Seven years ago I was handed a mobile device and told, by CNBC’s then-head of operations, not to break it. It was grey, it was ugly, it was my first BlackBerry, and I loved it.
I could now receive email 24 hours a day and keep abreast of the news wherever I found myself on the planet, something that proved to be very useful as the financial crisis erupted on Wall Street and across the world.
It was not perfect by any means. Access to the Internet was slow and inconsistent, but the email never failed, and it I really had to try hard to break it. Crucially, it was reliable and never failed as Bear Stearns, Lehman Brothers, RBS, and many others collapsed.
Family and friends made multiple attempts to hide the device from me when I was on vacation and told me I needed to step away from the “Crackberry” more often. They had a point, but I didn’t listen. My BlackBerry was essential.
Just how essential it had become only became clear when it stopped working.
It has stopped working many times before, but only as a result of my own carelessness. (I am told I have broken more than 10 BlackBerrys in my time, which I believe is a massive overestimate.) They do not like bouncing or prolonged access to water, but despite my worst efforts the various models I had over the years worked 99.9 percent of the time.
Then it all went wrong in late 2011 when a massive outage hit Research in Motion . For days millions of other Crackberry addicts and I had to go cold turkey for three whole days as the system collapsed, sending RIM’s share price with it.
A “critical outage” had caused the disaster according to RIM, the Canadian maker of the BlackBerry. Staff worked around the clock to get the system up and running as millions of people at first cursed the lack email on the move and then secretly began to enjoy not being on the beck and call of their bosses and businesses 24 hours a day.
Ever since those fateful days last year, my BlackBerry has failed, day after day. For hours at a time email will go down, normally as I get home and a major story is breaking.
It might not always be RIM’s fault. Vodafone is my carrier, and living near a major London train station means thousands of people are within 150 meters of me, trying to access data and send emails. The IT department in the office tells me to manage my inbox better and delete more of the 600 emails I receive every day. If I stand on my balcony and hold it toward the sky it generally starts working again.
A few weeks ago as it rained, and as I had to chase down yet another euro zone debt crisis story, I decided enough is enough. It was raining, and I was standing on my balcony getting very wet hoping my BlackBerrywould work.
I went back inside and began looking at iPhones, Samsung Galaxys, and even Nokia phones, wondering which mobile device maker I would have to work deal with. It was a horrible moment. None of them had the same keyboard, and touch screens just are not my thing.
I want a BlackBerry that works, but eventually, I'm just giving up on them.
The saddest thing is that I was signed up for life. RIM had me and then lost me. To quote Robert De Niro in the film “Cop Land”: “I offered you the chance to be a cop and you BLEW IT.”