Back in the days when I last had a proper job, mobile phones weren’t. Mobile, that is. In those olden days of newspaper reporting, anyone sent out to cover ongoing events like royal visits was issued with the newsroom’s one and only not-very-portable telephone consisting of a car battery hung from a shoulder strap and adorned with an old fashioned bakelite receiver arrangement. The whole thing weighed a ton and would have been better carried in one of those tartan shopping trolleys you used to see old ladies wielding in the Co-op.
Much excitement arose amongst the reporting staff when it emerged that our regular freelance photographer had one of those newfangled carphone gadgets, which was actually exactly the same thing except that you had a car to carry the battery around in rather than a shopping trolley and the handset looked slightly less like a relic from WWII. The downside was that you had to be in the car in order to spot the phone ringing, but since Danny appeared to spend most of his life in his car, presumably he didn’t find that a problem.
These days of course, not only can you shove the phone in your back pocket, you can even write copy on the thing and e-mail it directly to newsdesk, who can in turn constantly harrass you about deadlines which are hours away because they’re crap at getting the stuff subbed in time and persist in asking for it early. Presumably the job of copy taker is now merely another quaint relic, along with town crier and plague victim corpse collector.
In fact phones these days aren’t phones at all so much as bijou laptop/games console/GPS/music system/TV widgets. I suppose you could call someone on one if you wanted to but it’s getting to be the sort of retro behaviour you only see in dotty old biddies, like paying for things in cash or using a post office.
Mindful of the onward hurtle of progress and flush with an unexpected end-of-season fistful of spending vouchers courtesy of work’s comité d’entreprise I have this very month acquired one of these futuristic iNotaphoneatall thingies, complete with new phone number, as it turned out that in order to get one without taking out a second mortgage I had to masquerade as a new client. It’s a strange world in which loyal customers have to fork out a month’s wages for a Thing while upstarts off the street can get the same Thing for the price of a packet of Maltesers, but I wrote it off as just one of many perverse aspects of modern commerce and resigned myself to spending half the afternoon making sure my Luddite acquaintance could find me if they wanted to. Honestly everyone, can’t you just get yourselves on Facebook like normal people? I suppose I should consider myself lucky they’ve all got e-mail and I don’t have to start faffing about with quill pens and carrier pigeons.
But having done the boring basics (update old fart contingent, set up e-mail, choose ringtone from frankly rather rubbish selection) I was ready to launch myself into the whacky world of ‘apps’. Because we cool smartphone-owning types are far too busy and important to waste valuable time with boring low-tech stuff like saying the word ‘application’. Besides, everyone knows that using pointless abbreviations makes you look clever and not at all like someone with his head so far up his own bottom that he could land a job in a circus.
It seems that there is an ‘app’ out there to facilitate absolutely anything you could ever want to do, multiple things you’d never even considered getting involved in and a whole raft of behaviours which, if you saw them, would have you calling social services. Reading the news, looking up French verbs and playing Sudoku all seem like rational things to do with your new widget, but paying 2€ for something which enables you to ‘share your shopping list with friends’ makes you a prime candidate for the jacket with the very long sleeves if you ask me.
JC, in typical fashion, headed straight for the games section, as a result of which my spangly new toy is infested with zombies. I was maintaining a haughty indifference to such rubbish, but having been rumbled complaining that I couldn’t work out level 43 I had to abandon that position. Worse, I discover that both Puzzle Bobble and Sonic the Hedgehog 2 are available iPhone style, which reduces my chances of getting out of the house during interseason to somewhere around zero, though they could make the summer’s hutsitting job a lot more fun.
So far my own ‘app’ collection is disappointingly pedestrian, what with BBC news, Telegraph crosswords and the yellow pages alongside dull pre-loaded widgets allowing me to track share prices and bore my friends with intimate details of of my fitness regime (but only if I invest in a pair of ridiculously overpriced plimsolls, so you’re all safe from that one, you’ll be pleased to know). But it’s reassuring to know that I could liven it up with a cat which repeats everything I say in a funny voice, or a piece of software which offers to rate my farts. However did I manage without it.
Best app so far though is one called ‘Find My iPhone’, which locates your lost gizmo on Google maps, locks it, wipes your data and then makes it yell “Help help this thieving git has stolen me!” for two minutes at full volume. I expect later versions to enable it to call the local police station before sprouting lethal razor-sharp spikes and releasing a small cloud of mustard gas.