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Published On: Sun, Jun 10th, 2018

Keeping up with the Phoneses

Chris Morvanby Chris Morvan

I don’t know how attached you get to things like laptops and phones. Maybe they’re just functional inanimate objects to you. Got to have one, it does the job, end of story.

But for the technophobe, when we find something that not only works but we know how to use  it, we grow to love it.

I recently bade farewell to two of my vital working tools, replacing them with new models, and I felt strangely guilty, as if I had traded in my wife for some young bimbo who was all style and no substance, not fit to lace the (sshhh) older woman’s shoes.

I discovered some interesting things. Firstly, everything is getting lighter.

Walking around with the new laptop in a smart, fake-leather shoulder bag I feel more like an itinerant writer/teacher and less like a carpenter whose shoulder is creaking under a cargo of hammers, chisels, saws and clamps.

Secondly, everything is getting faster. With an old device you become accustomed to the fact that it takes half an hour to get going and so long to download a little video clip that when it finally arrives you’ve forgotten why you wanted to watch it. Remember when there was no broadband and your dialup internet experience involved that eerie electronic singsong thing that was presumably designed to reassure you that something was happening?

As for the phone, the manufacturers can’t seem to make up their minds if they’re going for bigger or smaller, so they’ve settled for somewhere in the middle and taking the screen two millimeters closer to the edges.

Choosing a new phone is a bewildering experience because they throw all this technical information at you and the review websites prattle on about it until you feel like a dunce, but determined not to be the sucker who buys the one with only two megapixels on the rear camera.

Having decided that I wasn’t going to pay big money, I concluded that Samsung’s S series, from which I was upgrading, was pitched willfully high because if Apple could get away with it with the iPhone, they could too. So I went for one of their cheaper letters and guess what? It does everything the old one did, looks the same and feels the same, only lighter.

Oh, and the body is made of metal rather than plastic. This is important, apparently.

So, armed with the new gadget, all that remains is to make the little adjustments that you didn’t even know would need to be made. Somebody phones me on Whatsapp. I didn’t know Whatsapp could do voices. The last time I looked it was a free alternative to text messages. And although I answer (you have to swipe your finger upwards rather than sideways, for some reason), the caller can’t hear me because I haven’t enabled the microphone.

Is it a Luddite attitude to be satisfied with what you’ve got and not constantly chasing the new development? We recently got a new TV that is not only “smart” and not only HD but ultra HD. You can see the hairs up Maria Sharapova’s nose. I suppose it’s only a matter of time before we’ll be able to smell her deodorant.

Although the 21st century would like to claim ownership of the term “technology”, the concept goes back to the early days of man (I’m assuming that animals have never invented anything). Take the wheel, for instance. When somebody came up with that idea there were probably people like me who questioned the need for it and weren’t entirely sure how to use it.

As for fire, the stone-age health and safety people must have been up in arms about it.

“We can see the benefits,” they would have been saying. “But are char-grilled sirloin of brontosaurus and warm caves really worth the dangers that come with them? And light, yes, but who needs torches? We get 12 hours of light every day – that’s why it’s called daylight. When it’s dark we sleep. Why meddle with nature?”

The world of the phone salesperson is like a foreign country, with its own language which they assume the customer understands. I have been baffled from Toronto to Trinidad by people asking me what “package” I want. They in turn don’t understand that I am joking when I say I want the package that contains the phone, i.e. the box.

How many minutes do I want? What does that mean exactly?

To the phone salesperson a plan is not a strategy but a list of charges for the package, without which a phone is merely a phone.

To belatedly put the price issue into context, I didn’t buy my old S4 – I won it in a business card raffle five years ago.  And if I hadn’t I would probably still be using smoke signals.