Technology Untangled: Texting is not just for teens

Stephen Bour
February 3, 2010
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I must admit that until recently I didn't think much of using a cell phone for sending text messages. However, since I purchased a new phone, I've started to experiment with it, and I am surprised to report that I have found some practical as well as fun uses for this technology.

Texting always struck me as something for kids. It seemed odd to notice kids everywhere who were frantically poking away at the miniscule keyboards of their phones. If they had something important to communicate, why didn't they just call the person from the phone that was in their hands?

One of our court reporters began to text to communicate with the office. I would receive a text on occasion but still preferred e-mail or plain, old phone calls. Maybe one of the reasons for the preference was because I did not have an unlimited texting plan. Another reason was that my phone did not have a full QWERTY keyboard. Typing a response on an abbreviated keyboard with each number representing 3 or 4 letters was slow and clumsy, even with predictive-text input technology.

When my cell service contract came up for renewal, I upgraded to a new Verizon phone, which included a slideout keyboard, and an unlimited texting plan. I do not recommend experimenting with texting without an unlimited texting plan because the charges can add up quickly with the "a la carte" billing method. With the new phone, I was free to experiment with texting and prove once and for all that it really was a waste of time ... or so I thought.

For business purposes, I started to notice that communicating via text messages could be very efficient. Text messages are necessarily short - about 140-160 characters max. This helps keep the message right to the point. You can send longer communications, as they are automatically separated into several shorter parts. Texting can also take place in situations where a phone call is impractical, such as during a hearing or a deposition. I found this particularly useful during a deposition I was videotaping that ran long; I was able to alert the right people without having to interrupt the taping. I am finding many situations where texting is more efficient than playing phone tag.

While texting can offer immediate communication, it certainly does not require an immediate response to each message you receive. This is becoming a major issue because of the problem of distracted driving. It never makes sense to type a text message while driving.

Pictures can also be included with text messages. This issue has been in the news because of the unfortunate situation of teenagers "sexting" each other with suggestive pictures. A more useful example of picture messaging would be for sending immediate pictures of an auto accident. I found it useful during the Christmas shopping season to send pictures of presents being considered for purchase. Note that the pictures that are sent within text messages are compressed automatically before sending. The original versions of the pictures that are saved to your phone when you take a photo are of higher quality.

Airline travelers can take advantage of another practical application for texting. The airlines, as well as travel services like Orbitz, offer automatic text-message updates regarding flight status. It is easy to sign up for these updates when making travel reservations on your computer.

I was intrigued by ads about getting Kroger coupons on your cell phone, as well as breaking news by text message. I had to check it out. By texting GROCERY to 22888, I was able to receive a Web link that allowed me to choose offers that would automatically be added to my Kroger card and be applied at checkout.

By texting INDY NEWS to 44636, I was able to receive immediate text replies on some of the top stories in the news. The service that provides this is named 4INFO. Text M (for Movie) and your zip code to receive a reply with shows and show times for the closest theater. Visit the Web site 4info.comto learn about many other free text services, although standard text-messaging fees with your carrier will apply.

I will admit that I have become a convert to some of the virtues of texting, but I don't expect it will become as vital a communication tool for me as it seems to be for today's youth.

Stephen Bour ( is an engineer and legal technology consultant in Indianapolis. His company, the Alliance for Litigation Support Inc., includes Bour Technical Services and Alliance Court Reporting. The opinions expressed in this column are those of the author.


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  1. Especially I would like to see all the republican voting patriotic good ole boys to stop and understand that the wars they have been volunteering for all along (especially the past decade at least) have not been for God & Jesus etc no far from it unless you think George Washington's face on the US dollar is god (and we know many do). When I saw the movie about Chris Kyle, I thought wow how many Hoosiers are just like this guy, out there taking orders to do the nasty on the designated bad guys, sometimes bleeding and dying, sometimes just serving and coming home to defend a system that really just views them as reliable cannon fodder. Maybe if the Christians of the red states would stop volunteering for the imperial legions and begin collecting welfare instead of working their butts off, there would be a change in attitude from the haughty professorial overlords that tell us when democracy is allowed and when it isn't. To come home from guarding the borders of the sandbox just to hear if they want the government to protect this country's borders then they are racists and bigots. Well maybe the professorial overlords should gird their own loins for war and fight their own battles in the sandbox. We can see what kind of system this really is from lawsuits like this and we can understand who it really serves. NOT US.... I mean what are all you Hoosiers waving the flag for, the right of the president to start wars of aggression to benefit the Saudis, the right of gay marriage, the right for illegal immigrants to invade our country, and the right of the ACLU to sue over displays of Baby Jesus? The right of the 1 percenters to get richer, the right of zombie banks to use taxpayer money to stay out of bankruptcy? The right of Congress to start a pissing match that could end in WWIII in Ukraine? None of that crud benefits us. We should be like the Amish. You don't have to go far from this farcical lawsuit to find the wise ones, they're in the buggies in the streets not far away....

  2. Moreover, we all know that the well heeled ACLU has a litigation strategy of outspending their adversaries. And, with the help of the legal system well trained in secularism, on top of the genuinely and admittedly secular 1st amendment, they have the strategic high ground. Maybe Christians should begin like the Amish to withdraw their services from the state and the public and become themselves a "people who shall dwell alone" and foster their own kind and let the other individuals and money interests fight it out endlessly in court. I mean, if "the people" don't see how little the state serves their interests, putting Mammon first at nearly every turn, then maybe it is time they wake up and smell the coffee. Maybe all the displays of religiosity by American poohbahs on down the decades have been a mask of piety that concealed their own materialistic inclinations. I know a lot of patriotic Christians don't like that notion but I entertain it more and more all the time.

  3. If I were a judge (and I am not just a humble citizen) I would be inclined to make a finding that there was no real controversy and dismiss them. Do we allow a lawsuit every time someone's feelings are hurt now? It's preposterous. The 1st amendment has become a sword in the hands of those who actually want to suppress religious liberty according to their own backers' conception of how it will serve their own private interests. The state has a duty of impartiality to all citizens to spend its judicial resources wisely and flush these idiotic suits over Nativity Scenes down the toilet where they belong... however as Christians we should welcome them as they are the very sort of persecution that separates the sheep from the wolves.

  4. What about the single mothers trying to protect their children from mentally abusive grandparents who hide who they truly are behind mounds and years of medication and have mentally abused their own children to the point of one being in jail and the other was on drugs. What about trying to keep those children from being subjected to the same abuse they were as a child? I can understand in the instance about the parent losing their right and the grandparent having raised the child previously! But not all circumstances grant this being OKAY! some of us parents are trying to protect our children and yes it is our God given right to make those decisions for our children as adults!! This is not just black and white and I will fight every ounce of this to get denied

  5. Mr Smith the theory of Christian persecution in Indiana has been run by the Indiana Supreme Court and soundly rejected there is no such thing according to those who rule over us. it is a thought crime to think otherwise.