THE LAST WORD

With Neil Haver­son

Let's Talk - - CONTENTS -

Oh hor­ror of hor­rors! I charged my mo­bile phone re­cently, 20 min­utes later I went to use it and it was dead. Fran­ti­cally I pressed all the but­tons. Noth­ing.

Thoughts be­gan pil­ing into my mind. What if the kids wanted to con­tact me? Sup­pose the car broke down. If Mrs H and I are out shop­ping and split up, a quick call or text means we can ar­range to meet up. Now, we could be wan­der­ing the streets for hours look­ing for each other.

I plugged the charger in again in case that jolted it into life. Still noth­ing. The bat­tery must be dead.

We were vis­it­ing our son in Not­ting­ham at the time. I an­nounced that I was in­com­mu­ni­cado. The gen­er­a­tion gap then man­i­fested it­self. Calmly he took the phone from me, pressed two but­tons si­mul­ta­ne­ously for a few sec­onds and hey presto, the screen burst into life.

I heaved a sigh of re­lief. But why did I get in such a lather? It’s not so long ago mo­biles didn’t ex­ist. We man­aged okay then, but we’ve come to rely on the damn things. Ad­mit­tedly they are a huge ben­e­fit, pro­vid­ing a ready means of com­mu­ni­ca­tion and re­as­sur­ance if an emer­gency crops up.

I mean, years ago, when the car broke down, you could be stuck in the mid­dle of nowhere – no phone box for miles.

But take the is­sue of Mrs H and me shop­ping. All we did was ar­range a time to ren­dezvous in a par­tic­u­lar place. This had the bonus of putting a time limit on Mrs H’s pro­tracted ac­tiv­i­ties with the credit card.

Mind you, that only worked if we syn­chro­nised watches - and there were oc­ca­sions when Mrs H scup­pered the sys­tem by go­ing out with a bare wrist.

Ah, now talk­ing of watches, that brings up an­other tech­no­log­i­cal is­sue that struck me a cruel blow. Last Christ­mas, pre­sum­ably in an ef­fort to keep me in ser­vice as long as pos­si­ble, Mrs H bought me a Fit­bit. This is the gadget you wear on your wrist that not only tells you the time and date but mon­i­tors among other things how many steps you take in a day, your heart­beat, sleep pat­tern and how much ex­er­cise you do. It also lets you know when you re­ceive a text or a phone call – pro­vid­ing your mo­bile isn’t dead, of course.

I know there have been lots of com­ments that these giz­mos are in­ac­cu­rate. Well that may be, but for me it pro­vides a fo­cus, some­thing to use as a tar­get. Based on no cri­te­ria what­so­ever as far as I can see, it rec­om­mends you take 10,000 steps a day – just un­der five miles. If I find I’m hov­er­ing around 4,000 I know I re­ally should stag­ger from the sofa and get ac­tive.

Mo­ti­va­tional mes­sages flash reg­u­larly on its tiny screen urg­ing you to get up and go, and an app gives a weekly sum­mary of how well you are per­form­ing.

Well, sud­denly Haver­son’s lit­tle helper was no longer on my wrist. The strap had bro­ken. Luck­ily the Fit­bit caught in my pocket, oth­er­wise I could eas­ily have lost it.

Oddly this was the sec­ond fail­ure that be­fell me in Not­ting­ham. We were not near any shops so I went on­line and or­dered a re­place­ment – but it would take four days to ar­rive. So once again I was plunged into a life with­out elec­tronic sup­port.

Sup­pose my heart rate took off, how would I know? What if I wasn’t get­ting enough sleep? Even more ridicu­lous, I took our son’s dog for a walk and found my­self think­ing: “All these steps I’m miss­ing out on.”

The new strap ar­rived. Hastily I put the Fit­bit on my wrist. All this stress of no mo­bile and no Fit­bit, I just had to know.

Phew! My heart rate was nor­mal.

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