Thursday, July 07, 2011

Life Developments: Dixie the Optimus S

My fiancee and I both finally got new phones this week. She got that 3D Evo, less for the trapped-in-a-virtual-cube effect and more for the processing power and range of capabilities; I got the slightly more modest LG Optimus S, reasoning that I wanted an efficient, capable touch-screen phone with a compact physical profile and the Android OS. It didn't hurt that it was free with the new contract.

The subsequent process, for both of us, can only be described as "pair-bonding." I start by working toward a very basic level of familiarity with my new companion -- figuring out where the most consistent menu options take me, what kinds of touches and taps are acceptable, and which ones cause undue tension. As I get to know my phone better, its capabilities gradually become more transparent: it can help me with directions (GPS), it has access to a whole library of specialized training in the form of Android Market apps, and (perhaps the most gratifying part) it can keep my social life straight for me, doing the constant work of associating names with e-mail addresses, phone numbers, Twitter accounts, and Facebook profiles, and consolidating that all in my list of contacts. My Optimus is frighteningly intelligent sometimes.

Of course, as I learn how to cooperate and respect my companion, it goes through a process of imprinting, as well. I train it to be quiet (at first it would ding every time I got a new email), I decide on a desirable background photo, I go about the work of creating special shortcuts and custom commands. I respect the phone, but at the same time, I have to maintain some authority over it, and even in the short time I've had it so far, it's bonded with me enough that it would be pretty inconvenient for anyone else who tried to kidnap it.

I'v been told to root the phone... to break into its OS so I can control its memory allocation and such... but this feels like it would be too harsh, in a way, a violation of the Optimus's integrity. At the moment, it's being very cooperative, and I haven't even scratched the surface of its capabilities, so I'm not sure hacking its admin accounts is really necessary at the moment.

I haven't named the phone yet, but I'm working on it. I'm sort of scanning my mental library of names and references, considering things from literature, film, video games, and just general names that I like. For some reason, I kind of like "Claude." Also, because my most common screen name is "symbot," I thought of calling the phone "robol," which is a reverse recombination of the two words in that handle. I think I'm gonna skip all the anime names, because naming a

cell phone after an anime character is just a little too obvious.I've named devices after literary main characters before... I had iPods named Mersault and Roquentin, named after the main characters from The Stranger and Nausea. This feels a little wrong, though, because the phone is not really going to be fulfilling a main-character role. I would call it Melmoth, just because I like the book, but there's almost nothing else fitting about the name or the character it would be referencing. Now that I watch more movies and TV, I could always try to figure out a sidekick name for it -- Chewy, Ethel, Sancho, Renfield, Alfred, or Sam.

But as I've thought about it, I've realized that I don't think of the phone as a sidekick, so much as a familiar. It's really, like, a little assistant that I have around so much that it eventually becomes a friend and confidante. So now I'm trying to think of names of familiars: Archimedes (Sword in the Stone), Thing (The Addams Family), Bartok (Anastasia), Boh (Spirited Away), Brown Jenkins (Dreams in the Witch-House) and Graymalkin (Macbeth). There's also some Sapient Steeds that have nice reference names: Falcor and Shadowfax come to mind. I'm sure there are lots more, especially if you start accounting for imaginary friends and such.

Taking it a step further, I think there's a fair stock of digital familiars and sidekicks recently. The Dixie Flatline from Neuromancer is one of my favorites. There's also Jarvis, from Iron Man, and HAL, which is a name I would not want to adopt for something that had an important role in my life.

I think I'll go with Dixie. Now I just need to find a ringtone that sounds like a strange, inhuman laugh.

1 comment:

Wendy said...

Thaanks great blog