Keyboards on handheld devices and smartphones have often been debated in terms of how much work they actually let you get done. Tiny displays, limited functionality, itty-bitty keyboard buttons and now the iPhone's entirely virtual keyboard whose keys can be hard to hit for some people have given folks something to talk about. Taking matters to a level that I believe is unheard of in the technology world, however, 28-year-old Thomas Martel in Bonnie Brae (a Denver, CO neighborhood) decided to solve his large handed problem by surgically altering his thumbs to make it easier to use his iPhone.
Through a procedure called "whittling" which the North Denver News described, an incision was made into each of Martel's thumbs. The bone was shaved down, muscles were realigned and his thumbnail was modified to help bring it all together. His new 'streamlined' thumbs may look out of place in relation to his other fingers, but Martel says all the time and frustration he'll save should make the surgery pay for itself in ten to fifteen years. Of course Dr. Spars, the man who helped develop the procedure, is excited about this new avenue for plastic surgery; it aint just for makin' pretty faces anymore - now you too can have your very own iPhone-optimized thumbs for the low, low price of... well the North Denver News article doesn't say. My guess on the procedure's price though is somewhere in the range of 'a heckuva lot', given that time and frustration are tough things to add up over fifteen years. Depreciating values and market shifts in the value of frustration alone are enough to make one's head spin.
What about you, TUAW readers? Anyone planning on hacking their thumbs for more better iPhone usage? How about whittling out a spot in a thigh so the phone rests a little better? I'm thinking about bypassing an armband case altogether and simply chopping out a chunk of my arm for taking the iPhone running. Maybe I'll see what Dr. Nick's prices are like this week.
[Update 2: As some commenters have pointed out, this story has finally been officially claimed as satire by North Denver News. I guess the same ol' lesson that I have had to learn myself applies: if a news outlet typically known to print true stories (no matter how quirky they may be) tries to pull off satire, they need to let readers know up front (i.e. - a tiny link that's added at the bottom of the article just above a paid advertisement post-publication doesn't quite cut it). In summary: no one had their thumbs surgically altered to work with an iPhone more efficiently; nothing more to see here folks.]
[Update: As these stories sometimes go, it appears that this might not all be true. Richard Martin at InformationWeek did some digging for Dr. Spars and James Benfly, the author of the article at North Denver News. Benfly hasn't returned any of Martin's calls, and Martin finds it a bit suspicious that there is no phone book listing for a Dr. Robert Fox Spars in the Denver area. While I too found it a little odd that Denver North News is using what looks like a default template for the open source Joomla software to power their site, a friend did some checking and found four Thomas Martel's in the Denver area. I also don't find it at all strange that Dr. Spars isn't listed in the phone book, because he could very well be listed under his practice's name which Denver North News didn't list in their article. Still, it was worth mentioning that folks are punching some potential holes in the story. I'll see if I can follow up to get any more solid information.]
[via iPhone Alley]