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Get to know Pocketnow’s Joe Levi

By Joe Levi July 13, 2013, 3:38 pm
Who is Joe Levi

Pocketnow Insider isn’t just about video. It’s a collection of posts that offers a glimpse behind the scenes of Pocketnow – and a brief look into the lives of the people behind it. This new recurring text series offers you the opportunity to get to know our editors better, outside the scope of their work here on the site.

A few weeks ago, we learned the background of mystery man Stephen Schenck. Before that we got to know the many faces of Michael Fisher, the busy and exciting life of Adam Z. Lein, the life story of Managing Editor Anton D. Nagy, and the self-proclaimed “uneventful life” of Taylor Martin.


For our sixth installment of this series, we’re turning our attention to Senior Editor Joe Levi, also known as “Joe the Android Guy”. You’ll find out about his background, and how he go to where he is today – and a bit about his duties here on Pocketnow as well. We hope you enjoy this new series documenting the lives of the people who keep the site running!

One of the things I really don’t like to do is talk about myself. There’s technology and Sci-Fi and world-events out there to talk about! I’m much rather talk about those instead! However, I do respect the notion that knowing about someone’s background and history helps others better understand their perspective.

I’m a husband, father, elected official, web developer, and tech enthusiast. This is how I got to where I am today.

The Early Years

Paiute Indian Tribe of Utah

My mother and father were high school sweethearts. He is Paiute (Native American), she is Caucasian.

They met, married, and had me in a very short amount of time (I’ll let you read between the lines). Eighteen months later my little brother came along. Needless to say, two “kids” in their mid-to-late teens just weren’t equipped to handle starting a family and raising two small children. We spent a lot of time with our maternal grandparents.

When I was two years old my maternal grandfather inquired into adopting us. With some conditions, the adoption took place not long after. One of the conditions of the adoption was that I’d keep my birth-name and be made aware of my Paiute ancestry.

I really admire my grandparents for being capable and willing to take on two infants just when their youngest had “left the nest”. They raised us as their own, so from that point in my life they were “Mom” and “Dad”. They did a remarkably good job raising me, teaching me, and providing an environment in which I could blossom.

Mom was an elementary school teacher. Dad was an aircraft electrician and was raised by parents who survived the Great Depression. Their differences and strengths brought great diversity and learning opportunities to me.

I excelled in school, though was somewhat socially awkward (perhaps you’ve seen some of my videos?). I graduated from high school with High Honors and a Varsity Letter in swimming. Then I went off to college… and almost died.

Near-Death Experience

While away from home and living in the dorms I contracted a flu. That’s usually not a bad thing and I didn’t think anything of it.

When it didn’t get better after a day or so I went to clinic. They started me on a course of anti-viral medication. Apparently my body didn’t like it. The doctor told me to stop staking the pills (I’d only taken the initial two) and “let the flu run its course”. The next several days we terrible.

I didn’t eat and I didn’t drink very much. I hallucinated. It was terrifying. Literally terrifying.

I’d later find out that I had a fever of 104° F (40° C) for several days straight. When I finally went back to the clinic for the “come back and see us in a week if you’re not feeling better” appointment, they panicked.

I was rushed to the local Emergency Room and put on a fast-drip IV. After a CT scan didn’t show anything odd, they ran me through again, this time “with contrast”. While they were waiting on the results of that scan they wanted to rule out meningitis, and gave me a spinal tap. The pain “went to 11”. (The next time I have to have one of those done, I think I’ll choose death.)

Utah Valley Medical Center
Utah Valley Medical Center, the pain from their spinal taps goes to eleven.

My spinal fluid was clean, but the contrast MRI showed “acute swelling”. Apparently I’d had an adverse reaction to the medication, which lead to severe dehydration, and eventually to brain swelling, which led to bruising.

After they hydrated me and the flu medicine was well out of my system, I was all better… well, except for the brain damage.


“Joe, what does any of this have to do with smartphones and tablets?!”

It’s the next part that makes everything I’ve just told you relevant to who I am and why I’m here.

I went back home to recover from my ordeal. Physically I was fine, but my short-term memory was shot. Actually, it was the hand-off between short-term to long-term memory that wasn’t happening.

I could function fine for the day, but when I’d go to bed, I’d dream and the the hallucinations that I’d had would return — I relived the horror every night for over a year. When I’d wake in the morning I’d lost all memory of the previous day — but the nightmares… I’ve never forgotten the nightmares.

The MessagePad 130 helped me remember all the important details that I’d forget when I’d go to sleep each night.

I tried carrying around a notebook or written day planner, but I’d miss appointments and forget to do things during the day. I decided that I needed something to physically remind me. I needed something to be my “back up brain”. I turned to technology.

At the time the only two players in the “PDA” game were Palm and Newton. I went to my local electronics store and tried them both out.

I quickly realized that I wouldn’t be able to remember Palm’s “chicken-scratch”-like gestures, so I went with a MessagePad 130 which used natural handwriting.

I wrote everything in that thing. It held my contacts, it took care of all my calendaring, and it even audibly reminded me when I had an upcoming appointment. It was everything I needed to get by. It worked so well that most people couldn’t tell that there was anything “wrong” with me.

“Met a girl today. Natalie. Pretty. Blonde. Should probably date her again.”

That’s the first line that I wrote about the girl who would eventually become my wife. She didn’t know about my problem. We were just friends hanging out with each other for quite some time. It wasn’t until we started courting that I told her about my challenges — and explained why she never saw me without my Newton. By some small miracle, it didn’t scare her off.

Where I am today

Sixteen years and five children later, we’re still married, still happy, and still use technology to help us remember the important things, like our anniversary which we celebrated last week.

I have a day job where I develop websites for an international manufacturing company. They make things that help you enjoy life, like basketball systems, outdoor sheds, and even the kayaks that I went out on the lake on lat Friday. I enjoy what I do there, but it’s not related to the challenges that I went through years ago — nor to the technology that got me through it.

That’s where Pocketnow comes in. I work here, not so much for the money, but to share the technology and its capabilities with people. At Pocketnow I write articles about how to get the most of your devices, how to hack, slash, and customize them. I opine on the state of technology today. I shoot and edit video (complete with what you all call “awkward pauses”), and basically share the technology that can help you live your life better.

This technology should not drive our lives, it should free us to live our lives. It should take the tedium and mundane away from our minds so we can focus on the things that are really important: our lives, our families, our relationships and our friends.

You wanted to know who I am, and why I’m here. That’s my story. Some may find it interesting. But let’s face it, Pocketnow isn’t about me, it’s about you.

I’m much more interested in your life, and how you’ve used the technologies that we talk about here to solve a problem or make your life easier. Normally this is where I’d ask you to head down to the comments and share all that with us. Today, I’m asking you to do something different.

As you can see, these stories of who we are can be somewhat lengthy. If you have a blog or a website, will you post your story there? It doesn’t have to be as intimate as mine, it only needs to share the challenges that you’ve had, and how you’ve used technology to help. Then link back to this article in your story, and post a link to your story in the comments below.

Thank you for being part of the Pocketnow family. I’m looking forward to getting to know you better.


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