My friend outlived his usefulness. I'm having a hard time letting go.
FORTUNE — This was a sad week for me. A good friend had to be put down. He got old, that’s all. It happens to each of us; we’ve all got a SELL BY date stamped on our butts. But this was a tough one. It’s hard for me to think about him, sitting on a shelf somewhere gathering the dust of ages.
Damn it. I told myself I wouldn’t cry.
The story is as old as time. A rookie comes in, all bright and shiny and too sexy for his or her shirt. And that patina of coolness lasts for a while. Then it starts to fray. His ties are suddenly a little too wide for the day. She shows up at a whiteboard meeting with a dorky laser pointer. Ooh, people say, how 20th century. Then one day, out of the blue or not, this person who has been an important part of your cosmology is gone. “What happened to Bob?” people ask. “He had to go,” you reply. And people know what you mean. It’s the way of our world; you don’t go all squishy about it. And yet …
I’m gonna miss the little jerk. He was with me for many years, through good times and bad, in sunshine and rain, the heat of the Arizona desert during executive getaways and the chill of the Chicago winter during sales conferences. People would talk about it, how inseparable we were, how I always consulted him, even at inopportune moments. And I have to say this, for the record: He never failed me. Never … until recently. And when he did, it wasn’t his fault. The demands of daily life simply outstripped his capabilities. He was born to do one thing very well. People don’t do that anymore. They do as many things as possible as well as they can.
He tried to do that, to move with the times. His efforts to do so were vaguely pathetic in the end. When I was a kid there were always a couple of parents who tried to be cool, smoking herb and wearing headbands. We laughed behind their backs. Likewise, in recent years, my little pal tried to be a hipster in one way or another, but all that did was move him from his core competences. Change wasn’t in his DNA. And you can fake it for only so long.
So it was with Mr. BlackBerry. At the start, it was all oohs and ahhs and Wow, I gotta have one of those, and then after a while it was, Oh, you still have that thing, and finally it was, Whaddya mean you can’t open my video, watch it, share it, and react to it in the next frickin’ six seconds? To be brutally frank, he became a liability to me. To my image. And you know how much of this game is about image. You want people to keep stroking you — you can’t be the only one who doesn’t pull out your iPhone 5 when all the hot dudes are rocking their hardware.
So that’s where I am now, with this long, lean, shiny gizmo that I have no feeling for at all, except perhaps a little bit of admiration for how many things it does so well, the way the Chinese emperor felt about the mechanical nightingale. I’ll be able to watch video better. I won’t need to get back to my desk to read those stupid articles people send me. And oh, yeah, my e-mails will be mostly “yes,” “no,” and “ok,” because I’ll be poking with one finger now instead of firing off lengthy missives with thumbs blazing. The iPhone stinks at thumbs. Who cares, right? We’re moving to a shorter, less articulate space anyhow.
So goodbye, chum. They now tell me you’ll be recommissioned and given to somebody less executive. Perhaps there’s an employee somewhere who will value your elegant and frisky keyboard, the way I always did. It won’t be the same for you, it’s true. You won’t be going to any board meetings or golf outings. But you’ll be working. You’ll be on the job. You’ll be doing what you were made for, even though you’re past your prime, built for a different world, kind of beat up and a little bit ugly. When our time comes, which of us can hope for more?
This story is from the October 29, 2012 issue of Fortune.
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