Commentary, Life, Writing

Mobile Takeover (How I Got Lost in Totnes)

You can stop worrying about the robot takeover; yesterday I discovered, its already happened.

In a simpler time, I possessed a phone. That was all it was, a phone; it could calculate moderately complex equations at a push, and the most advance feature it possessed was sending picture messages via a code which ultimately had to be viewed online. For three years, while the world was up taking the smart device wave, I held onto my blocky flip-phone. I’d always wanted a flip-phone for the simple novalty of flicking it open to answer it, and when I received one I was quite content with it. One by one people I associated with upgraded to the new devices, which could do all sorts of funky tricks, including roaming internet and apps. It’s weird to think ‘apps’ used to be a new fad. Back when my friend purchased his sparkly new iphone, I didn’t actually understand what they were.

Zip forward a few years, and everyone had moved into the new age of digital devices, while I maintained my aging flip-phone. Despite all the hype, I still wasn’t all that bothered by an upgrade even if I had been able to afford one. I was just out of University and trying to get some income as a writer, a job which served a pittance of a sum at the best of times. My phone was at the end of its life; its battery lasted half a day at best and I only actually received about 45% of the messages and calls sent my way. But it was my little flip-phone, and it had served me well, and models like those were already part of technological history. Come Christmas my parents had tired of my inability to answer most their calls and purchased a new phone on my behalf. A modern phone. A smart phone. And it had all the bells and whistles everyone and every advert had been barking on about.

Reluctant as I was to give up my flip-phone, I had to admit the improvement was immeasurable. I’d never been all that bothered with getting online all the time, but it came in handy on the rare occasions I used it. It started off rare anyway, then I started to search for information I needed when I needed it.  Who played that guy in that film? To IMDB. What are Tesco’s opening hours? To Google. Gradually I started checking email and Facebook on the bus, and playing games and using apps while having a beverage in a coffee shop. It was so easy to be lead into the wonderful world of modern digital technology. Thus did I become dependent in more ways than I realised.

Flash forward to about a week ago, when my three-year-old smart phone (which is about 233 in human years) beeped its final beep. It suffered an all out software crash, impossible to fix in the eyes of the phone-shop staff, and wildly out of warranty. My only choice, an upgrade, which would take a few days to sort out and a few more to have a phone sent. Which meant that for near a week I would be without mobile. Okay, thought I, naively, I can do that. That’s the thing about dependence; you often don’t realise you’re hooked until the object of your neediness is removed. What I failed to understand is that I was carrying around a mini-personal computer with a phone function. I use that gizmo for everything. I mean everything, down to knowing the freaking time. That’s correct! It took me until my phone broke to remember I no longer wear a wrist watch. The heck is wrong with me? I was walking around outside not so much as able to discern the time of day, not to mention all the other stuff I did perfectly well prior to the invasion of the smart phone. I abandoned a paper diary in favour of keeping all my appoints on a digital calendar… on my phone. I calculate what I’m owed in fees on the calculator on my phone. For a week I was nothing but a shambling caveman learning to thrive alone in the wilds.

This is culminated in the fiasco of yesterday. Having received my new super life accessing computer with a phone function, I was patiently awaiting my network provider to turn my signal on, but had been informed this could take up to 48 hours.  As it happened I had to take a trip out of the city to process some important paperwork to a town I was only vaguely familiar with and even then only the popular areas. When, before my leaving, I researched the route online, I discovered my destination was within walking distance of the train station, but not along a main road and in anything but a straight line. Normally I would just rely on my phone to provide GPS as I walked the route, instead I had a shoddy photograph of the map taken from my computer screen with my mobile, and a set of directions I scrawled out on a piece of scrap paper. For some odd reason, I felt confident with these prehistoric tools. I miscalculated one vital component: my personal unfeasible lack of navigation skills.

Yes, ever since I can remember I’ve had the orienteering ability of toadstool. The problem isn’t so much that I can’t navigate my way out of a cardboard box, but more that I navigate as a cardboard box would navigate. I kind of drift about hoping to stumble upon a landmark I recognise or a notable street name. In the end it doesn’t take much to turn me around or confuse me. Despite having all the relevant information at hand, I still couldn’t locate the correct road, partly due to my inability to transpose 2D information into reality, and partly because it didn’t have a street sign. Again, with live GPS this wouldn’t have been a problem, because I could have simply watched myself walking on the map, but alone I floundered in circles just hoping I’d eventually happen upon it by elimination. In the end, I tracked back to the train-station to have a gander at the historic city map, took a photograph of  that map to combine with my grainy Google-map snapshot. Fortunately, the historic representation of the town had a street named on my set of directions, and I managed to forage it out of the maze. Once on track, I managed my way there, and then simply tracked back along the route when I had attended my business. But my goodness, what a hassle, and all because I have become so reliant on a piece of digital equipment.

If the world ever comes to an apocalyptic end we’re all doomed. Once the batteries die, we won’t be able to tell the time, understand the weather, calculate large sums, or find our way around. It wouldn’t surprise me if its the phones that raise up. Should intelligence ever hit general devices, man are we screwed.  I recon it’s already happening; the phones are biding their time, doing all we ask, ensuring our practical skills dwindle to zero, before unleashing the mother virus and enslaving mankind. Like the Matrix, but with LCD screens, and apps.

I’ve resolved to get a wristwatch just in case, which I’ll buy from Amazon, probably using my new HTC One while on the bus.


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