Tuesday 8 December 2015

Small moments of joy in modern life

Chateau L is a haven of accidental neo-luddism. It's not that we oppose new technology, it's just that we never seem to get round to it. Life is too short to be bothered with installing a fridge with a barcode reader that will reorder milk when it determines yours has turned to yoghurt, or cancel the cheese order a fortnight later when you haven't scanned it out. If you recall, about halfway through the London Olympics I went and bought a TV as ours was an analogue lump. We watched a week of sport, and have barely touched it since. We don't have a games console, we don't have a microwave, and somewhat archaically we still fiddle around with shiny little discs if we want to listen to music. This is how we like it, life is not complicated, and we are ideally equipped to be old people. Round here if you make a cup tea which has little floating white bits on the top, it's time to buy milk. A friend of mine recently had his entire flat "done". I'm not quite sure what done refers to, but it means everything is digital without a wire in sight, he can set the temperature from his mobile phone, and also turn lights on when he isn't there, though I'm yet to be convinced of the merits of the latter. He says it's for security; we just have a lion*.

Modern technology is amazing though, and as we don't have much of it I am still regularly able to be thrilled by things the rest of the world discovered several years ago. For instance I recently got a new phone, diligently set it up and feeling safety-conscious set a PIN. Ha! Nobody will ever be able to get in! My son noticed this new arrival, and despite having a phone so outdated even Mrs L had cast it off, asked if I had set up the fingerprint recognition. Wh-wh-aaat?! And then showed me how. It's amazing, I don't have to remember a number or a password, I just place either of my thumbs on it and hey presto it turns on! Tomorrow I might set up a finger or two, and I am hopeful it might be able to recognise the tip of my nose so I don't have to take my gloves off in winter.

Some of these date from as long ago as 1992!
The surprise and delight does not end there though. We took delivery of a new car last week, this being possibly the one area where we are significantly less backward. It does things, clever things. Mrs L hates it, she say's it's designed for men by men. Whatever, I love it. Automatic wipers that start when it rains are old hat, so are lights that come on when it gets dark or when you go in a tunnel, and then turn off again when you emerge the other side. But this new one also controls full beam for you. None of this flick off flick on nonsense, it just does it. Empty open road, full beam on. Car coming towards you, off just before it would matter. Genius, and what made it even better was that I had no idea. I was driving along, just about to flick them on and before I could so the car did it for me. I wasn't even quite sure what had happened until they turned off again, and then it was just a joy predicting when they would turn on and off. But that's not all it can do. You can talk to it. No, really. You can tell it to do things. For instance, let's say you had filled a USB stick with loads of quality music and plugged it in (one of two USB slots by the way, as well as a three-pin socket and three - count 'em - 12V thingys), you could then simply say "Play Taylor Swift" and it would do it. It's never heard your voice, never heard of Taylor Swift (!), but it just starts playing. Obviously this is for the benefit of my daughters, but it works on adult music too ahem. Even cleverer than having an in-depth knowledge of country music artists though, it can also recognise the white lines on the road. If you drift too close to them it will either correct for you, or if that's not safe, vibrate the steering column to alert you. If you indicate it doesn't. If you indicate right and drift left, it does. A genuinely useful application of technology, quite brilliant.

I mentioned this miracle at work, and was met with derision. Well of course cars do that. Cars even park themselves these days! I beg your pardon?! Park themselves?! But it's true, I've seen a video (a kind of moving picture), and there's somebody sat in a car opposite a space. They press a magic button, sit back and fold their arms, the steering wheel starts moving and the car backs itself into the space perfectly. How can that have been designed for men by men?! And I'm not talking about fancy cars like Mercedes and so on, this is on your average Ford, which is what we have. Well, we don't actually. I rushed home from work to see if our car would park itself and sadly there is no magic button. Also the old one had heated seats and this one doesn't. Rubbish.

 extremely under-nourished, nonetheless highly alert


  1. Love the CDs Jono. Just like mine. I ditched all my vinyl a few years ago, but doubt that I'd do the same to the 'shiny discs'. Downloading is anathema to me!