Cory Doctorow has just realised that he's Amish – at any rate, when it comes to the user interfaces of the devices he writes with. He just can't get over QWERTY:
People think the Amish are technophobes. Far from it. They're ideologues. They have a concept of what right-living consists of, and they'll use any technology that serves that ideal — and mercilessly eschew any technology that would subvert it. There's nothing wrong with driving the wagon to the next farm when you want to hear from your son, so there's no need to put a phone in the kitchen. On the other hand, there's nothing right about your livestock dying for lack of care, so a cellphone that can call the veterinarian can certainly find a home in the horse barn.
For me, right-living is the 101-key, QWERTY, computer-centric mediated lifestyle. It's having a bulky laptop in my bag, crouching by the toilets at a strange airport with my AC adapter plugged into the always-awkwardly-placed power source, running software that I chose and installed, communicating over the wireless network. I use a network that has no incremental cost for communication, and a device that lets me install any software without permission from anyone else. Right-living is the highly mutated, commodity-hardware-based, public and free Internet. I'm QWERTY-Amish, in other words.
I too used to think that QWERTY was the Only Way, which was one reason so many of the portable computing devices I bought over the last couple of decades – from an old Sharp pocket computer with a two-line LCD display and a BASIC interpreter to a Cambridge Computers Z88 to a Psion Series 3a to a Psion Series 5 – were endowed with a QWERTY key layout, as $DEITY intended. But then I realised that in truth I was mostly using my Series 5 to update my address book, to-do list and diary, and to read HTML and ASCII documents I'd downloaded. I defected to the Palm camp some three years ago, seeking portability and ease of use above all else, and it's been a revelation. Having got past a steep initial learning curve as I figured out Grafitti, it's been plain sailing ever since. It's been at least six months since I last needed to take my Series 5 out of the house in order to do some serious typing on the move. At home I use QWERTY, but I've adapted to using my Palm elsewhere. Perhaps Cory needs to stop thinking of his cellphone as a device for writing his next short story and use it for what it's really good at. :-)
On the wider issue of the gulf between the flat-fee, install-what-you-like, all-you-can-eat internet mindset and the centralised, billed-by-the-byte telco model which dominates the mobile phone world, I'm entirely Amish right alongside Cory. I doubt I'll seriously consider buying a mobile phone as long as the telco model persists. It might be that there's never a large enough market of Internet Amish to tempt a telco or ISP to try to cater for it, but it's worth a try.