Technology And The Elderly Don’t Mix Well

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I have always considered my mother’s lack of understanding of anything electronic rather interesting, especially since I don’t struggle with operating basic electronic devices such as TV’s, stereos and cell phones. I know that older generations (my mother was born in 1932) tend to have difficulties operating electronic equipment, but my mother is at an extreme. It surprised me when my mother requested a VCR back in the 80’s, because I assumed that using it would present a challenge for her. So I gave her one for Christmas, despite the fact that I doubted she would feel comfortable using it. She proved me right by immediately revealing to me that she did not comprehend the different control buttons, which then prompted me to patiently run through every function with her. When I would say, “Okay Mom, how about if you try to play a videotape?”, she would become frustrated and state that it was just too confusing to her.

The next thing I did was to write out detailed and numbered operation instructions on a large Post-It note which I then affixed to the top of the VCR. A week went by, and then I came over for a visit, during which I asked my mother how she was enjoying the VCR. She stated that she had not used it, that it was “too confusing” for her, and that she would just wait until I came over so that I could operate the VCR and we could watch movies together. My mom held onto that VCR for 20 years, and she never once used it on her own.

Shortly after my mother entered an assisted living facility in 2013, I was trying to figure out what type of phone to get her, and thought it would be cheaper and more convenient for her if I purchased a pre-paid cell phone as opposed to installing a land line in her room. After purchasing her first cell phone (two have stopped working over the years, and she is on her third phone), I braced myself for the cell phone training which I knew I had to put my mom through. Just as I had predicted, she had problems from day one with basic operations on the phone, and as a consequence, rarely, if ever, answers incoming calls or makes outbound calls.

Has anyone else dealt with elderly people who don’t seem to have any aptitude for electronic devices?

Is Technology the Key to Healthy Senior Living?

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By Karen Weeks

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According to MarketWatch, there are over 47 million seniors in the United States, comprising approximately 14.9% of the U.S. population. Unfortunately, the majority of these people have at least one chronic health condition. On the upside, advances in technology have made it easier to manage these conditions and connect seniors with helpful resources and make sure they have access to broadband internet. Here, Dr. Stacey Naito’s Blog describes some of the latest products, gadgets, and apps that can make staying healthy easier as you grow older. 

Convenient apps can remind you to take your pills

At any age, it can be difficult to remember to take medication. This is particularly true if you have more than one prescription that you take daily. If you have trouble remembering to take your medicine, you might want to consider a medication reminder like Medisafe Medication Management.

This is a free app available for both Apple and Android, and while it can jog your memory to take your pills on time, the app also does more than that. Medisafe checks for drug interactions, connects you with coupons and even reminds you when it’s time to request a refill. 

Fitness trackers motivate you to move

Fitness trackers like FitBit and Garmin Venu are nothing new. The first Fitbit was released in 2009. At the time it was barely more than a steps tracker, but they have come a long way since then. Today, in addition to counting your steps, most fitness trackers and smartwatches detect your heartbeat, track your sleep, record your weight, and help you set health-related goals. These tools are a great way to not only make sure you stay active but also monitor changes in your health. 

Fall detectors give you peace of mind

As you age, your risk of developing osteoporosis increases. In fact, the National Osteoporosis Foundation explains 54 million Americans have low bone density or osteoporosis. Osteoporosis increases the risk of broken bones which can easily lead to a fall. Falls are serious and can lead to even more serious injuries. Falls are a serious threat to anyone, and sometimes seniors can suffer from balance issues. It’s easy to see how this can become the perfect storm for an older adult.

For those who are at risk, technology has answers in the way of fall detectors. For instance, the Lifeline fall detector can detect a fall and connect you to a central communication center. If they determine you need assistance they can call for help.

There are many other devices that can help in the event of a fall. In fact, the latest version of the Apple Watch comes equipped with fall detection. In the event of a fall, the watch will call for help and send a message with your location to your emergency contacts. 

Use online tools to book a getaway

There’s nothing quite like getting away for a short vacation or staycation to get a change of scenery. Better yet, booking a quick getaway in a vacation rental offers benefits like free wi-fi and having a fully equipped kitchen so you can cook healthy meals. Many rentals also have home gyms so you can get in a workout or two during your stay. Using a service like TurnKey is a premium choice, as you get your pick of distinctive homes, 24/7 on-call service, and other perks.

Online access to insurance helps you get the care you need

Each year, the open enrollment window for Medicare is October 15 to December 7. During this time you can choose the plan that’s right for you. The best way to get started is to visit Here you can find information on how to sign up and examine your available options.

Since plans like Medicare Advantage offer things like dental and vision care, many seniors find they save money on out-of-pocket expenses by making changes in coverage. With that in mind, do some exploring to make sure you’re getting the best bang for your buck.

Your health is important, but staying on top of it doesn’t have to be complicated. With technology, it’s easy to track your health and stay active. And the best part is, many of these services are easy to use and inexpensive or free. 

Dr. Stacey Naito’s Blog is home to a wide range of lifestyle and health topics (and more!). Read more interesting articles today!

What If It All Shuts Down?

Ever since we hit the era of Google and the information superhighway, we have become as spoiled as fattened swine on the plethora of technology which swarms around us constantly. It’s been an interesting study in contrasts for me, because I spent my childhood without any of the fancy technological bells and whistles which earmark the new millennium. I remember making and receiving phone calls on a beige rotary dial phone, and if I didn’t want to talk to someone, I just left the receiver off the cradle. Now THAT was call blocking! We didn’t even have the luxury of answering machines back in those days. And tooling around on personal computers wasn’t part of our daily routine either.

Now we have personal computers which are so handy that we carry them around in the form of laptops, tablets, and cell phones. We navigate via global satellite, search for factoids via Google or Bing, and pretty much have the world quite literally in the palms of our hands.

Yet what happens when a phone runs out of battery power, or if a power outage threatens to shut us down? The thought honestly makes me shudder, and is part of the reason why I will never take the advice of my sister and digitize all of the photos from my photo albums (I have 39 photo albums, mostly from my mother’s photo collection), then destroy the original photos to save space in my home. Yes, a fire could destroy those photos, but I am not too keen on the idea of storing images on a disk or hard drive and relying on a computer whenever I want to view those images.

Today’s society is so image-driven, yet who is bothering to save these captures in a precious archive? Though I have a habit of printing out images from important events (like birthdays and holidays), I’m sure I am in the minority. I have also noticed that there are some online searches I have conducted which are later deleted or moved, so the information is forever lost. Maybe I’m old school, but there’s something to be said about holding onto an item, whether it be a printed photo, a printout of a Google search, or financial documents.

Who Can Still Read A Map?

I am willing to bet that a fair portion of the millenial generation finds it difficult to read a plain map. Sure, they can look at a navigation screen which continues to re-center and process information to ensure that they will get to their desired destination, but what would happen if a paper map was unfolded in front of them, and they were put to task to find out how to go from point A to point B only by reading the map?

I remember using Thomas Guides, those large spiral bound collections of maps which yielded detailed geography within large metropolitan areas. I always had a Thomas Guide tucked away in my trunk at all times, so that I would be able to reference it in case I found myself in an unfamiliar part of town. However, without some sense of direction, some sense of where my home, or some recognizable geographic reference, was, a Thomas Guide would have just been a jumble of confusing roads. In stark contrast, with GPS navigation apps, all I have to do is select “HOME” on my trusty navigation system and allow it to guide me, without having any clue to where “home” is.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m grateful for the technology which GPS navigation affords, especially when it can factor in traffic flow and estimate time of arrival. But I think it’s tragic that an unavoidable dumbing down of our society has also occurred as a result of GPS technology. What should be an essential survival skill, namely, reading a map, has been largely lost. I still run into people who don’t have the slightest clue of north, south, east, west, and whose lack of spatial knowledge is being coddled by computer programs which do the thinking for them.

I do think that when it comes to short distances within an area, especially if one is walking from point A to point B versus driving, there is some spatial mapping and learning which occurs. However, longer distances with numerous circuitous navigation paths are best handled with forfeiting complete control to the navigation stream without really processing what turns have been made, etc. One prime example I have is a destination about 50 miles away from me which I must drive to each month, which also happens to be quite tricky to get to, because it is nestled deep in the next county, hidden from major highways. I rarely repeat a route to this destination, thanks to the fact that Waze factors in traffic flow, and puts me on the most complicated navigation paths. Waze wasn’t working on one of those days, and I honestly couldn’t think of how to get to my destination! I ended up plugging the address into my vehicle’s GPS, and was able to get to my destination. I had given in to Waze to show me the way, but hadn’t processed enough on my own to map out my route unassisted.

Our New Security Blanket

Think about the one thing which is constantly at your side, namely, your phone.

You rely on that small, handheld computer to keep your life in order, so much so that misplacing it sends you into an instant panic. Your LIFE is on that phone, dammit, and if you were to lose it, you would hate to imagine how much its loss would disrupt your life. I am willing to bet that you carry your cell phone everywhere, even into the restroom, which is why cell phones harbor some of the nastiest germs which are found on inanimate objects these days.

Your thumbs assert their special evolutionary spot in the animal kingdom by constantly texting, liking posts, scrolling, and sweeping to the left or right. Unfortunately, that also means gamekeeper’s thumb, an injury to a tendinitis in thumb ligaments is all to common now.

Your relationship with your phone is so tight that you will stare into it even while at dinner with friends, and it will tempt you to fuss with it while driving, despite the dangers associated with driving and texting.

I have a suggestion for you if you are so attached to your phone that it has become a security blanket. Why not leave it at home while you run to the gym? How about leaving it on your desk at work while you use the restroom? Leave it face down on the table when you are having dinner with friends. Avoid looking at it once you have crawled into bed. It won’t be the end of the world if you put your phone down every once in a while.

How Technology May Be Saving Aging Brains

Our brains are precious cargo which govern all that we do. One of the most mystifying things about these organic motherboards is that they are constantly changing and adapting to our environment, even as we continue to age. Of course, that also means that as we age, we can experience a decline in function.

Now that we are deeply immersed in a major technological age, our very sensitive noggins are also being shaped by the endless stimulation by iPhones, smartphones, computer interfaces, Mp3 players, Bluetooth, even self-driving vehicles. The speed at which technology is evolving is so rapid these days, that it is almost impossible to keep up, but somehow, our gray matter will be affected, either positively or negatively, by these advancements. Most scientists have begun to believe that the impact is mostly positive.

There is a new generation of young people who have little to no clue about what it might be like to play outside and to enjoy the fresh air, because they would much rather play video games, surf the internet, or dig around in the world of social media. The trade-off is that these millenials tend to have faster decision-making skills and can also navigate through the newer computer interfaces and platforms with great ease.

There’s actually a term coined for the generation which has been exposed to computers and cellular phones since birth: digital natives. Their brain circuitry actually differs from older individuals who haven’t had the same lifelong exposure to tech gadgets. There’s a possibility that older brains may get a similar benefit from using the high-tech devices which are so ubiquitous these days. Dr. Small from UCLA performed a study which examined older individuals who had some experience searching online, and discovered that those individuals did indeed have more activity in the decision making portions of the brain than subjects who had never searched online before. Since the brain alters its neural connections with each experience, it makes sense that our inner wiring will change, even as we age.

How Social Media Has Messed Us Up

The majority of us can’t even imagine being without our cell phones. The relatively tiny devices we carry around with us now function as GPS devices, marvelous computers which connect us to every part of the world, tie us into a massive information network which we have become entirely reliant on, and also happen to function as the basic communication aids which were originally invented by Italian inventor Antonio Meucci in 1849 (Alexander Graham Bell won the credit in 1876 as a result of winning the first U.S. patent).

Cell phones have become a necessity in modern society, but they have also caused us to develop compulsive behaviors which feed into the irresistible distraction which they present. Though you may deny it, I am willing to bet that you experience a certain level of anxiety if your cell phone battery power winds down, if you lose reception, if you lose a Wifi signal, or are somehow locked out of a website you need to access immediately. We have become so reliant on the immediate gratification which comes with doing a Google search on our Smartphones or iPhones that we have turned into petulant children when glitches occur. We are so dependent on our cellular devices that they have become security blankets.

Whether we like it or not, our reliance on cellular technology makes us less productive and less attentive to ordinary daily tasks. We could be sitting at work, cooking a meal, walking our dogs, or driving to work, while still concerned about what supposedly vital information we are missing by not staring at our phones. God forbid we miss our friends’ Facebook updates or allow our email inboxes to pile up as we try to navigate through a typical day! We are accustomed to having our phones close by at all times, and every time it makes a notification sound, we stop what we are doing to attend to our phones, which draws attention away from what we should really be focused on. Time ticks by, and suddenly, we are distracted from viewing a beautiful sunset. Even if we view that beautiful sunset, we tend to feel a compulsion to record the sunset by taking a picture of it with those confounded phones.

Even when we aren’t at work, our brains must sort through an enormous amount of information from our phones and computers. One 2011 study stated that we take in the equivalent of about 174 newspapers’ worth of information every single day. And since the brain’s ability to process information is limited, we often end up feeling overwhelmed and anxious as we try to power through all the information being thrown at us. Though the age of social media has enabled us to connect in novel and far-reaching ways, it also robs us of our attention and distracts us from other tasks.

It’s no wonder that the incidence of anxiety in our society has increased dramatically.

There should be a limit on the frequency with which we view social media sites. Be sure to set aside a brief designated time each day to check emails and peruse social media, then PUT YOUR PHONE AWAY. Leave the bulk of each day to relaxing, sightseeing, engaging in outdoor activities, and enjoying life. Trust me, your brain needs a break from the constant influx of technology.

Another disturbing reality about our attachment to cell phones is the false sense of community we feel as a result of social media notifications and texts. The perception is that we are part of a vast network, but the ironic thing is that we tend to access our cell phones while alone. This isolation from actual interaction can actually trigger loneliness and depression. From the moment we wake up until we rest our heads to sleep, our cell phones are always on. They even serve as our alarm clocks now!

I Hate Taking Selfies


Both of my parents used to put me in front of cameras all the time, which largely explains why I am so comfortable in front of them. I am very much at ease before a still camera, and am usually fine in front of a moving one, even if I have to improvise or read cold. I have never really shied away from the camera lens like some people tend to do, and am usually happy to join in a group picture when asked to do so.

All bets are off when I have to take a selfie. I have stubbornly remained on the Android boat and refuse to cross over to the iPhone world, and as a result I have to deal with a camera which, quite frankly, sucks, especially when in selfie mode. I have an oval face, but my phone camera wants to make me look like I have a long, weird horse face! My phone camera is also completely incapable of capturing ideal lighting conditions. Since I want people to see me in my natural, everyday state, and am very reluctant to use filters on my social media posts, I realize that many of my social media posts which feature a selfie don’t exactly make me look my best.

As if that wasn’t enough to discourage me from taking selfies, I also don’t enjoy the process of looking at myself and trying to line up a picture. When someone else is photographing or filming me, I allow myself to relax and trust the person who is capturing my likeness. When I take selfies with my phone, I become easily and quickly bored with the activity. It’s not like me to spend massive amounts of time in front of a mirror, fussing and primping, so I certainly don’t enjoy spending additional time taking pictures of myself.

Here’s my M.O. for taking selfies: I think of a good setup for the shot, then I take between two and eight selfies. I know you selfie experts are probably horrified by the paltry amount of selfies I take, and are ready to tell me, “No wonder you don’t get good selfies!” I know that the most dedicated Instagram selfie takers will often take over a hundred versions of a selfie and sift through them to find the most flattering images, but I don’t have that kind of time!

I have spoken with branding people who say that it is worth taking time to snap the perfect selfie, but I have careers and a life outside of social media, and in that real world, time is money. If I don’t get my work done, I don’t get paid. And no one will have sympathy for me if I tell them I need a couple of hours each day to take the perfect batch of selfies. Since I also apply a five-minute face each day (concealer, brow pencil, eyeliner, mascara, blush, translucent powder and lipstick…NO foundation, bronzer, eyeshadow, lipgloss for my daily look!), I am not prepping for selfies all the time.

Who else out there hates taking selfies? IMAG0893

Talk-To-Text Can REALLY Get You In Trouble!

texting periodic table

The marvels of modern technology have enabled us to put the spoken word into text form, saving us from texter’s thumb. However, talk-to-text is not the seamless, failsafe cell phone feature that we would hope that it would be, not by a long shot.

I will admit that I have become extremely lazy about writing short essays on my keypad, because it 1) takes forever, and 2) the tendinitis I already suffer from in my right thumb makes the whole process of texting extremely uncomfortable. Here’s the problem: if I am in a rush, I don’t always have time to check the text message before sending. That has led to some goofy, funny, and downright embarrassing text messages which have come from my phone! It doesn’t help that I listen to comedy when I am in my car, so if I fail to turn the radio volume down, my phone will at times pick up a raunchy phrase from the radio.

There is a particularly funny example which occurred recently which I will share with you. I had been in a text exchange with a friend, and wanted to ask about how my friend’s week was going. After activating Google Talk-To-Text, I said something along those lines and sent the text quickly without proofreading it, since I was in a rush to get to a meeting. This is what my phone ended up sending:

“You Masturbate I hope you have been enjoying your week and getting lots of work done.”

Holy crap. *%@&$*%!

Apparently the comic on the radio said those first two words which were dutifully picked up by my phone. I had to dig myself out of that one! I IMMEDIATELY texted my friend, “OMG my talk to text just picked up those two words. How embarrassing!”. Thankfully, my friend was understanding, and we had a good laugh.

There have been times when I have made a point of enunciating and speaking slowly into the phone, only to get some bizarre response which makes no sense. If it becomes that hard to get ONE word right, then I end up just using my thumbs to finish the text. Something like “I need to go to the store first but we can meet up later” can turn into “I knead to goat a duster first but we can meat up later”. Yeah, ummm, ok.

What I’d like to know is why my phone picked up the comic’s words so clearly that day, but has failed to pick up my words clearly when I am speaking slowly into the receiver. I think my smart phone may be on a mission to permanently infuriate me.

I would love to hear some of your funniest or most embarrassing text messages which resulted from talk-to-text mixups!

Cell Phones Are Taking Over

I thought the following article was very well written, so I am sharing it here. Stuart Jeffries may have written it almost nine years ago, but a great deal of what he says rings true (pun intended).

Original post can be found at:

To hell in a handset

Watches are on the way out. The days of the diary are numbered. And cameras could be next. The world is becoming a poorer place, says Stuart Jeffries – thanks to the mobile phone

Stuart Jeffries
Thursday 8 March 2007

There will come a moment in about seven years’ time when I will make a fool of myself in front of my daughter. Surely it won’t take that long, you say. Be quiet. It will happen like this. One summer’s evening, she will be playing in the street with a bunch of other eight-year-olds and I will go out to call her in for tea. Thanks to the hovercars, free-floating teleportation platforms, jetpack-powered flying ice-cream sellers and other inventions that I confidently predict will be filling our skies come 2014, the noise will be so oppressive that I won’t be able to make myself understood with words alone. So I will be forced to make a simple gesture to tell her it’s time to come inside.

What will it be? I will tap my wrist where a watch should be. The time-honoured sign that you should wrap up one activity and prepare for another. One problem: it won’t work. Not in 2014. She won’t know what I’m on about. She will look at me blankly with that soul-destroying gaze that children are hard-wired to give their parents. (Don’t worry, young techno-hipsters – such old fartdom will be your fate too. There will come a time when your grandchildren will recall how you used to sit them on your knee and play them your iPod or explain to them how you used ActiveSync to back up your email address list. Oh, how will they laugh, and how they will trash everything you held dear. iPods – can you imagine anything more tacky? All that shiny plastic – yeuughh! And emails! How sad is that? No videocalls or anything? Pathetic!)

For months afterwards, my daughters’ playmates will tap their wrists satirically whenever they see her in the playground (if playgrounds exist in 2014), and so I will become a figure of fun. The old fart with his incomprehensible gestures. My daughter’s shame.

Why? Because few people will wear watches in the near future. Wrist-borne chronometers are so last millennium. In the US, a survey by investment bank Piper Jaffray & Co found that nearly two-thirds of teens never wear a watch and that only one in 10 wears one every day. A quick glance around my office shows that I am, by virtue of wearing a watch, in the demographic most likely not to have broadband, know who/what Mika is, or bid co-workers farewell by saying: “Laters!”

True, wrist-borne chronoporn devices continue to appeal to deeply inadequate men with high disposable incomes. But let’s not allow the dreary fetishes of GQ’s target audience to spoil the story. Today a watch is the opposite of a status symbol. Indeed, the main reason I’m writing this piece is that I was spotted by an editor wearing a loser watch. It is a Lorus Sports, quite possibly purchased more than 10 years ago from Walthamstow market, and on its third rotting leather strap. It smells like feet. And not nice feet. If it was a song, my watch would be that one by Beck (“I’m a loser, baby, so why don’t you kill me?”). Keeps good time, though. Have you ever heard of Lorus? Of course not.

If I was a winner, I would drop my watch in a canal and tell the time with my mobile. In fact, if I was a winner, I would do everything on my mobile phone – even film myself dropping the Lorus in the canal and happy-slapping myself along the towpath. Increasingly, all the stuff you need to get through the day is focused in one piece of kit. Thanks to what manufacturers like to call “convergence”, today’s mobiles already allow you to tell the time, arrange your appointments diary, watch films, play games, and take pictures of your blocked sink that you can send as jpegs to your plumber, who will text you back a ludicrous estimate, which you can check by using your phone’s calculator function. You can use the phone to play that “hip” Snow Patrol/Killers/Go! Team track as you straphang on the Victoria line to the mounting fury of fellow passengers.

It can only be a matter of time before your mobile will allow you to operate the garage door, unlock the car, swipe your way into the office, bus, tube or nightclub. Already, the better type of phone can teach you to play the guitar, the screen showing finger positions for chords and the speakers telling you what they should sound like. If your phone is Wap-enabled, you can play DJ Rob’s pub quiz from Chris Moyles’ Radio 1 show. You need never visit a pub again. Or you might want to shoot yourself in the head.

The world of digital vortex – an interactive

Mobiles have become so much the focus of consumer technology that you might as well drop not just your watch, but your iPod, DVD camera, digital camera, calculator, alarm clock, diary, address book and PlayStation in the canal and go out with one sleek piece of kit. Soon you might even be able to burn your books because you’ll have them on your mobile-cum-iTablet. One problem: you’ll get mugged for your high-spec ponce-a-phone as soon as you pull it out of your trousers in public. And then, unless you’ve backed up every bit of data (which, trust me, you won’t have), you’ll be screwed. That’s because the omnicompetent mobile is a terrible thing. As HL Mencken put it: “For every complex problem, there is a simple solution … and it is wrong.”

That’s the trouble with convergence. It can be rubbish. Better to have a shame-mobile like my six-year-old Nokia, even though, quite possibly, it was made in the former Soviet Union from old Sinclair C5s and barely works as a phone. Like my car (keys in the ignition, door open, motor running), I have been leaving my phone in situations where ne’er-do-wells can steal it for years. No one has. Because I’m a loser, baby.

Convergence is not always what we want, but it is increasingly what we get. “Take the so-called digital home,” says futurologist Patrick Dixon. “Convergence might mean total control with wireless TV/video/music/web in every room, all from one online PC, also used for children’s games and homework – or a fridge that is also a web browser. But who really wants web access on a fridge door, or a single remote control for every device in the house, or a single device to play the same music in every room?” Technological innovation doesn’t simply supply what we want: it supplies more and more of what we don’t need. As Homer Simpson put it: “If they can put a man on the moon, why don’t my feet smell good?”

Technology evolves irrespective of our desires. Its onward march leaves us in the lurch, haunted by memories of things we used to do. For example, when Steve Jobs showed off Apple’s new iPhone earlier this year, he asked rhetorically how the thing would be operated: “Are we going to use a stylus? No, we’re not. We’re going to use the best pointing device in our world: our fingers.” Well, yes, Steve, but no. There’s no need to diss the past. I miss styluses (styli?), especially the one I used to play a very spirited version of the Marvelettes’ When You’re Young and in Love on a friend’s Rolf Harris Stylophone. Tread softly, Steve Jobs, for you tread on my techno-memories.

Technology’s evolution, as a result, often leaves us queasy. We feel a nostalgia for the near past – for its soothing gestures, for the obsolete body language we mastered so well – but mere discombobulation in face of the near future. The new gestures unleashed by new tech (for example, holding your hands above your head to signify taking pictures with a digital camera) have not been sanctioned by the test of time. Years after the arrival of the hands-free headset, many of us still cross the road to avoid someone who seems to be talking to an imaginary friend, when we should be checking their lugholes for miniature earpieces.

“Technology changes what is socially acceptable all the time by pushing boundaries,” says Tom Dunmore of Stuff magazine. “In terms of people talking into their mobiles, that’s become much more acceptable socially.” Maybe in your world, Mr Dunmore. “What amazes me now,” he says, “is how you see teenagers on trains using their mobiles like speakers, holding them up and playing music.” It is a confusing development: the very point, I thought, of personal stereos, MP3 players, Discmans and the rest was that they kept the sound, for the most part, in the user’s head. Technology takes us in socially discomfiting, unpredictable areas: it’s a pain, and not just in terms of GBH of the earhole.

For example, keyboards and computer mice (mouses?) will soon no longer be at the cutting edge of technology. Which is a shame for those of us who have only just got used to them. As a result, people will laugh at you if you make those spider moves with your fingers to signify typing, because in the future (according to Jobs), touch-sensitive screens will render keyboards obsolete. And that’s before we even get on to voice recognition. Our typing days may be numbered.

Amazing, isn’t it? Amazing, that is, that I’ve got so far through a piece on technology without referring to that scene in Minority Report where Tom Cruise sweeps his hands suggestively across a screen and thus gets the jump on the bad guys.

The point, though, is that technological development is shadowed by the ghosts of gestures associated with obsolete gear. You may be old enough to remember that to suggest typing, one would bash away at an imaginary keyboard and – this is the crucial bit – slam the imagined typewriter carriage sharply back to start a new line. Nobody does that any more. I used to do it with the aplomb of newshound Rosalind Russell in His Girl Friday for years. But now no one understands me, so I’ve stopped.

What speeds up the rise in the semiotic scrapheap is just that drive for convergence, whereby mobile phone companies build more and more features into their kit, like digital Swiss Army knives. That analogy breaks down quite fast: there will be no digital way of shaving, cutting toenails, opening wine or making fire. Or maybe there will be. Perhaps there are no limits to convergence.

For instance, both Nokia and BlackBerry are poised to launch handsets with global positioning systems. Were it not for the fact that men find it hard to ask for directions, of course, satnav (“sadnav” to its critics) would have no reason to exist. But it does, and thanks to it, men will never have to ask for directions again. Instead, spoken instructions will guide them from power latte to power latte, from pillar to post, from Pontefract to Penzance. The press release for the BlackBerry 8800 says: “The new smartphone includes a full complement of features to appeal to mobile professionals who want to manage their work and leisure time effectively.” What a dismal world. Personally, I’ve never wanted to manage my leisure time, still less manage it effectively. But then, I am a loser. What, incidentally, is a mobile professional?

Another development will be bigger mobile phone screens. Tom Dunmore says that in the near future, watching films on your mobile won’t be quite as barmy an activity as it now seems. “The most significant development in that area is foldable screens, which will allow you to do proper web browsing and watch movies. You’ll be able to get memory cards holding two or three films. They’ll be great for flights where there isn’t much in-flight entertainment.”

Convergence is not the only game in town. “Mobile phone companies don’t just launch one phone,” Dunmore says. “They target different people with different ranges. Vodafone has a Simplicity range targeted at older users. Smart multi-function phones are less than 10% of the market. And there will always be gadget nuts who want separate high-end pieces of kit – be they iPods or DV cameras or whatever. But the converged proportion of the market will start to grow as phones become sexier.”

Hence, perhaps, the looming sexyphone face-off this spring. Who can resist a sexyphone face-off? It will be between the soon-to-be-launched iPhone, LG’s Shine phone LF KE970 (which has a makeup mirror that becomes a screen when you turn it on – sweet!), Samsung’s Ultra Smart F700, Motorola’s Z8, Nokia N610 Navigator, and the LG Prada. The last one should appeal to me: designed by Prada and built by Korean electronics giant LG, almost the entire front surface is a touchscreen (like the iPhone), and users can drag items around and navigate menus by tapping on the screen. It weighs 85 grams and looks droolworthily sleek. It is elegantly black, with an extra-wide LCD screen, MP3 player and a black leather Prada case. It also is less tacky than the Motorola phone designed by Dolce & Gabbana, which, when opened, shouted “Hello, Dolce & Gabbana!”

But would spending £400 on the LG Prada do the most important thing – impress my daughter? Possibly. After all, she loves nothing more than dunking things in baby food until they become useless. Her critique of the fatuities of technological innovation is more devastating than mine will ever be.

What the do-it-all mobile means for …


What we’ve gained Immediacy – you can see what you’ve snapped immediately and send it out to all your mates pronto. Suddenly, lots of new uses for images become available. For example, one of my colleagues takes photographs of the back of his head with his mobile phone when he is shaving his hair to make sure the cut is even. A mirror is a difficult thing to hold, you see. But if he uses a phone, he can take the picture of the back of his head. Shave a little more off. Take another photo. Shave a little more off. And when you’re happy with the cut, delete all the images (or send them to a mate). I’ve suggested he send these images to a gallery to see if they want to exhibit them under the title My Ever Changing Head.

What we’ve lost Remember those happy moments finishing off a roll of film outside the chemist? Asking a passing stranger to snap you having a sunburned post-holiday snog before you went into Boots to drop off the negs? No? Perhaps it was just me. And then the long, tantalising days waiting for the photos to be ready? Only to pick them up and realise that you forgot to take the lens cap off? Twerp.


What we’ve gained Our beautiful wrists are now unbesmirched by ugly clobber. And remember, before wristwatches, how your waistcoat pocket was really heavy because it was filled with your fob watch? No? Me neither. The very idea! But if you did have a waistcoat pocket that one day did have a fob watch in it, imagine how much happier you’d be now because it hasn’t – you wouldn’t walk with a lurch towards the left, as your pocket would be empty. All thanks to the advent of mobile phones.

What we’ve lost Annoyingly, if you wear a watch, you’re often asked the time by mates who can’t be bothered to get their mobile phones out of their bags and have a look at the digital chronometers themselves. Damn them! The only thing to do is to lose your watch and rely on your phone to tell you the time. Remember watching the second hand of your watch go round in circles for hour after hour? You can’t do that any more when you rely on a mobile to tell you the time – which is just as well, because it made you economically unproductive.

Listening to music

What we’ve gained Remember when you used to want to listen to a whole Wagner opera while on a train journey, you would have to take a box of CDs and feed them in succession into your Discman? And that it was such a palaver that by the end you didn’t care whether Valhalla burned or not? No? Perhaps it was just me. The great thing about having an MP3 player built into your mobile is that you don’t have to be burdened with gear. Not even an iPod Nano, which, as you know, weighs only as much as a bee’s wing. What’s more, your mobile has a speaker so you can annoy fellow travellers with your eclectic tastes. Result! Before Walkmen, you may not know, it was even worse: you would have to hire a man to carry your record player all around town. He would walk behind you, playing your LPs. Naturally, he had to walk very slowly so the needle didn’t bounce. It was a dark age for recorded music in many ways.

What we’ve lost What about the lovely artwork? Nobody savours the Roger Dean artwork on those Yes gatefold sleeve concept albums any more in this barbarian digital age. Least of all when your mobile phone is the source of all your sounds.

Phone calls

What we’ve gained We can call anybody whenever we like. For instance, you can call the hospital from the passenger seat and tell them (quite possibly) how much you’re dilated, when you’ll be arriving, whether you’d like an epidural, sugar for your tea, book the water birthing facilities, etc. In the past you couldn’t do things like that. Which was a shame.

What we’ve lost Punctuality is dead. In pre-mobile days, there was no way of letting someone know we were running late, so we made greater efforts to be outside the theatre at the time agreed. Now we can text them saying we’re running late – even if we’re not and, in reality, just can’t be bothered to meet as planned. Social life is now more fraught with petty resentments than it was before mobiles got on the scene. And now, dammit, anybody can call us whenever they like – it’s harder to hide from after-hours work calls. Virtual presenteeism is the norm. Worse yet, there are no longer movie plots where the guy knows the girl is alone in the flat and the killer is hiding behind the curtains. Today the hero would text Michelle: “Killa in yr flat. behind curtains. scarper! lol :)” And the film would be over in minutes. Rubbish, really.

TV and radio

What we’ve gained You can make a film of your fancy feet during a tango class in Macclesfield and send it to Juan, the Hispanic hottie you met in Buenos Aires last summer. He will be dazzled by your skills and your devotion to his culture and send you a text saying how much he loves you in broken English. You will move to Argentina and have a lurid affair with him and come home five years later, tired but happy, with three children who won’t like Cheshire at all. In the past you couldn’t do that.

Also, we can now watch My Family on our mobiles. And text Gardeners’ Question Time with complaints about their broadcast views on when is the right time to prune one’s pyracantha. Goody! Can this really be what Mr Nokia (or whoever it was) intended when he had a dream of making our lives easier with a portable telephonic device the size of a pillow all those years ago? Quite possibly not.

What we’ve lost Moments of quiet contemplation on the top deck of a bus unbroken by happy-slapping ruffians who knock your Proust out of your hands and put your resultant discomfiture all over their mobile network and the world wide web, probably when they should be in detention. What’s more, you can watch films on your phones in a format so small that any cinematographer worth their salt would cry to see you vandalise their art in such a manner. Neither of these developments is good.

What, really, is the point of watching telly on your mobile? Why don’t you just turn it off and do something else? Read a book. Remember them, for crying out loud? There’s never anything on anyway. Watching telly on the bus? Good grief. That is so pathetic. Get a life.


What we’ve gained No longer will you have to fumble for awkward opening lines in a club or pub teeming with fanciable techno sophisticates – instead you can let your phone do the introducing for you, as prospective partners wandering into range are automatically forwarded your profile. All you need is a Bluetooth-enabled phone and a roomful of hotties of either/both genders. If they like what they find in your profile, they can message you and perhaps even wind up having a non-virtual drink/snog/shag/child with you. Happy days!

What we’ve lost Talking like normal people used to. No longer do you need to deploy your marvellous range of pick-up lines (from “That’s quite a lovely Jackson Pollock, isn’t it?” to “Your face or mine?”) which you learned at a special evening class (Remedial Dating for Sociopaths 101) last autumn. But isn’t that a shame? After all, getting shot down by some imperious beauty for daring to ask her if she’d like a crème de menthe and kahlua used to be a rite of passage for a young man. But enough about me. Another downside is that rude people who you don’t know sitting at the next restaurant table can send you porn film clips on their similarly Bluetooth-enabled phone. It happens. But that doesn’t make it right.

Using the internet

What we’ve gained It’s marvellous to go to when you’re lost and equipped only with your mobile. And realise that the nearest Huang Chow Lane, where you are supposed to be meeting your friend, is in Shanghai, and you are in Walsall with only a West Midlands travel pass. Bummer.

What we’ve lost The possibility of being outside the techno loop while we’re on the bus home. Time was you could just stare at the rain running down the windows as you sat in gridlock. You might even catch the eye of that person across the aisle and, by the time you had to change to get the number 92, would have their number. Now you’ve got to check your email, text or study the news headlines. Otherwise you’re a nobody. It’s also a royal pain to write emails on your mobile, unless you’ve got a plug-in keyboard. Which, unless I mistake my guess, you haven’t.