For some reason I can remember what I thought the first time I heard that some cellphone manufacturers were putting cameras on phones.
"That has to be the dumbest thing ever," I thought. "Who would want that, and what application could it possibly have? What's next a blender and TV? It's frankentechnology."
I wasn't exactly visionary.
What I had missed was that the marriage between camera and phone was the beginning of the newsroom in your pocket. That is, for folks in my profession, we can now report the news from one cellphone — photos, texts and connection to our website is just a few swipes away.
My reaction to camera phones would be the first of many advances I'd initially roll my eyes at, only to think later that life without would be unimaginable without them.
Not many want to admit being Luddites, but I imagine I am not alone.
iPod? Who needed them?
Yet, within the first 10 days of owning one, my iPod had 5,000 songs. It's the one device I'd take if I were stranded and could only have one piece of technology.
For the past five years, I've owned the normal cluster of workplace gadgets — laptops, tablets and smartphones. Heck, I thought I had hit the jackpot once when I got a hand-me-down Palm Pilot.
When I moved here, though, I decided to try life with just my iPhone. For awhile, I wondered if I could make it without an iPad. Even though they could do most the same things, I just liked the larger screen and a keyboard for my fat fingers.
But the more I've had life without a tablet, the more I've come to appreciate the smartphone. And, no this isn't a shameless, free commercial for an iPhone or any Apple product. Instead, this is a shameless pitch for something we've been working at here.
This week, we're rolling out the new version of our Billings Gazette app. I mention it because it's what I use often to check the news when I am not sitting in the newsroom.
As you smartphoners out there probably know, you can pull up the billingsgazette.com on your iPhone through a browser, but the type can be small and the site harder to navigate.
This free app is optimized for your smartphone. It also arranges stories based on the most recent. One of the great features of the new app is that you'll receive the text alerts for breaking news, and you'll get stories that are in a format that will be easy to read on your smartphone.
On our app, you can view photo galleries of sporting events, breaking news or even some of our more recent popular galleries that show readers trying to dig out of this record-setting winter (I guess misery truly loves company).
Our new app compliments the other ways we're already with you on the phone and on different platforms. If you haven't followed our reporters on Twitter, you're missing news as it happens, along with some great one-liners, like my favorite recently from The Gazette's Kristi Angel, who wondered after the appointment of Sen. John Walsh if Montana was ready for two senators with flat-tops?
And, our Facebook page continues to be another platform for us to ask readers to engage with us about our community. A recent question about what acts should come to the MetraPark drew dozens of suggestions and proved a huge hunger for more entertainment in Billings.
Now, phones aren't just phones. They're not just phones with cameras. Now, they're phones that are computers that keep us connected, no matter where we are.
Here at The Gazette, we're trying harder to make sure that no matter where you go, we're there with you — in whatever format you love.