I got one of these incredibly smart phones the other day. An unbelievably smart phone, but not smart in a neat-slacks-and-jacket sort of way or a tidy-haircut way, or even a well-turned-out sort of way. No indeed. My new Galaxy S4 can achieve things that are currently beyond the power of the Illuminati, Starfleet Command, Bruce Lee and the Ancients all put together, or so I’m led to understand by my children.
Old!, they mock when I mutter curses at my new smart phone, or ask them how to get rid of the silly screen saver, and yet, my children conveniently overlook my oldness when they want something complicated fixed on their laptops, a glitch beyond their callow knowledge, something that only a member of my Guild might perhaps fettle. I’m not old when they need to recover lost data from that crashed hard drive, or when they can’t get Wi-Fi on their netbooks. I’m not old when a picture needs to be Photoshopped. I’m not old when a car won’t start.
But how easy it is to mock the elderly when a phone is involved. I don’t do phones. I just don’t. I never did and what’s more, I have no idea why I acquired the world’s most advanced smart phone, since I have not the slightest possibility of using its full powers.
What do I like about it?
I like its large screen. I like the fact that it’s big enough for normal adult fingers to type on. I like the fact that it works as a, well, as a phone. And that it sends texts and that I can get on the internet with it. All of that is pretty good with me.
Do I need it to read bar-codes? Probably not. Do I need it to check the horizontality of my snooker table? No, that’s ok, thanks.
Do I need it to be a camera? Yeah, it’s fine for snaps, but when I want real pictures, I’ll use a real camera.
Do I want it to follow my eyes as I read the screen? Yes. About as much as I want it to wake up a warehouse full of robots and take over the Earth. And I don’t want it watching for hand gestures, facial tics or involuntary sneers. It’s a machine and I like my machines to be stupid, please, just like me. I do not want an oblong sentient being living in my pocket — especially not one that’s plugged into a cyber-hive-mind and might just conspire with all its clones to subvert whatever independent existence I have left. I don’t want my phone to be a character from Battlestar Galactica.
Do I need something that can remotely pilot a drone into Afghanistan and wipe out a village?
I want it to be a phone, and if you’ll forgive the mixed simile, we are not yet Borg.
In a few years, perhaps four or five, will this thing we have in our pockets, uncomfortably close to our vital parts, still be a phone? What is a phone, even? Will the law have to be rewritten to prosecute people driving while holding a computer, and does that small word even do justice to the power of the thing we carry around with us?
I don’t think so. I think the old-fashioned concept of a phone will disappear before long and we’ll be left with a gadget that we use for voice communication as a trivial by-product of its many formidable capabilities.
The yardstick for computing power used to be NASA. How much more computing power does your washer-dryer have than the machines that calculated the moon landing? Could your cigarette lighter send a man to Mars?
The test for storage in the old days was always scriptural. This little piece of plastic could hold three hundred copies of the Bible.
Yeah. Right. I have a thing in my pocket, the size of half a cigarette, that can store a thousand times as much data as my first desktop computer. It cost about five euros and if I lose it I’ll just buy another one. Megabibles. Gigabibles. Terabibles. The new scriptural measure of digital storage.
Do I need a computer in my pocket that’s more powerful than NASA, the KGB and Sauron all sitting down together and agreeing to be clever together?
Smarter than a Jack Russell? Meaner than a junkyard dog?
What I want is a phone with a big, clear screen. It needs to do the following: make and take phone calls, make and take text messages, show me the internet.
It does not need to be a camera, a hammer, an assault rifle, an inflatable boat or a frying pan.
That’s it. Everything else is mission creep.