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Cell phones have become the major link to the outside world. In another generation, land lines will be unusual tools only used in remote areas or hospitals. Most cell phones are smooth-edged and very difficult to hold. The buttons are slippery, the cases even more so, and it’s very easy to drop them in puddles or the toilet. Someone near and dear to me dropped a cell phone in the toilet yesterday. It stopped working for about 24 hours, but after its swaddle in a towel, it fired up again. Before this happened, she’d been pricing a new phone, anywhere from $50 or so to $200 and up, and no guarantees that the contract would still be valid.

If cell phones are going to continue to hold such power over us, the next fleet of them ought to be easier to hold. They look sleek, sure. But they disappear in a bag or pocket a million times a day.

One second you’re in touch. The next, the cell phone falls into a puddle, and you are in a communications blackout, with no access to your phone numbers. The cell phone companies offer a way to back up the contacts online. That’s good. Waterproof phones—they exist. I’m looking into them for that inevitable time my phone drops out of my pocket into the storm sewer. But this kind of near-disaster for a device that costs a lot of money to own and operate—can’t we do better?

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