Last weekend, I cleaned out one of my Messed Up Old Tech drawers, with help from my 14 year old son. We tossed out some ancient Mesopotamian Zip drives, a copy of Microsoft Office 2000, and a tangle of cords whose original functions are lost to the mists of time.
At the bottom of the drawer we found a real prize, though:
My 2004 Sidekick II phone.
If you were in your teens or twenties back around the turn of the century, you probably remember this device. The first version arrived in 2002; the second (the one you see above) in 2004.
Back in the early ‘00s, mobile phones were still awfully basic — they made phone calls and sent texts. To compose a text, you pecked away on the twelve-button keypad. That was it, mostly.
So the Sidekick arrived like a pure blast from the future. It had a complete web browser, built-in messaging apps (like AOL Instant Messenger), email and texting, and an honest-to-goodness app store. The device pioneered so many things it’s hard to list them all! It was the first phone to let you multitask several apps at once, for example, and the first to keep you abreast of what each app was doing. (If you got an IM on AOL while using another app, it’d display the message scrolling along the top. Common today! But invented by the Sidekick folks.) The phone stored data in the cloud. Developers released a wild array of software for the Sidekick, including a full-on telnet/SSH client that I used to log into old-school text-based BBSes, like I’d stepped straight out of a goddamn hacker movie.
But the absolute killer feature was that rotating screen. It flicked open with the menace of a switchblade, making a sumptuous snick. Beneath it lay a keyboard so ergonomically wonderful that I could type practically as fast as I could on my laptop.