A few months ago, as I walked down narrow Dubois Road, in the Central Business District of Nairobi, Kenya, I came to a small shop selling cell phones. There are thousands of these stores across the city. In some places, they line both sides of the street.
When I got to the counter, I asked the young man, whose name was Paul, about getting a SIM card for my phone so I could make calls in Kenya. I handed the phone to him. He took it, looked at it, then shook his head in pity.
“This is a very old phone. It is a phone from zamani!” he said. The Swahili word he used means “a long time ago,” but it can also mean ancient times, prehistory. I felt a little like Richard Leakey bearing some fossilized tool I’d just dug up in the Olduvai Gorge.
The phone was not that old. I bought it in 2005 in Nigeria.