.

I remember my first phone that wasn’t a hand me down – the Nokia 3310. Man, that phone was the shit. I think I used it for five years. Snake 2 all day, every day. I was also a fan of customization back then, with phone shells (you literally replaced the plastic of the phone, you didn’t use phone covers to customize your phone back then). I swapped batteries and even changed the LED colors once.

I guess you could say I’m a big fan of customization. That trait has carried on with me throughout my life, manifesting in different forms. Now it’s the homescreen for my Android phone, cosmetics for Dota 2 heroes and keycaps for my keyboards.

The first time I was mugged, I lost my Nokia 7610 – my first color screen phone. It was a hand me down from my sister. I only had it for about a week before the mugging incident. That event traumatized me for a bit (I was constantly looking over my shoulder every time I was walking in public and crossing roads so I didn’t have to walk past strangers). I liked that phone. I enjoyed listening to music and playing games on it. It made Chinese New Year gatherings less boring.

My first smartphone, the HTC G2, was stolen from me. People like my phones? Or thieves aren’t very choosy. I’m not sure. Fortunately my phones haven’t been stolen from me in a while, and I hope it remains that way.

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