Across Continents

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Fangly things

February 24th, 2012

I’d my new fangly thing. In the shop they’d called it a smartphone. Which struck me as slightly odd. Making calls – actually talking to people – had been relegated to being just another function. Of no greater prominence than social feeds or YouTube. And I’d had to hunt around for it. Believe me. No, what I now had was a personal communicator. Bristling with sharp coloured icons offering messenger services, social media feeds, web browsing, text messaging, e-mail and the like. The Luddites would be up in arms. I’d ring them to let them know you understand. To make them aware. Just as soon as I’ve worked out quite how to.

There’d been two choices for my smartphone. Apple and BlackBerry. Think VHS and Betamax. The cult of Apple had its roots in being different. For the discerning. But now it’d gone mainstream. The iPhone. The iPad. Trade names as a generic label for a genre of new technologies. Nothing new in that of course. Hoover did that quite a while ago, a long-established descriptor for vacuum cleaners. A marketeers dream.

I’d always found Apple products to be largely intuitive. No need to pore over a manual, invariably being left all the more bewildered. And designed with a pleasing simplistic elegance. But I’d returned to a strange new lexicon. Of Apps. Tethering. And I’d a job to do – and to get – so artistic appeal in itself wasn’t enough. I needed a tool not a toy.

So I’d plumped for a BlackBerry. Three reasons. First. Business appeal. Select market. Of the sort Apple used to favour. I’d be confident it wasn’t a play thing. It’d allow me to do what I needed to do without fuss or gimmickry. Even if I wasn’t entirely sure what that was yet. Far better to create a market rather than fill one. My life may be incomplete without an App to simulate coin flipping but I suspect I’ll get around the void. And there’s probably one for that out there somewhere. If you’re GPS enabled.

Second. BlackBerry had a few service issues a little while ago. Which isn’t good for a company heavily reliant on its business customers for its bottom line. So you could be fairly sure the chance of a repeat would be vanishingly small. Creases ironed out. Same reason Northern Rock became the safest place to keep your money the moment the UK Government stepped in. But surely all those customers queuing for hours to withdraw their savings couldn’t be wrong? Actually yes. You’ll find me quite emphatic on this point.

And finally. And this is a point easily overlooked. It’s not aesthetics or ergonomics. Rather, it’s just dull, old-fashioned right tool for the job. Like I say, all terribly boring. In this instance it’s e-mail that ticks boxes for me. Something my ’Berry thingy excels at. Small QWERTY keypad and all in a smart little package to boot. Why buy a spanner when you need a wrench?

But I’d also deeper-rooted concerns about our drift into touch-screens of the sort favoured by the iPhone and iPad. Not the technology per se, but rather its application. Encouraging superficiality. Shades of Fahrenheit 451. A march towards Huxley’s Brave New World. Quick flurry of fingers and you were done. Cursory reading. Minority Report in your hand. There was a social impact that’d not been considered. Other than perhaps by the Amish. They’d never been exactly quick to embrace fangly things, and I’d a good inkling why. I’d have given them a call to clarify you understand…

Perhaps I should form my own cult. Of a fashion. Promoting new fangly things simply as enablers, not ends in themselves. Radical stuff. Maybe add in a bit of pseudo-science. Gives depth and lends it legitimacy. Worked fine for L Ron Hubbard. In the meantime, I’ve some doodling to do in my Filofax. About the size of an iPad. But without the worry of a flat battery.

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Connected world

October 9th, 2011

ThreeGuardsmancamp (1)

Funny thing technology. Back in the mid-eighties I’d convinced myself I’d missed the information technology revolution. Sir Clive Sinclair had moved on to his C5 electric car, sold out to Sir Alan and Amstrad. Adept though I’d found myself with writing software, decided best to pursue a more conventional engineering path. Seemed to make sense at the time.

A very good school friend was rather less convinced, heading off to read computer science at Imperial. Forming, I thought, a small software house. Bought out by Microsoft, ending up living in the US. Seattle these days. Where I planned to catch up with him.

Despite my mistaken reading of the runes, I’d never lost my love of technology, especially the ability to communicate. Now a tool, an enabler, rather than an end in itself pursued with childhood passion. Fascinated at how I could so easily share photos, videos, the merest of thoughts from almost anywhere on the planet. Often in a matter of minutes if I so chose.

Sometimes a brief phone call to my parents. By satellite. Lat and long of my remote wild camp site. Chance for them to locate it using Google Earth. Reassuring for them. Fun for me.

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