Classic Computer Magazine Archive COMPUTE! ISSUE 146 / NOVEMBER 1992 / PAGE G21

Captain Future and his Pocket Commander. (Fujitsu Pocket Commander portable telephone) (Column)
by Fred D'Ignazio

Hello. This is Captain Future. People used to call me Fred, but that's when I was stationary, physical, and sitting in a real chair in a real office with real wires tying me to one spot.

Now I'm Captain Future. I'm mobile. I'm cordless. I'm wireless. I'm on the go. Where I call you from one minute is not where I'll be the next. You may be there (where you really are), but I'm only here in a metaphorical sense. I'm totally virtual. I beam you up from my little pocket phone somewhere on the planet. You beam me up, and I might be on a rock cliff or in my minivan or under a giant sequoia.

The revolution in my personal communications style occurred two months ago when I began renting my little Fujitsu Pocket Commander phone. The phone weighs just a few ounces; it's about five inches long and two inches deep. I wear it in a little case on my belt.

When I'm wearing my Pocket Commander, I feel like a new man. With that little phone strapped to my side, I pretend I'm James Bond with his shoulder holster. But instead of a warlike secret agent, I'm a peaceful agent, armed for the future, ready to communicate with the world.

As soon as the Fujitsu lady checked me out on my new phone, I placed my very first call to my wife. I found her in an unlikely spot: the kitchen. She picked up the kitchen phone and said, "Hello?"

"Hello, dear," I said. "It's Captain Future, your husband."

"Where are you?" asked my wife, not at all impressed with my new secret identity.

"Right outside the kitchen door, dear," I answered proudly. "About five feet away from you, in the driveway."

Next I called my mom. "Hello, Mom," I said. "It's your son, Captain Future."

"Who is this really?" my mother asked suspiciously.

"Aw, Mom," I said. "I'm calling you with no wires. No cables. Just thin air. And we're talking just like on a real phone. Isn't it grand?"

"I don't know any Captain Future," my mother said. "And whoever this is, you sound like you're calling me from inside a fish tank or a tin can. Please go away." Clink!

After calling my mom, I called everyone else I could think of. I called people from restaurants, bowling alleys, baseball diamonds, petting zoos, and public marinas.

Suddenly, I realized that I had become an addictive communicator. I first realized this after I installed the Fujitsu Pocket Commander in a cellular dock inside my minivan. Now I had a boosted power source, a cellular antenna corkscrewing up the side of my car, and an in-car speaker phone with a tiny mike clipped to the sun visor over the driver's seat. After I ran out of other people to call on my car phone, I began calling my wife again.

"Hello, dear!"

"Is that you, Fred?" my wife asked, from inside the house. "Where are you now?"

"Outside in the driveway, in our car."

"If you're already home, why don't you come inside and talk, like a real person?"

"Because it's more fun to call you from the car. It's kind of like an intercom. Besides, I've got my laptop computer out here, and I'm trying to plug it into the car phone so I can call online bulletin boards and maybe even send faxes."

"Why would you want to send faxes from your car?" my wife asked. "Especially when you're parked in our driveway?"

Since then, my wife has slowly warmed to pocket phones. For example, last week she and I were trekking around a rock quarry on the seacoast north of Boston. There wasn't another person for miles around. Nature was in bloom all around us. Suddenly, my wife reached for my belt.

"Dear!" I screamed, jumping backward. "What's got into you?"

"Your phone," she said. "I want your phone. I just remembered I have to call my office."

While my wife sat on the quarry's edge talking with her boss and her secretary, I began climbing down the vertical wall of the quarry. After about 15 minutes, I made it down to the level of the water that filled the quarry's inner basin. I took off my shoes and dangled my bare toes in the water, scaring away a couple of polliwogs that were sunning themselves on a big boulder just beneath the surface. I listened to my wife as she talked on the cellular phone, her voice crystal clear high above.

"This is weird," I thought. Somehow, my wife's phone call to her office didn't seem out of place even here, deep in the heart of undisturbed nature. In addition, the call didn't stress me out or make me lose my sense of awe and appreciation for my surroundings. Somehow, everything seemed to fit in.

It'll be amazing to see how this revolution changes the future face of work and leisure. Maybe in the future it'll be normal to conduct business on a rock cliff while on a daylong trek into a remote granite quarry. As I gazed out at the deep blue quarry lake all around me, I thought that might be kind of nice.