It is with deep sadness I inform all of you of the sudden and unexpected passing of one of my closest and dearest friends, Flip. To be honest, it shouldn’t have come as a surprise. Many people have told me for years that they were shocked that he was still around and that I still spent time with Flip. In fact, many of them said, “Harry, Flip must be more than 20 years old. You must move on!”
“Move on???” I just never thought of Flip that way. Why? He was reliable, very low maintenance, and easy to spend time with. In fact, I took him everywhere. Despite getting on in years, Flip still would have been with me if not for the tragic accident last week. But let me start at the beginning…
Flip, or more formally known as Mr. Phone, came into my life in 1998 while I was CEO of Baxter International. He and I became fast friends. He was small enough to fit in my back pocket, and we went everywhere together. Since I spent a lot of time sending voicemails and was not very interested in emails, Flip was indispensable! Some folks commented that Flip was simplistic, that he couldn’t take pictures and didn’t have a flashlight. However, since I already had a camera and a flashlight, there was no reason for Flip to have either one.
The first time Flip had a near-death experience was when I joined Madison Dearborn as an executive partner in 2005. I was told I wouldn’t need Flip any more because they were partnering me with Berry.
I will admit that Mr. BlackBerry had a lot of appeal. He had a much bigger screen, took pictures, and most importantly, he had a KEYBOARD!! While I grew to really like Berry, there was no way I was going to discard Flip. After all, Flip was clearly the superior phone.
Over time, I also developed a close relationship with Berry. In fact, Berry, Flip, and I became a phenomenal trio. Berry took care of the emails and files; Flip took care of 100% of my phone calls.
The fact that Apple came out with the iPhone in 2007 had no impact on me. I was teased that I couldn’t “surf the internet” or watch TV with Berry or Flip, but I didn’t care. Given the amount of time I spent on emails and phone calls, the last thing I needed as a distraction was “surfing the internet” (by the way, I’m still not sure what that means).
Well, ironically, even though Berry was much younger than Flip, his demise came much sooner than Flip’s. Two years ago, on the 10th anniversary of the iPhone, I was informed that I was the last human being at my office still using Berry and that I had to join the “modern world” and switch to an iPhone. They were not going to support Berry any more. I had no choice but to bid farewell to good old Berry.
While I miss Berry, I do recognize that he had some serious character flaws. For example, while other people’s phones — their “smartphones” — would allow them to Google directions when they were driving somewhere, Berry was not so accommodating; I was still stopping at 7-11’s to ask the attendants for directions (much to their shock and confusion). Also, while my friends and colleagues were being whisked away in things called “Uber” and “Lyft,” which they summoned effortlessly on their smartphones, I was still trying to call cabs after company parties at 1 AM.
So, in the spirit of moving on, I accepted the fact that iPhone was now part of my life. Yet, despite giving up Berry and adopting iPhone, Flip still stayed by my side (technically, in my back pocket). Here’s a picture of iPhone and Flip from last year:
Which brings us to the tragic end of the story: I was departing a flight in San Francisco last week. As usual, I checked my email on iPhone and realized I needed to call Julie. So, I reached into my right back pocket for Flip, flipped him open, and watched in horror as — in almost slow motion — Flip literally snapped in half and fell to the floor. A young boy was standing next to me, and he picked up Flip’s pieces. As he handed them to me with a quizzical look in his eyes, he asked: “What is this?” I explained that Flip was a phone, but it was clear he didn’t quite comprehend what I was talking about.
When I got back to Chicago, the first thing I did was go to the Verizon store and see what they could do for Flip. The clerk said they had never seen anything like Flip. I assured him that there never will be anything like Flip.
Having run out of options, I reluctantly decommissioned Flip and transferred his phone number to my iPhone. Now whenever I make phone calls, I’m reminded of my old friend. As for Flip, he rests in pieces in the drawer of my bedside table. Maybe someday science will advance far enough to give Flip a second chance at life.