*Disclaimer* I don’t know all the big special words or fiddly bits.
I am writing this on a laptop. Oh, really? I hear you yawn. Yes, I yawn back (well, they’re catching). This is amazing for two reasons. Firstly, two nights ago in a fit of mindless stupidity, I flailed one of my arms around and knocked a glass of wine over this very laptop. Now, I don’t like exercise (stick with me here) but I surprised myself with the rattlesnake speed with which I leapt up, rescued the laptop, shut it down, grabbed all my tea towels, made up some new expletives and wept. Within approximately 10 seconds, by my egg timer. After a tense night in the Laptop Hospital (airing cupboard), I gently coaxed it into life by pressing ‘on’ and lo, it lived. Phewsomeness all round.
Secondly, it’s a COMPUTER that I can balance on my LAP.
Technology astounds me. I don’t mean I wander around gawping at lamposts and going into paroxysms of wonder every time I use an electric toothbrush, I mean proper, life-enhancing technology. For example, I’m quite old. Well, nearly thirty two, which means I remember a time when no one had a mobile phone except Yuppies (I remember Yuppies!) and when having a computer was the preserve of the rich kid at school who had an Amstrad and occasionally let you play Lemmings on it if you promised not to get popping candy in the keyboard. My family didn’t get a video player until I was old enough to shave (my legs, obviously) and even then we had to build an extension just to fit it in the house. Having a computer was a faraway psychedelic dream, possibly featuring Bowie as some kind of long-haired MS-DOS soothsayer.
Now those massive, beeping, flashing things that looked so utterly ridiculous on shows like Lost In Space are essential to our lives in minute and (relatively) affordable form.
The first bit of technology I owned was a pager. Yes, a pager. No, I’m not a doctor and no, I wasn’t a drug dealer in Compton in the early 90’s. I got it from a friend who worked for BT. She was the only other person I knew that had one and therefore the only person who ever ‘blew up’ my pager. It was pointless but I wore that thing clipped to the waist of my ludicrously baggy jeans (probably disguised by my Global Hypercolor t-shirt) as though it was the flashiest piece of kit ever made. My first mobile phone was made by Philips (do they even make phones any more?) and was roughly the same size as my forearm. The aerial extended so far that it frequently interfered with air traffic over Hampshire. I may be wrong here but I have a distinct memory of not being able to text on those early models so it was, essentially, a very expensive cordless phone. I went through £5 top up vouchers like a suicidal diabetic goes through doughnuts. I felt as though I was at the dawn of something new and exciting, and I was! Soon I would have a phone the size of my thumb! Now of course, my phone is the size of my hand to accommodate the emails, texts, camera, video, whole internet, diary, calendar, calculator and smoothie maker.
At my first job I used a computer but it was a DOS thingy that used floppy (snigger) disks and had no mouse. I’d used them at school and even then I knew they were crap. In my lifetime I’ve gone from a giant black screen with robotic orange typeface (no choice of font of course – in those days a font was just something you found in a church) to a lightweight, speedy, wine-proof laptop. My phone knows more about my life than I do and when I’m not tweeting on my laptop, I’m tweeting on my phone.
Young people now ask “What did people do before mobiles and the internet?” Well, I’ll tell you, young people. We telephoned our friends on a landline and if they weren’t in…well that was us screwed. We had to wait for a decent interval to elapse in order for them to return home from the shops or work and then call again. Once we’d secured their presence on the phone we’d arrange to meet them. Once you’d made this arrangement, it was tough luck if your friend was running late, you simply had to wait. There were no ‘Sorry! Running late! Can we make it half past?’ text messages. You jolly well stood outside Miss Selfridge in a mood and waited. Waiting! There’s something else made a lot easier. As David Mitchell’s character in Peep Show says, ‘You’re never alone with a phone.’ You can scroll through texts and surf the web, anything to avoid looking as though you’re being kept waiting. Back then you just had to plug your Walkman in, fold your arms and WAIT while trying not to look too pathetic.
What did we do before the internet? Let me just Google that (fnar). We used the Yellow Pages which was more than just a handy step for young amorous boys to kiss tall girls in Christmas adverts. We went to the library and wrote our essay plagiarism out long-hand rather than cutting and pasting from Wikipedia. We went to dating agencies and got our jokes out of books or off the TV. We never told a joke in London only to have it repeated within minutes by someone in Cape Town. We didn’t email, we faxed and before that we wrote and posted. Snail mail didn’t exist back then, it was just the mail (well, the post – we’re not American).
I am currently unemployed and job hunting. Aside from the odd trip to a recruitment agency, I can do this from the comfort of my own (well, my landlord’s) sofa. When I first started job hunting I went to a careers advisor and took cards off a pin board on which there were job descriptions written by hand. I looked in the local paper and wrote out covering letters using that special Basildon Bond plain notepad that came with the lined insert page that you could trace over so your handwriting stayed straight. I received my rejections by post, a fortnight after I’d sent them. This is why, when I nearly banjaxed my laptop with wine the other night, I was so panicky. I literally have no idea how one job hunts now without the internet, without spending soul-destroying hours in the Job Centre using their special Kill Yourself Now You Unskilled Gobshite job-search system. Hideous.
So it would seem that although I may occasionally be terrified by technology, I may have no idea how to answer a call on an iPhone and I may occasionally sabotage technology with various liquids, overall I HEART, sorry I mean I ❤ TECHNOLOGY.