We’ve had a new arrival this week. We decided that at her age, we really couldn’t afford to wait any longer. Now the house is alive with the tipper-tapper of tiny feats. But I feel shut out. She spends all her time curled up with it on the sofa – her face a picture of concentration. I say something. She raises her head like a forest deer that’s heard a twig crack. Then she resumes her tapping. She’s lost to me now. My wife has bought an iPhone.
There’s no denying this plastic toy has a pretty face, though initially I pretend not to notice. The iPhone is like a celebrity who’s just walked into the pub. I don’t want to give them the satisfaction of recognising them so I pretend to be interested in what my real friend is saying. The real friend in this case is the Tesco Value range Nokia which “does me fine”.
But the first time I use my old reliable after the arrival of La iPhone, the wavering starts. I have to press buttons. Uuugh! The primitivity of it. And look at the typeface – all Nokia Sans. It’s practically a cave painting. No wonder it looks so shamefaced next to the iPhone with its Pippa Middleton slimness, touch-screen insouciance and font from the future. It looks shabby and battered like your old shoes on the carpet of the shoe shop as they squat in decreptitude like a Dickensian tramp while you cavort around in the new ones.
Back in the sitting room, every so often there’s a little squeak or beep – either from my wife or the phone – as some new iWonder is unveiled. “Look” she says“It can tell us our exact location”. There’s a map on the screen which shows me where I am. In our house, as it turns out. There was a time when James Bond would have had to jump through several hoops in order to receive the same information. There would have first been the walk down a long corridor, then a chiding from M for some recent sexual pecadillo before finally hearing Q say: “It may appear to be a shoe 007, but have a closer look”. Sure enough, a small flashing red light would be visible on the sole which, when linked to what looked like a microwave at headquarters, would tell MI6 exactly where James – or at least his shoe – was.
Now we have that capability in our own pockets. It’s probably one of the more useful applications the phone has. By allowing The Man to know where we all are, it will make it much easier for Skynet and The Machines to take over. Apart from letting the Terminators know how to find us, the ‘SmartPhonomenon’ could bring about other changes in human behaviour.
Touch screen technology may look fancy but the rest of the world will not become completely button-free any time soon. Today’s children have already evolved to press doorbells with their texting thumbs. How will they manage when they expect everything to be tappable? What about rascals who like to ring neighbour’s doorbells and then scarper? The game will be rendered pointless as they run up to the door, gently rub their finger on it and run away again while Old Mr Johnson remains in his rocking chair, blissfully unaware.
They may be similarly flummoxed by lifts. In schools, new ‘Actual Reality’ learning modules will be needed to teach children that not all objects are interactive. Some windows are just for looking through. Some objects are real. “Mummy, mummy I can’t uninstall it!!?”“That’s a tree, not an app, darling. You’ll just have to walk around it.”
For adults, the access to all the information we need all the time poses another problem. What is the future for ill-informed pub-chat? Already, it’s proving impossible to make any wild generalisations without being corrected by accursed facts. Feeling out of my depth during a recent conversation about Pop Art icon Andy Warhol, I threw in the only factoid I could remember:“Did you know that he ate nothing but sweets?” As this scoop was news to the others in the group, the iPhones came out and were stroked like a Bond villain’s cat. “Urban myth, actually” said someone. The one about Richard Gere and the gerbil was similarly debunked.
Despite these caveats I can feel myself being inexorably drawn to strokey-touchy-swishy-swooshy phones. Mobile-Phone-Network-A has an attractive offer at the moment and my network (Mobile-Phone-Network-B) says I’m free to leave. I’m feeling broody and the wife’s phone wants a sibling to play with. “Are you going to get one?” she asks. “iMight.”