The Little Phone That Did

Mike Schropp Mobile 1 Comment

Looking at my phone I wonder just how long I will hold out before upgrading to something newer, faster, prettier, smaller. The list could go on and on. I might just be the only person still using one, a xv6700. It was an HTC phone before common people even knew what HTC was, the days before the flashy HTC commercials. It was groundbreaking in many ways but mostly to me as it fit into a small world that was just being created in my mind, it would further fuel my gadget obsession.

It started off as an almost novelty. I saw one in real life and was instantly attracted to the device. The touchscreen, the beautiful screen, the glorious keyboard. It fascinated me. I was hooked. I started looking around to buy one. The sticker shock was a bit much for me at first. I was not used to “phones” costing this much. I searched and waited anxiously until I found a lucky score, a non-functioning xv6700 on eBay for $20 + shipping. I thought to myself well if I could fix it I could forgo having to dump hundreds of dollars into a “phone”

I took the plunge and bought it. When it arrived I did not even try to fix it at first. I was mesmerized by the feel of it. So small, so sturdy and solid feeling. I poked and prodded and played with the keyboard, then the sliding function. All this excitement before I ever even thought of trying to turn it on.

With my anticipation to get the device working I quickly changed directions and got my tools and opened it up. I did not even know what to look for, only that it would not turn on. I pulled the battery and in haste quickly set it down and rushed into open the case and look into the innards of the device. I was again struck by the size and sheer scale of how small everything was. I started with basics, checking connections, testing resistance, etc. I came up with nothing out of the ordinary. As I stared at the guts of my now completely disassembled new best friend I had a small but short eureka moment. The battery, somehow I never checked the battery or connections for power. I pulled the connections on the PCB and found something that did not look quite right. So I tested it. Nothing, no connectivity…Could it be, just a stupid power connection. So I fired up the solder gun and went to work. And dab or two here and there and we were ready for testing.

I quickly reassembled the phone. Trying in my haste to remember where all the parts, pieces and screws went together. Finally when complete with battery in hand I inserted it into the back of the phone and replaced the cover. The sheer anticipation at this point of not knowing what would happen when I pressed that power button was killing me. I pushed the button and held it counting slowly to myself….one….two…. for a brief moment I wondered how many seconds could it possibly take, maybe 5 seconds, maybe 7 and before I could think further the screen flashed brightly. It worked!!! A bright white and some numbers flashed before the sequence of startup continued. I can only imagine the stupid looking grin that must have been on my face at this point. It had actually worked.

The phone continued to boot before it finally reached its windows mobile 6 today screen. At this point I was entranced by the little buttons, words and things on the screen. Truly beautiful. In retrospect, the interface and just simple look of the GUI was really anything but beautiful. A garish green color almost too overpowering to look at. Icons, shapes and a layout that only a mother could love.

I toyed with every last detail and option I could find, all the settings, the wifi ,the phone. It was beyond anything I had ever imagined a “phone” could be. It was a computer in my pocket. I could go online, I could check email, I could play music, I could edit documents. There was no end to the possibilities. I drank this in day-in and day-out for days, playing with it at every opportunity. I eventually decided that I needed more. I wanted to see what else I could do with this thing. That was when I found PPCgeeks and XDA and my world was transformed….

I spent every waking free hour I had reading, digesting, consuming everything that these sites had to offer. I learned about ROMs and programming and everything in between. When I had finally mustered enough courage I decided I was ready to build my own ROM. I carefully selected each and every program I wanted. I paid careful attention to ROM size and all the details that would hopefully lead to success. Finally I was ready. I knew the hazards involved here. I read the horror stories of people bricking their phones when flashing. I could not stop now though. I plugged my phone in and started running the program. Lights flashed, indicators quickly scanned across the screen. My phone lit up and then went dark. Moments of panic ensued as I was convinced I had screwed something up and my phone was now a beautiful paperweight.

I waited patiently for the program on the computer to finish. I then unplugged the phone and did the exact reset button sequence required. There was nothing for a second, and then… light. It had worked!! Well, at least as so far that it was not a complete brick. I waited as the splash screen lit, my custom background in all its glory shown, granted it was just a Futurama graphic that somebody else had made but I knew at that point that I had at least hope. The screen lit and then changed, flashed a couple of times until finally it happened. The today screen showed up. I quickly delved into the different options, were all my new programs that I had so carefully selected for the rom there? One by one I found them and toyed around with each and every one. The fun of overclocking a “phone” could not be stated enough to my normal friends and acquaintances. It was delightful. It was something that I had done, albeit with the help of the great minds of others that had designed and built this but it was still something that felt unique to me.

From that point forward I probably flashed and built so many roms I could not even hope to remember at this point. Skinning the OS and changing every last little detail. Hours upon hours wasted making icons. All of this for no reason other than I had to do it. I finally at some point along the way ended up settling in on a windows 6.5 rom that I was happy with and that is how it has remained for the last couple of years.

I don’t do all that much these days with my “phone” as it seems to serve a more simplistic function. But that does not change the fact that this one device changed my world and entered me into an obsession, a geekdom for all that is gadgets that still exists today. I look at the EVO’s and Droid’s and iPhones and their tiny sleek and thin frames, their gorgeous screens, their blazing speed and I often wonder how fanciful it would be to own one. But when I look back at my bulky, ungainly and old “phone” I wonder how I could ever separate myself from something that changed my world.

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