Cellphones are a big part of our lives these days. Although the technology is rather young it is probably true that most of us would be lost without our cellphones. I recall first-generation cellphones in the early 1990s. In remote Attawapiskat, we were so far removed from modern technology that we only saw these new phones on television. They are often referred to as bricks, and for good reason, because they were huge and heavy plastic rectangular cubes that people lugged around to enable this new form of instant communication. They were considered portable but they were not very practical and certainly could not fit in a pocket or purse.

These early phones were expensive to purchase unless you bought one on a plan. The first thing the cellphone business people set up was a way to sell the phone at a low price and then trap users into expensive rate plans. I know a friend who has some horror stories about those early cellphones as he ran up bills that were in excess of $1,400 a month. They were also deemed to be unsafe to a degree considering that research showed that there might be a possibility that the electromagnetic radiation used in the microwave range could be carcinogenic. Although, the phones have been modernized and are now small and compact with weaker production of waves they still are considered a risk to health over long-term use. As a matter of fact in 2011 the World Health Organization decided that long-term use could be considered a health risk and carcinogenic hazard.

When I got into cellphones in the late 1990s they had diminished in size but were still limited in range because the cell-tower system across the country was not as extensive as it is now, particularly in the far north. It was still a big treat to call someone while walking along the street, moving about in traffic and enjoying a meal in my favourite restaurant. A few short years late, it seemed that everyone had a cellphone. The streets, buses, malls and even those driving at highway speeds had become constant chatterbugs. The world had changed.

The technology started out with a very limited 1G network that restricted cellphone use to a few areas in major cities or towns. Then it increased to 2G when more towers were built and cellphones could be used more extensively and while in transit. Next, it went to 3G, where the cell-tower signal networks really developed and so did the phone technology.

My first phones were really useful for phone calls but not much more. Then I moved up to a newer model that allowed me limited access the internet. That was very cool but not always easy or possible depending on where I was located and the level of signal access. More recently, I have enjoyed what are now called smartphones, which are more like mini computers. Smartphone technology is available in all sorts of gadgets including iPads, a variety of tablets and an array of tiny phones with big screens. They offer all kinds of possibilities with added accessories and applications. If you have a smartphone you can set up your mini computer just about anywhere.

One of the most popular pastimes to develop in the cellular era is texting. People can inexpensively communicate with each other by just typing words onto the screen and sending it off to be read and replied to. Texting has gone crazy and just about everywhere I go I am surrounded by people texting each other and often in the same room. They are not bothering to communicate the old-fashioned way by talking; they seem to prefer the silent plunk of little keys to keep in touch. It can be a little frustrating for people who are not into this technology to this degree. Most texters I know are under 40. Teens seem addicted to this mode of communication.

I really do love my android smartphone, but at times I am very content to put it aside and just read a book or take a walk on a wilderness trail. My love of the wilderness draws me to some very out-of-the-way places and that dictates that I have to leave my device behind because the signal is too weak. People who want to contact me are frustrated at these times, but it allows me the necessary withdrawal from a hectic and anxiety-ridden world. Time to put another log on the campfire.