For legions of executives, journalists and politicians – even the leader of the free world – they were once indispensable devices for staying connected when ordinary cell phones would not suffice. Everything else was for amateurs.
The devices, with the quirky-sounding name BlackBerry and the QWERTY keyboard that conditioned many people to type with their thumbs, were more ubiquitous than iPhones in the late 2000s.
But starting Tuesday, Blackberry models that use the company’s operating systems will go the way of the Commodore computer and the LaserDisc. So are their signature Tic Tac-sized trackballs and letter keys.
As part of an “end-of-life” decommissioning program initially announced in 2020, BlackBerry said it would no longer support the devices as of January 4, 2022 as the Canadian company completes its years-long shift from making cellphones to a mobile phone. software-based business model.
For some, the deadline is a wistful end to an era before touchscreens, Apple Pay and TikTok, when BlackBerries dominated offices, airport lounges and the West Wing.
President Barack Obama famously clung to his BlackBerry after taking office, prompting the White House to strip it for security reasons.
Kevin Michaluk, the founder of CrackBerry, a website and forum dedicated to the once-popular devices, got nostalgic about the technology’s rise and fall on Monday. In 2016, BlackBerry stopped making phones, devices that the company, previously called Research in Motion, had come to define.
“The initial sadness for me has been experienced several times,” said Mr. Michaluk, who goes by the nickname CrackBerry Kevin. “To use my real name, people don’t know who I am.”
Mr. Michaluk, 41, who lives in Winnipeg, Manitoba, said BlackBerry devices, with model names like the Curve, Bold, Storm and Pearl, improved productivity without all the distractions that come with iPhones.
“It feels like they’re causing ADD for most of us, rather than productivity right now,” he said of iPhones. “We went from analog phones to the pendulum that swung too far. You don’t really get anything out of it, because you’re constantly bombarded by sensory overload.”
In a message posted to its website on Dec. 22, BlackBerry reminded users that devices running legacy services over cellular networks or Wi-Fi will no longer be able to receive or send text messages or other data, call or contact 911.
The company, which thanked its users for their loyalty over the years, did not immediately respond on Monday.
On its website, the company pointed out that Android-powered models such as the BlackBerry KEY2, which was manufactured by the Chinese company TCL under a partnership that ended in 2020, would not be affected by the change.
That might come as a relief to Carrie Bradshaw, Sarah Jessica Parker’s character in “And Just Like That,” the reboot of “Sex and the City,” who uses a BlackBerry KEY2.
Few people became more synonymous with BlackBerry than Mr. Obama, whose reliance — ahem, addiction — on his mobile device was a mystery when he was elected president in 2008.
In his 2020 memoir, “A Promised Land,” Obama recalled, “My team threw me one bone when it came to freedom: I could keep my BlackBerry — or rather, I got a new, custom-designed device, just approved after several weeks of negotiations with various cybersecurity professionals.
Mr. Obama said he could only send or receive emails from a list of about 20 vetted contacts on his BlackBerry, whose headphone jack and microphone had been removed and did not work as a phone.
“Michelle joked that my BlackBerry was like one of those play phones you give toddlers,” he said, “where they can press buttons and it makes sounds and things light up, but nothing happens.”
Adam Matlock, 37, who runs TechOdyssey, a technology review channel on YouTube, said Monday that he has received many messages from BlackBerry users expressing concerns about being unable to use the devices.
“They’ve been holding it for so long because there’s no replacement,” he said. “I always felt like BlackBerries. They were special because they had a keyboard and didn’t try to be another touch screen phone.”
Even if BlackBerry didn’t retire its older devices, it would be virtually impossible to use them if major wireless carriers like Verizon, AT&T and T-Mobile phase out 3G technology in the coming years.
“I’m sorry they’re ending support for it,” he said. “I understand the decision because the platform itself is pretty much outdated at this point.”
Mr. Matlock, who lives in Houston, has some of his vintage devices in his office, he said, such as the BlackBerry 7100g.
“They’ve always made me feel a little special,” he said.
Mr. Michaluk, or CrackBerry Kevin, said his favorite model was the BlackBerry Bold 9000 because it had leather on the back.
“I have a shelf with a small stand that it leans against,” he said. “Let’s call it a tasteful shrine.”
One of the first models he owned was the BlackBerry 8700, which had a jog wheel on the side that allowed users to scroll through menus and messages.
“It was a small tank,” he said. “You could throw the thing across the room like a baseball, and it would keep working.”
Mr. Michaluk now uses an iPhone.
“I’m okay with that now,” he said.
William Lamb contributed reporting.