For legions of executives, journalists and politicians – even the leader of the free world – they were once indispensable devices for staying connected when regular cell phones weren’t enough. Everything else was reserved for amateurs.
The devices, with the bizarre sounding name BlackBerry and the QWERTY keyboard that conditioned many people to type with their thumbs, were more ubiquitous than iPhones in the late 2000s.
But starting Tuesday, Blackberry models that use the company’s operating systems will follow the path of the Commodore computer and the LaserDisc. The same will be true of their branded trackballs and Tic Tac-sized alphabet keys.
As part of an “end-of-life” decommissioning program initially announced in 2020, BlackBerry has said that as of January 4, 2022, it will no longer support devices as the Canadian company completes its transition of several. years of manufacturing mobile phones to a software-based business model.
For some, the deadline represents a melancholy conclusion to an era before touchscreens, Apple Pay and TikTok, when BlackBerries dominated offices, airport lounges and the West Wing.
President Barack Obama hung onto his BlackBerry after taking office, prompting the White House to remove it for security reasons.
Kevin Michaluk, the founder of CrackBerry, a website and forum dedicated to once popular devices, grew nostalgic on Monday for the rise and fall of technology. In 2016, BlackBerry gave up making phones, devices the company, previously named Research in Motion, had come to define.
“The initial sadness for me has been experienced many times,” said Mr. Michaluk, who uses the CrackBerry nickname Kevin. “To use my real name, people don’t know who I am.”
Mr. Michaluk, 41, who lives in Winnipeg, Manitoba, said BlackBerry devices, bearing model names like Curve, Bold, Storm and Pearl, have improved productivity without all of the distractions that come with iPhones.
“It feels like they’re causing ADD for most of us, rather than productivity right now,” he said of iPhones. “We went from analog telephones to the pendulum swinging too far. There is nothing you can do about it because you are constantly bombarded with sensory overload.
In a post on its website on December 22, BlackBerry reminded users that devices running legacy services over cellular or WiFi networks would no longer be able to receive or send text messages or other data, make phone calls or call 911.
The company, which has thanked its users for their loyalty over the years, did not immediately comment further on Monday.
On its website, the company stressed that Android-powered models like the BlackBerry KEY2, made by Chinese company TCL under a partnership that ended in 2020, would not be affected by the change.
This could be a relief for Carrie Bradshaw, the character of Sarah Jessica Parker in “And Just Like That”, the “Sex and the City” reboot, who uses a BlackBerry KEY2.
Few people have become more synonymous with BlackBerry than Mr. Obama, whose addiction – ahem, addiction – to his mobile device presented a conundrum when he was elected president in 2008.
Writing in his 2020 memoir, “A Promised Land,” Mr. Obama recalled, “My team threw me a bone in freedom: I got to keep my BlackBerry – or, rather, I was given a new, specially modified device, approved only after several weeks of negotiations with various cybersecurity personnel.
Mr Obama said he could only send or receive emails from a list of about 20 verified contacts on his BlackBerry, whose headphone jack and microphone had been removed and which was not working. not like a phone.
“Michelle joked that my BlackBerry was like one of those gaming phones you give toddlers,” he said, “where they can press buttons and it makes noise and sounds. things light up but nothing actually happens. “
Adam Matlock, 37, who runs TechOdyssey, a tech magazine channel on YouTube, said on Monday he had received numerous messages from BlackBerry users expressing concerns that the devices could not be used.
“They’ve been hanging on for so long because there is no replacement,” he said. “I always felt like BlackBerries, they were special because they had a keypad and weren’t trying to be another phone with a touchscreen.”
Even if BlackBerry didn’t decommission its old devices, Mr Matlock said, it would be next to impossible to get them to work once major mobile carriers like Verizon, AT&T and T-Mobile phased out 3G technology over the years. the next few years.
“I think it is unfortunate that they are ending their support,” he said. “I understand the decision as the platform itself is pretty much obsolete at this point.”
Mr. Matlock, who lives in Houston, keeps some of his vintage devices in his office, he said, like the BlackBerry 7100g.
“They always felt a bit special to me,” he said.
Mr. Michaluk, or CrackBerry Kevin, said his favorite model was the BlackBerry Bold 9000 because it had leather on the back.
“I have a little shelf with a little crutch that it leans against,” he said. “Let’s call it a tasteful sanctuary.
One of the first models he owned was the BlackBerry 8700, which had a thumbwheel on the side that allowed users to scroll through menus and messages.
“It was a small tank,” he said. “You could throw the thing across the room like a baseball, and it would keep running. “
Mr. Michaluk now uses an iPhone.
“I am now okay with that,” he said.
William Lamb contributed reports.