Front Row at the Movies by Shirrel Rhoades


Yes, I am an early adapter. That means I want to be the first person who has any new technology.

I often pay a financial penalty for this conceit. I remember paying $1200 for a DVD player, that six months later was selling for $600. It lingered on my credit card for years.

This psychological bent was imprinted early on. My father owned a furniture store, so we were the first family in the entire county to own a television set. Neighbors came from wide and far to sit in our living room as if it were a movie theater.

So, sure, I was an early owner of a BlackBerry.

The BlackBerry, as you will remember, was a smartphone known for its email handling and security features. Often thought of as a business-centric device, it was once well-known for the keyboards on most of its devices.

BlackBerry handhelds started as data-only devices; you could not use them to make phone calls.

The BlackBerry 850 pager debuted in 1999. The BlackBerry 5810, the first BlackBerry to add phone functionality, appeared in 2002.

At BlackBerry’s peak in 2011, there were 85 million subscribers worldwide. But then BlackBerry lost its dominant position in the market due to the success of the Android and iOS platforms. The numbers fell to 23 million by 2016, at which point it was licensed out to various companies. Today, BlackBerry has joined with the TCL Corporation to produce BlackBerry-branded smartphones.

A new film eponymously titled “BlackBerry” tells that story – a historical biography, not a documentary – of those people behind the rise and fall of the device.

Directed by Matt Johnson (“Operation Avalanche”), the film is summed up like this:

“A company that toppled global giants before succumbing to the ruthlessly competitive forces of Silicon Valley. This is not a conventional tale of modern business failure by fraud and greed. The rise and fall of BlackBerry reveals the dangerous speed at which innovators race along the information superhighway.”

For his film, Johnson has assembled a good cast. In addition to Jay Baruchel as founder Mike Lazaridis and Glen Howerton as co-founder Jim Balsillie, you will encounter such familiar faces as Cary Elwes, Saul Rubinek, and Michael Ironside. Matt Johnson even has a juicy role for himself.

Forbes once described BlackBerry as the company “forever tethering businesspeople to email (thanks?).”

Hmm. This walk down technology’s memory lane makes me wonder whatever happened to the Palm Pilot.

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