There was a time in recent memory when the name BlackBerry wasn’t shorthand for “borderline obsolete.”
Today, even Wall Street has given up on the BlackBerry. But less than six years ago, it was the must-have phone for millennials in high school and college. I was reminded of this when I saw a recent Facebook post from 2009.
After my colleague Caroline Moss wrote about excavating embarrassing Facebook posts from the early days of the platform, I asked my friends to dig around and send me their own posts from the mid-2000s.
I was expecting a lot of awkward status updates that misuse the verb “is” and maybe some overly aggressive inside jokes. But what I didn’t expect was this digital time warp:
What we have here is a December 2009 status update from one of my closest friends. You might be wondering: exactly what is this eight-digit combination of numbers and letters that elicited such a strong reaction?
The answer: a BBM pin.
Back in 2009, iPhones still hadn’t completely broken into the mainstream, and the must-have phone was the BlackBerry Curve. It was considered to be better than every other phone because it had a keyboard and a messaging service known colloquially as BBM, or BlackBerry Messenger.
The way you found people on BBM was by entering their PIN codes into your own BBM. (I’d call it an app, but those didn’t really exist yet.) It was sort of like Snapchat’s system of snapping a photo of someone’s ghost icon to connect with them. It wasn’t the most efficient way to connect. But once you were connected, BBM allowed group chats, emoticons, and photo messaging. It doesn’t sound like much, but at the time, it felt super high-tech.
So the BBM pin had become something of a status symbol. That’s why my friend posted hers on Facebook with a smiley-face, and why my other friends and I reacted so strongly. We were excited that she had finally joined the BlackBerry club and would finally be able to BBM with us in a massive group chat.
Well, we were all excited except for the one who called her an unprintable word.
She was the only one who still didn’t have a BlackBerry.
Also of interest: this post has been on Facebook for six years and despite having been commented on at least five times, it has only accumulated two likes. Two likes! Practically nothing. Today, if you posted a status with personal news and it only got two likes, you’d wonder if you had somehow gravely offended your entire social circle.
This is because the ability to “like” something was relatively new at that point, having been introduced in February 2009. I remember people reacting with hesitation, and feeling that “liking” something was much more aggressive than commenting on it. A “like” was almost akin to a “poke” in terms of weirdness. People just didn’t know how to respond to it. And I guess that by December of that year, it still hadn’t caught on.
Of course, that’s changed. Now, photos, statuses, and even comments beneath statuses can rack up likes pretty quickly.
The chosen cell phone among millennials has also changed. Now, iPhones are the default device. The BlackBerry Curve was tough to part with, mostly because of its keyboard. But when it came to web browsing and doing pretty much anything besides texting, BBMing, and checking emails, the BlackBerry was pretty useless.
You can still buy it online, though. And someone is brave enough to ask $US86.45 for it.
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