Recently, a friend caused much confusion. Quite inadvertently, you understand. A minion from her mobile phone provider had rung. Suggesting it was time for an upgrade only to be surprised, nay shocked, to be told she is perfectly happy with her current model. As far as she is concerned, a mobile phone is something to be used only in dire emergency. For phoning. No need for camera, internet access, MP3 player et al. A phone, whether land line or mobile, is for phoning.
It will come as no surprise for me to inform you my pal is (a) female and (b) well over the age of thirteen. In other words, she is in the same category as a large bulk of the British population. A large bulk containing many with dexterity difficulties, many with poor eyesight and a fair number so technically illiterate they have to call out an electrician to reset their video player, and note, I've said “video” not DVD, every time the clocks change. Aye, the BBC may be offering pod casts, but a fair wheen of folk probably believe these are special editions of “The Beechgrove Garden”, dealing with legumes!
Do the designers of mobiles ever consult the general public? Starting with their older relatives? Even the coolest designer must have a granny. Why are they so obsessed with producing mobiles which are not only smoother to the touch but also small to the point of anorexic? Has nobody told them that size zero is to be discouraged? And why does only one of the mobile phone companies provide the option of Toks software in the first place? It shows a great deal of sense, does that company, by doing this it has gained a large number of grateful and, therefore, loyal customers. Even the disabled have spending power. It might not be much, but as they say, “Every little helps.”
Looking back through these Diatribes, I returned to a piece which I'd written about two years ago, venting my spleen on this very topic. Things have certainly moved on since then. I now have a talking mobile; not only that, but I've had it long enough to admit I'd be at a loss without it. Although not quite in the category of those puir sowels who meander along the pavement, chuntering inanities into a mobile apparently growing out of a genetically modified lug, it's an essential of my outdoor kit, along with enough cash for a taxi home, a whistle and a handful of dog biscuits.
For over eighteen months now, I've been using a mobile phone fitted with Toks. Basically, a screen reader whose voice allows me to access every key, store and access a vast amount of data and, joy of joys, send and receive text messages. It can also take photos and video clips, connect to other gadgets via variously coloured links across cyberspace and even, apparently, show a picture of the relevant person whenever they contact me. To be honest, I'd rather have those megabytes freed up, providing more capacity for longer texts, thus allowing me to rant at more literate length to Radio Scotland or store more detailed notes in the notebook or the diary. Oops! I'm showing my age and literacy again, amn't I? However, since I'm stuck with a built-in camera, I really should organise someone to photograph my china. Then I'd be able to trot round the charity shops and get their staff to check whether they have any of the relevant designs in stock. Certainly much more useful than what I've achieved so far; snapping the odd photo of my oxter because I've accidentally activated the thing whilst it's been stuffed into a jacket pocket.
Having my mobile jabberer enables me to be part of the normal world. I make appointments in its diary; type shopping lists into its notebook; send texts to husband, friends and a host of younger relatives. The address section bulges with names, phone numbers and a plethora of other, relevant details. Technology can be so useful!
Apart from its idiosyncratic pronunciation, especially of Scots, my phone has, so far, shown fewer vices than my computer. The general public, whose ears have never had to be attuned to synthetic speech, is unable to make out its voice. So anyone whose number is ex-directory has no fear of losing their privacy and anonymity. Despite the fact that, whenever I activate the Mean Marine as it's known amongst the nephews, an awed circle gathers. There I am, pecking in an appointment or scrolling to the local taxi firm, whilst around me, conversations fade and, I assume, mouths gape. As my transaction ends, an audible sigh of relief is exhaled en masse. Makes the wee gadget well worth having, that does. Well, it's so refreshing, at my age, being able to exude such an impression of total, technological mastery.