Friday, 22 October 2010

Nothing to do with your Vorsprung Durch Technik

The past few months have been a quiet time for the Mint Custard Book Club (membership one and counting, slowly). After ripping through A Streetcar Named Desire I got bogged down in Cloudstreet. This is less a reflection on Tim Winton’s Miles Franklin Award winning masterpiece than on the fact that I scored myself a free iPhone. Instead of bettering myself by diligently sticking to my mission to read at least one piece of literature a month, I’ve been distracted by the gaudy thrills of mobile internet, Angry Birds and pseudo-Scrabble, Words with Friends.

Yes, a mere three years after the launch of the iPhone I’ve finally caught up with technology. I say only because despite assurances from gadget enthusiasts that just six months can be a lifetime when it comes to technology, up til now I have spent my life separated from modernity by a continual seven year buffer of which phones are just a minor detail.

Much of this spans back to childhood and a general lack of gadgetry in our house. We got our first video - a VHS Ferguson Videostar – in 1987. It was my grandparent’s old one, donated to us because even Grandad wouldn’t be seen dead with a top loader by then. We had a hi-fi, one of those housed in an MDF wood-effect cabinet and sealed behind a darkened glass door, but it was a strictly tapes and records affair. 1985 may have seen Dire Straits become first band to sell a million copies of an album on compact disc but it was 1992 before I got around to buying my first CD player. Add another ten years to those two dates for DVDs and you can see a bit of a trend.

Despite their circumstances mum and dad always did their best to get us all what we wanted. Unable to afford the Atari 2600 games console I wanted they got me Astro Wars, a single game table top space shoot-em-up they probably couldn’t afford either and which I clocked several hundred times. I still have it and, in keeping with my temporal techno buffer, I eventually got my 2600 and a sackful of games for my eighteenth birthday in 1993. Mum got it on the cheap from a local second-hand shop inundated with Ataris thanks to Super Mario and Sonic the Hedgehog. Again, still have it and still love it. I bought Raiders of the Lost Ark for it last week.

Games consoles have become a bit of a yardstick for my gadget delay. Despite spending the entire summer of 1996 playing Worms on my friends’ PlayStation, it was 2003 - three years after the launch of PS2 - before someone took pity on us and gave us their old one. Having never seen a PS2 in action our old machine was still a revelation, and even better, the games were ridiculously cheap. A similar thing happened in 2008 when a kindly soul gave us a Nintendo GameCube. Leaping several years into the future in a single bound we were amazed by the graphics and game play – happily ignorant that kids of all ages were in similar thrall to the Nintendo Wii. I look forward to getting one… in 2015.

After slagging off mobile phone users for several years I got my first mobile in 2003. It was (naturally) a hand-me down from Mrs Custard, and even that had been given to her by a friend. I left it at home a lot and got told off for not answering it when people rang, but I did like the primitive version of Snake which kept me busy on the bus. I kept it for three years, updating to yet another pre-loved phone in exchange for a six pack of beer. It had a dodgy joystick and perhaps the worst camera ever made, but it did have a great mini-golf game. I finally signed a proper contract in 2008 and was given a free phone for my troubles. It had a rather pointless Walkman feature which didn’t let you use your own headphones, but the mini-golf had better graphics and the at least the camera worked. I felt modern, even though most of my friends had long since moved on to iPhone.

Anyway so finally, after so long at apogee of technological innovation here I am, at its artificially beating heart. For once in my life I can look people in the eye without shame, without a shrug of ‘ahdunno’ when discussing matters telecommunicational. I may have forgotten how to read a book but I can feel the same sense of smugness and self-satisfaction that I am more cutting edge than the general populous. I speak the language of Gates and Jobs. I - with my iPhone 3G - am of the moment. I am now. I am 2010. I am… sorry... hang on... there’s a what? When? Oh balls…

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