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Evil overlord.

A Danger Hiptop device sitting on a table

How it started

Once upon a time - and about five years prior to the original iPhone - a Silicon Valley company named Danger released a popular series of phones they called the Hiptop.

For a few years, the devices were everywhere, especially among teens, young adults, the otherwise always-connected, and the deaf community. They even had a TV commercial starring Snoop Dogg, Paris Hilton, Burt Reynolds, and Wayne Newton, of all people.

I was madly in love with the Hiptop line (and its T-Mobile variant, the Sidekick). I had a Sidekick II, a Sidekick 3, and a Sidekick LX before reluctantly moving on to other devices - and I still miss them to this day.

Looking back, the Hiptops/Sidekicks really stood out for three reasons:

Integration - A simple, tightly-integrated, and polished interface (and corresponding web portal) that was leaps ahead of anything else in the market. It integrated email, messaging, web browsing, and notes in a way nothing else could do at the time (and even now, tbh).

That flip - A display that rotated 180º to expose a physical keyboard. The rotation could be kicked off with a flick of the thumb, and it was super satisfying to do - over, and over, and over:

Someone flicking open the display of a Sidekick

That keyboard - A full physical QWERTY keyboard with rubberized keycaps (not too soft, not too hard) and just the right amount of ‘give' when pressed, which made it easy to hit 30-40 wpm when typing

Alas, the forward march of technology has long since rendered it obsolete, many concepts behind its operating system becoming subsumed into Android, and its server farm purchased by Microsoft and subsequently killed on May 31, 2011.

Keeping the memory alive

If it's not obvious yet, I loved those little phones. And I've found a way to keep their memory alive, in my own little way.

You see, my favorite ringtone was "Evil Overlord", this short series of industrial-sounding notes that - if you listened just right - sounded like a robot repeating "evil overlord" over and over.

Somebody out there on the internet managed to pull the ringtone out of the ROMs of an old Sidekick. Through a combination of that file, Apple GarageBand, and a few other machinations, my iPhone to this day rings with "Evil Overlord".

Unfortunately, two out of three of those calls are from robocallers these days ... but isn't it sort of appropriate?

Elsewhere

From Danger to Android: The saga of the T-Mobile Sidekick
The History of the Sidekick: The Coolest Smartphone of All Time
Seattle Times: T-Mobile uses celebrity buzz to market its Sidekick
Vice: The Sidekick Was Pop Culture's Most Stylish and Innovative Cellphone
After T-Mobile stopped using the Sidekick brand, they released this Sidekick parody ad


↑ That me!

And, finally, the Hiptops didn't take great photos. But they took distinctive photos, like these on Flickr, that had a good vibe.


Sources: Header image background

 

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