Tuesday, March 20, 2007


Spent a great hour in front of the TV this morning catching up on all the latest gismotronics being touted at CeBIT, the big hi-tech trade fair in Hanover, Germany. Hard to believe CeBIT started as an office automation show with stuff like tabulators - remember those? Even in the early 80's, most companies still had at least one old fart nestling in the depths of the accounts department, hands poised above a strange keyboard and jabbing down urgently on selected keys with 8 fingers all at once. I never figured out how they worked, but they must've done some good. Mind you, that was in the days before we discovered shareholder value.

Today's CeBIT is about mobile communications, miniaturisation and something called convergence. Heavy! And there I am using my mobile phone for, according to my latest bill, 14 minutes of phone calls and 22 text messages per month, wilfully eschewing the benefits of downloading Hollywood blockbusters, taking photos, checking emails, surfing the web or GPS-ing my way around strange out-of-town business parks. My ears began to bleed this morning as they filled with weird TLAs (three-letter acronyms) and longer stuff like UMTS, GPRSS and others I can't remember.

Then one of life's defining moments hit me. For the first time ever, watching the glittering phone displays with icons I've never seen and doing things I don't ever need, I knew in my heart that the world is now dictated, guided and destined by people forming the generation after mine. Yes, the people who grew up with Deep Purple and pubesced with the Bay City Rollers are now passé. I now know how my dad felt when he parked the car after a trip to Dungannon in 1977 and declared that he wasn't safe on the roads any more (something I'd known for years actually). Yup, in each life there comes a time.

And yet - technology is only useful if it enriches our lives, even in a small way. As the shiny mobile phones unleashed their seductive powers on me, I paused to wonder how one of them might make my life easier or more comfortable. Do I really want to receive Viagra ads "on the run" (excuse the phrase) or watch grainy TV on a bus? No! I'm Mr Boring of the has-been generation. I want to use my phone to talk to friends and send the odd text message to people I care about.

I'll tell you what my biggest technological life-enrichment in the last 12 months has been: a proper-sized coffee jar. I used to have one not quite big enough for a standard packet of ground coffee. I'd half-fill it, stamp it down with a glass and repeat a couple of times before pressing the lid on and wiping up all the stuff that went on the floor. Last month the Big Ulsterwoman blew in with a real, full-size coffee jar. All shiny and with a fancy metal clip. It really looks the biz. Now when it gets a bit low I just shake in the contents of a new pack. There's even an inch to spare at the top - pure decadence. And no bending over to sweep the floor either. As befits a modern-day old fart whose hands, as I write this, are poised over a keyboard my voice-activated grandchildren will probably laugh at.

Aye well, that's progress.


At 4:30 a.m., Anonymous bill said...

Damn, you make me feel old! I felt the roads weren't safe in 1956. That's when I started driving truck in the army and at that point, believe me, the roads REALLY WEREN'T safe.

At 10:09 a.m., Anonymous aileen said...

I have been battling with voice-operated word processing for the last couple of days. The ruddy thing is all but mocking my accent.

Most of the time its's ok, but the Ulster version of "how now brown cow" has it flumoxed!!
how comes out as high etc!!

At 1:58 p.m., Blogger B.U. said...

Hello Aileen, good to know you still check in. Obviously that greenfly education was of limited value ;-) I've been putting off getting one of them doobries for yonks; prob'ly a good thing.

At 1:55 p.m., Anonymous aileen said...

They never tried to change my accent! After more than 20 yrs in London has only tamed it a wee bit. It is part of my "reasonable" adjustments under the DDA. It's all to do with ADD and dyspraxia. By the time my fingers have caught up with my brain, I have already lost the thought!
It is frustrating training it though. and the frustration comes through in my voice and I get too loud and it ignores me!!


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