my backwoods blackberry

I used to tell a funny anecdote of how my grandmother tried to change TV channels with the calculator, mistaking it for the remote control. It had seemed so hilarious that to her, a calculator and remote control looked the same.

I used to tell a funny anecdote of how my grandmother tried to change TV channels with the calculator, mistaking it for the remote control. It had seemed so hilarious that to her, a calculator and remote control looked the same.

These days, I feel more and more like my granny. My understanding of the function of various new digital and electronic gadgets, even my ability to correctly identify them for what they are, has been on a rapid downhill slide for years.

On my last town trip, I encountered a Blackberry for the first time. It was handed to me in answer to my request to use a phone. An incomprehensible multitude of wee tiny buttons stared up at me, crested by a little icon-spangled screen. Beseechingly, I looked at the owner of the thing, who then patiently coached me through the procedure of making a phone call.

Even more embarrassing was when the cordless phone rang at my friend’s place while she was out. When I went to answer it and took it out of its charging base (or whatever you call it), I couldn’t locate the correct button to turn it on so I could take the call. After staring at it for a while, it came to my attention that the ringing had stopped and that the seconds were ticking away on the little screen. Was it already on?

When I hesitantly breathed “hello?” into it, there was indeed somebody on the line. Luckily just a friend who was mildly amused but not too surprised when I sheepishly explained the reason for the mysterious silence at my end.

Here at home, we keep it fairly low-tech apart form the computer and satellite internet. So it was with some hesitation that we added a new gadget to our household: a combined satellite messenger and emergency locator beacon. We had been weighing the pros and cons of an emergency locator beacon that sends out an alert to search and rescue authorities versus a satellite phone for a few years now.

While we liked the idea of getting something that would enable us to call for help when away from the cabin or if our satellite internet system failed, the cost of either of these things is rather prohibitive when you live on just a few thousand dollars a year. Also I don’t like that the emergency locator beacons alert search and rescue only, and are without the option of calling in help from other sources.

Chances are so much greater, I believe, that something minor happens (the boat gets damaged when out an a trip, a thrown out back) where help is required but where there isn’t really any need for a fully fledged search and rescue operation.

When the satellite messenger and personal locator beacon Spot came on the market a year or two ago, we were intrigued. At $170 it was affordable, although an annual subscription fee of around $100 is required, which in the long term makes it more expensive than a regular PLB and possibly a satellite phone.

The Spot sends out an alert that includes your location’s GPS co-ordinates and a map link to a search and rescue centre, but alternatively lets you send a help request to people of your own choice. And it can send an “all is well” message to friends and family, also including a map link and current coordinates.

As usual, we waited to see how the feedback from Spot users was. Overall, people were pleased with it and it seemed to work well in most places, so we decided to get one too. I’m happy to report that the initial online registration procedure is by far the most complicated part of its operation, but entirely manageable even for the digitally challenged such as myself. After that, it’s largely a matter of remembering to bring it along and pressing the appropriate button.

The “all is well” function is particularly appealing to me, eliminating the headache of being stuck somewhere because of weather and getting ever closer to the overdue date. Also we now have a way of calming down concerned family when we are incommunicado because our satellite system is on strike. We’ve tested it in the vicinity and it works fine.

I really like the idea of taking it into town with me next time. I picture myself at a Whitehorse coffee shop, casually pulling the Spot out of my bag and airily saying, “Oh, I better let Sam know that I made it to town OK—just gotta use my backwoods blackberry.”

Lisa Hasselbring is a writer who

lives at the headwaters of the

Yukon River south of Whitehorse.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Wyatt’s World

Wyatt’s World for March 5, 2021.

Yukonomist: School competition ramps up in the Yukon

It’s common to see an upstart automaker trying to grab share from… Continue reading

The Yukon government responded to a petition calling the SCAN Act “draconian” on Feb. 19. (Yukon News file)
Yukon government accuses SCAN petitioner of mischaracterizing her eviction

A response to the Jan. 7 petition was filed to court on Feb. 19

City councillor Samson Hartland in Whitehorse on Dec. 3, 2018. Hartland has announced his plans to run for mayor in the Oct. 21 municipal election. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Councillor sets sights on mayor’s chair

Hartland declares election plans

Whitehorse RCMP will provide internet safety training due to an uptick of child luring offences. (iStock photo)
RCMP hosting internet safety webinars for parents and caregivers

The webinars will take place on March 23 and 25

Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Brendan Hanley receives his first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine from Public Health Nurse Angie Bartelen at the Yukon Convention Centre Clinic in Whitehorse on March 3. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News)
State of emergency extended for another 90 days

“Now we’re in a situation where we see the finish line.”

The Yukon government says it is working towards finding a solution for Dawson area miners who may be impacted by City of Dawson plans and regulations. (Joel Krahn/Yukon News file)
Miner expresses frustration over town plan

Designation of claims changed to future planning

Team Yukon athletes wave flags at the 2012 Arctic Winter Games opening ceremony in Whitehorse. The 2022 event in Wood Buffalo, Alta., has been postponed indefinitely. (Justin Kennedy/Yukon News file)
2022 Arctic Winter Games postponed indefinitely

Wood Buffalo, Alta., Host Society committed to rescheduling at a later date

Crews work to clear the South Klondike Highway after an avalanche earlier this week. (Submitted)
South Klondike Highway remains closed due to avalanches

Yukon Avalanche Association recommending backcountry recreators remain vigilant

RCMP Online Crime Reporting website in Whitehorse on March 5. (Haley Ritchie/Yukon News)
Whitehorse RCMP launch online crime reporting

Both a website and Whitehorse RCMP app are now available

A man walks passed the polling place sign at city hall in Whitehorse on Oct. 18, 2018. The City of Whitehorse is preparing for a pandemic-era election this October with a number of measures proposed to address COVID-19 restrictions. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
City gets set for Oct. 21 municipal election

Elections procedures bylaw comes forward

A rendering of the Normandy Manor seniors housing facility. (Photo courtesy KBC Developments)
Work on seniors housing project moves forward

Funding announced for Normandy Manor

Tom Ullyett, pictured, is the first Yukoner to receive the Louis St-Laurent Award of Excellence from the Canadian Bar Association for his work as a community builder and mentor in the territory. (Gabrielle Plonka/Yukon News)
Tom Ullyett wins lifetime achievement award from the Canadian Bar Association

Ullyett has worked in the Yukon’s justice ecosystem for 36 years as a public sector lawyer and mentor

Most Read