Signal, sir? Go into the store car park

John Ward
John Ward
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WARD’S WORLD: By John Ward

It was only a rumour but I overheard somebody say the other day, or then again it could have been the day before allowing for the rain, that somebody in their family had an ‘upgrade’ to their newly brought handheld device in less than a week and this might, just might, be a record as surely the boat with all the new toys with more and more whistles and bells and now added ‘app’ of the shrill voice of your till operator at the supermarket, would be just leaving port somewhere in the orient having just taken on a few tons of ozone friendly, lead free coal as fuel to burn to get the ship going and bring over the next consignments of gadgets that we or at least certain sections of the population seemingly cannot live without but in reality are now fashion accessories.

The above upgrade in less than a week?! How did it become apparent they needed it in the first place? – less than a week after getting the new model as in some cases folk would still be summoning up the best way to open the box it arrived in and charge it up first - perhaps missile control in Outer Mongolia realise they were going to be short staffed and decide to offer the job to somebody in our region whom aspired to be in a position to assist them based on their prowess of gaming experience of playing Intergalactic Space Ninja Street Cleaner: 29 – The Final Clear Up without going down with Gamer’s Thumb Twitch and waiting for the results of their tests to come back from the hospital and who will probably suggest a major operation or using thinner cuff links for the next few months or if not a cuff-link user, recommend a good establishment to go to have their wrists pieced rather than feel left out of it.

Coming from an era where such things were the work of science fiction writers or the occasional space travel film where people babbled into something and other similar endowed people came to the rescue or a planet blew up to save us from some menace nobody knew about but luckily a few commands into the speaking hairbrush with buttons on and it was all sorted. In more basic terms if you mentioned to my mum you were going to buy a new ‘hand held device’ her mind would immediately spring into gear and she would be looking forward to seeing a new sink plunger or if at the right time of the year a set of nut crackers. It was the customary thing to sit and crack your way through a bag of nuts as it was Christmas. After two hours or so of nut shell pinging and clanging off all manner of things from the cuckoo clock, lamp shade or your granddad who had dropped off while watching the Sound Of Music for the thirty seventh time, you ended up with about a cup full of nuts and a bucket of broken up shell, assuming you managed to track it all down of course. I mention the cuckoo clock as one of our neighbours took their clock to the jewellers to be sorted as it had stopped or conked out in technical speak and was told it was caused by a bit of walnut shell lodged in the gubbins - tech speck for mechanism but as I can’t spell mechanism, I put gubbins - and the only thing they could think of was their crimbo nut cracking session was to blame so you have been warned.

These hand held devices have come along in leaps and bounds, depending on what battery you have fitted of course, but in the not too distant past all you could do with them was to speak into it and if extremely lucky, you got another voice answer you back. There was a universal test signal that went along the following lines where you rung a number which was punched into the key pad with arms extended which I assumed was in case of radiation poisoning and you waited and then a voice sort of said “Hello?” and the bod in front of you had done the necessary to get this far then spoke into the said device and it went thus:” Hello darling – I’m on the train” and this was quite baffling to me on one occasion as we were all standing outside a large shopping centre and not a train or even lines or rails they ran on to be seen so I assumed that shop lifting in that area was worse than most or whatever he had been drinking, I will decline if offered any of it although as time clicked on this came to be known as ‘posing’ among the usual ‘first on the block to own anything new’ brigade.

The first mobile phone I bought was so dire as there were not many signal masts or similar transmitters about to actually pick up your call or signal so back I went to the shop to complain and to be told “It will be like this for a while till things settle down as it’s all so new you know, sir” and I wondered at the time if hospitals told their patients before certain operations the same thing, but quite what would be settling down was never mentioned but the best line I overheard him use to another similar troubled customer after me while I was looking at all the bits in the shop was “If you stand in Sainsbury’s car park, you can get a crystal clear signal, sir” (our Sainsbury’s at the time was built on a rather higher than normal location in the area) to which the rather dumbfounded chap said he never shopped there as his wife did that sort of thing! So much for the march of progress then plus get your groceries afterwards.

Nowadays people’s lives are controlled by their devices as in how to wake up, what to eat, how to eat it and to be washed down with whatever drinking fluid is the current trendy one to be either seen using to tell people you are using, its calorie count or how much fibre or cracked walnut shells it might have in it plus if it’s safe to eat after being scanned under the device.

Remarkable to think the world would be in total meltdown if umpteen zillion billion batteries died overnight as so far nobody has come along with the steam driven model although I can see it now: “The reason you have a weak signal is because you are using the wrong grade of coal, sir.” Don’t laugh as this could be Plan B.