July 7th, 2009


Warning! iPhone geekery within:

In the year 2001, right around the time I moved to Pasadena, my older sister took me down to the phone store near her house and I got my first cellular phone.

"If you're going to be living in Southern California now, you need one of these," she said.

The next week, I drove to my friend's house in Santa Cruz and dialed them on the phone while standing outside their door.

"Hey, I'm in the area, mind if I come over and say hi?" I said.
"Great, I'll be there in an instant!" I hung up and knocked on the door.
I still remember their shocked faces when they opened it. "Oh my god, how did you do that?" they said. I held up the phone.

- - -

Today I went shopping for a pair of shoes with metal screw-in attachments that clip to the pedals in my bike. Not those plastic racing cleats, but actual shoes - something that would be comfortable off the bike and walking around as well.

After work, during my walk to the parking lot, I took out my phone and pressed a few buttons to display a map of my surroundings. In the search box I entered "bicycle", and it drew a line on the map, pointing to the nearest bike shop. So I drove there.

At the bike shop, the shopkeeper found me exactly the kind of shoes I needed, except he didn't know what kind of metal widgets to sell me for screwing onto the bottom of the shoes. To tell what kind, he needed a look at the pedals I would be using. Unfortunately the pedals are already in Oregon, along with the rest of the bicycle.

How could I show him the pedals?

I took out the phone again, opened a web browser, and Googled the name of the bike. I found the manufacturer's web page, which listed all the components used in the bike, but then the shopkeeper asked me: "Did you buy it new, or used?"

Uh oh. The guy I bought it from might have installed custom pedals. How could I be sure what I needed?

I closed the web browser and went to the "call history" section. There I found the number of the guy I bought the bike from a few weeks ago. I dialed the number with the intent of asking him about the pedals, but ... no answer. That made sense, because it was his work number. He was probably on his way home.

The bike shop was closing in half an hour. What could I do?

I remembered that I took a bunch of pictures of the bike when I was modifying it at Tech Shop. Those pictures were on the computer at home, stored in Aperture. So I walked out of the bike shop and got my laptop from the van. Then I took my phone out of my pocket, turned on "tethering" mode, and sat it down next to the laptop. On the laptop I opened a Screen Sharing session, via Bluetooth to my phone, out across the cellular network, over to AT&T's wired internet, down through the router in my bedroom, and over to the computer in the closet. My home computer's display appeared on my laptop, and I opened Aperture, browsed to a picture of the bike, zoomed in on the pedals, and showed the laptop to the shopkeeper.

He took one look at the pedals and recognized them, and a minute later he sold me the correct widgets.

This ain't the tech of the 90's anymore.