Author Opens Your Old Text Messages in Book on Motorola Razr

Nov 28, 2012 6:00am
ht razr dm 121128 wblog Author Opens Your Old Text Messages in Book on Motorola RazrCover of Kyle Williams’ book, “Razrs.” Image credit: Kyle Williams

Thought you got rid of your old Motorola Razr cellphone — you know, the chic-looking hot pink one you just had to have (not Motorola’s recent Android version)?  Do you remember that photo you snapped that you thought you deleted?

Think again.  You may just see it again at a bookstore near you.

Author and New York artist Kyle M.F. Williams has now published “Razrs” — a book that retails for $9.99 and looks through the old text messages, photos (some decent and some not-so-decent) of 44 used Razrs. The flip phones that once defined a generation of pre-smartphone users are now being resold for $2 each from, among other places,  Houston, TX according to the Houston Chronicle.

“I’m fascinated by how the original Motorola Razr, once the coolest cellphone ever, is kind of considered a joke now since smartphones have taken over as personal communication devices,” said Williams in an email.

Originally, ABC News.com reported Williams had purchased the phones from an electronic repair store in Sugar Land, TX. In an article with the Houston Chronicle, the seller, who goes by the name of Techbosonline, is not a repair shop but, in fact, a student based in Houston.

“I just buy phones, electronics, etc. and just resell them. Some are new, some work and others broken for parts. So no, I wouldn’t call it a repair service,” said the anonymous student via email with the Houston Chronicle.

Williams said he found Techbosonline, through eBay with the original idea of featuring the popular Motorola phones on a bike sculpture. After sifting through the phones, Williams started doing some poking around and discovered not all the text messages and photos had been deleted from the phones’ previous owners.

“I assumed they [the phones] would all be broken and without batteries, but when I received them and tried one out, it turned on,” said Williams.

Twenty-eight of the 44 cellphones Williams tested had some kind of content stored in them. Williams transferred the leftover files onto his personal computer, cataloged them, and created “Razrs.”

“Figuring out how to extract the data took a week,” said Williams.

In his email, Williams addressed the issues concerning copyright laws and rights. This is a hot-topic issue after the recent Facebook controversy surrounding copyright laws and rights as it pertains to users’ photos and videos.

“In the credits of the book I wrote: ‘All photographs, videos, and text messages found on the cellphones are by the previous owners of the cellphones,’ and that’s all I felt I needed. This book isn’t intended to hurt anybody’s feelings or take credit for the photographs,” said Williams. “I just chose the most interesting things that I, basically by accident, found on these phones.”

Text Messages as Art

Although some of the photos and text messages are not suitable for a family audience, one can preview them by looking at the book’s listing on Amazon.

“I view it as an art book. It’s presented in a very straightforward way, with no commentary or snark,” said Williams. “It’s just about this iconic little phone that a bunch of people used to document bits of their lives.”

Razr users may have believed they erased the messages from their phones when they donated them, but that was not the case. Many of today’s phones — mostly smartphones — are equipped with a built-in reset button, which allows users to wipe out all photos, texts, and other information stored in the phone’s memory. On the Motorola Razr, that option is called “Master Clear.”  A lot of past owners never found it.

In any case, Razr or no Razr, the message is that it’s best to delete everything from your phone before you hand it over to a seller. Otherwise, you may find that photo you didn’t mean to send featured in Williams’ next book.

As for Williams’ plans for those Razr phones?

“I have those tucked into a drawer in my desk waiting to eventually make something out of them.”

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