Technological explosion| Bushwhacked

There’s been a lot of talk this week about the next generation of Apple smart phones, the iPhone X. It marks the 10th anniversary of Apple’s smart phones.

I read as much as I could about it through the week and feel it is time to admit that in the digital age, my brain is still doggedly analogue.

Ten years to those my age seems like the Tuesday before last, which means even existing smart phone technology outstrips anything science fiction could have dreamed up.

Apple says the iPhone X is so smart that the phone sort of disappears into itself, leaving you with nothing other than an intensely tech screen that is a phone, camera, computer, satellite navigator, map maker, weather station, word processor, translator, face and eyeball recogniser, text messenger, language recognition device, multi-layered communicator, etc etc which no longer has a button returning you to the home screen and which can recognise your face even if you grow a beard, shave your head or pull stupid faces.

Younger readers might not recognise how fast this technology is exploding into complexity. Just over 20 years ago I purchased my first mobile phone, a hefty Motorola which hung off your trousers belt and threatened to dack you. It had red number panels and you could ... errm … make phone calls with it. The exciting thing was it had no wires connecting it to the telephonic world which, naturally, meant more work could be transacted in the Metropolitan Hotel. How brilliant was that? 

Back in the newsroom, there were rotary dial phones. There was a fax machine, but not on our floor, it was safely guarded in the general manager’s office next to the photocopier and his PA used to give you a call when a fax came through. You had to book it to send a fax to someone. 

Otherwise, there was – wait for it – the mail. Or, even more strange, walking to someone else’s workplace and asking if anything newsworthy was happening.

If there was, and it was surprising how often there was, a photographer would come around with a camera the size of a shoe box and there’d be a few frames taken and developed later in the darkroom.

The editor of the time used to give the photographers 20 cents each in case they saw something interesting and had to make a call back to the office from a phone box.  

When something newsworthy happened to a local person far away, for example, if someone from White Hills was caught in an avalanche in Saskatchewan, you didn’t just look up their Facebook page and social media to find out about them. You went to their Mum’s house, apologised profusely for the intrusion and asked some questions as delicately as possible.

This is just 20-odd short years ago. Communication technology has exploded into our lives at a blistering pace.

For example, my present phone, the great-great-great-great-great grandson of the Motorola brick is a little glass and aluminium thingo the size of a Salada biscuit. I think it’s an iPhone5. It has many mysteries hidden inside.

Oh, I know it can make phone calls and text messages and similar stuff, but it also has – according to its buttons –  a personal hotspot (is that even legal?), face time, a game centre (as opposed to a cowardly centre?).

And the “wallpaper” button has me flummoxed. I have pressed it numerous times, but the walls remain a rather subdued beige.