There is smart, and then there's smart

CUTTING: Former prime minister Paul Keating is said to have quipped that anyone who thought Australia could become the Clever Country had never stood in an ATM queue.

CUTTING: Former prime minister Paul Keating is said to have quipped that anyone who thought Australia could become the Clever Country had never stood in an ATM queue.

Are we a smart city? We note mayor Marg O’Rourke’s enthusiasm for an action taken by the City of Greater Bendigo in recent days.

It has become a signatory to the Global Smart Cities and Communities Coalition. It was announced at an Intelligent Communities forum and we get the general thrust of it as being to promote smart development and smart planning. But are we smart? DTM is reminded of a comment allegedly made by former Prime Minister Paul Keating when discussing the national policy to declare Australia “the Clever Country”. He said anyone who thought we could become the Clever Country had never stood in an ATM queue.

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In Bendigo, the equivalent might be: “You’d doubt Bendigo would be a smart city if you’d ever driven through the Somerville/Sternberg/Williamson/Condon/Miller/Townsend streets roundabout.” Drivers have a unique game they like to play. They use their indicators to ask “guess which way I just turned? Nup. Wrong.”

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Would you really want to be smart? While it is popular these days to use “smart” as a prefix to just about anything – smart phone, TV, watch for example – it wasn’t always such a smart word to use. It goes back almost 1000 years to Old English “smeart”, meaning painful, severe, stinging, a sharp pain. But by about 1300 it morphed a little to include quick and clever, as in a cutting remark. It’s use as a word meaning intelligent, or guided by intelligence doesn’t appear until the mid-20th Century.

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Using smart technology is nothing new to Bendigo, according to the Ballarat Star newspaper of January 29, 1907. It reported that a crook had stolen a gold pin from a Bendigo Chinese herbalists’ shop and bolted in the general direction of the train station. Plain-clothes policeman, Constable Commons zipped back to the police station and used the new-fangled telephone to call Castlemaine railway station. Suspect Henry Taylor was arrested less than an hour after the robbery.

The headline: A SMART ARREST. TELEPHONE EFFECTIVELY USED.