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Why am I surprised it’s coming to this ..?

As an ‘oldie’ I’m very conscious that modern technology if not life, is leaving me behind, albeit the fact doesn’t particularly bother me. After all, it wasn’t too long ago that I appreciated, while completing the survey of best/favourite songs that my brother occasionally conducts, that my interest in contemporary ‘pop/rock’ music ceased around about 1980, if not actually four or five years before that.

I suspect that part of the issue is that human beings crave simple things and to know where they are. This is certainly the reason that I frustrate various utility companies when they call to try and entice me to switch suppliers, e.g. a gas company offering to supply my electricity at a lower rate than my electricity supplier, or vice versa.

I begin from the standpoint that I don’t like getting junk sales calls anyway, period. If I was unhappy with my current supplier I’d have taken the initiative and sought out an alternative myself. I explain to the gas company that – no matter how much cheaper their electricity might be – I prefer to get my electricity from an organisation with ‘electricity’ (or equivalent) in their title and my gas from a company with ‘gas’ in the title: that way I know which one I’m dealing with.

“But our electricity rate is demonstrably cheaper …”

“That may well be …” I respond, “… but that doesn’t address my point. I’m sure that if I was to put the phone down on you and immediately call my electricity company, they’d be more than happy to offer to supply my gas at a lower rate than you are …”.

The government can try all it likes to make energy suppliers more competitive in the marketplace, and to encourage customers to shop around for the best deals, but most of us are just trying to keep things simple. We don’t want to be constantly on guard, ready to switch suppliers every few months whenever somebody drops their price or comes up with some new energy ‘product’ that might be (however temporarily) to our financial advantage.

I alighted on this subject today after seeing a media report on the fraction to which most mobile phone users actually utilise the potential applications that their smartphones offer – see here – DAILY MAIL

This article certain applies to me.

When my smartphone contract expired recently I acted upon my first instinct and initially opted to continue with the existing phone but on a ‘SIM card only’ basis – I’d worked out that, since I never used my phone to go online or watch movies etc. but only ever to phone and text, it wasn’t worth me paying for all the extra stuff it was offering. Since the ‘SIM card only’ basis would save me approximately £15 per month, this seemed a ‘no brainer’ at the time.

xperiaOver the following weekend, however, it was pointed out to me by a friend that if I switched to a different phone – a Sony Xperia Z3 Compact as it happened, not even the latest Z5 model – I could acquire a much smarter-looking, much higher quality, phone complete with all the bells and whistles (including internet access) for about £25 per month, still £10 less than my previous phone’s contract. In other words, for the want of paying £5 extra per month, I was losing out on having a much better phone.

So I duly switched to a Sony Xperia Z3 Compact. I’m loving it. Not only does it phone and text like a demon, but I can also link it to my new desk-top computer and do various other things I can understand or have managed, with varying degrees of effort and complication, to work out. Every day I now wake up and feel ‘cool’ and ‘with it’ … or at least those are the words we used to describe such emotions in my heyday.

However, this doesn’t mean that everything is completely rosy in the garden.

The astonishing rate at which technology constantly moves on, and/or at which every leading ‘tech’ company develops new concept and products, is bewildering and disconcerting.

Let’s take a couple of examples.

Microsoft has a new product called OneDrive. As I understand it (which I probably don’t) it automatically backs up everything on your PC and – if you then activate the OneDrive app on your smartphone – your PC and smartphone can ‘talk to each other’ and synchronise themselves. Sounds okay, doesn’t it?

Not long afterwards, I decided – as you do – to download some favourite family and other photographs onto my smartphone, e.g. the better to show third parties I meet who enquire “And what are your kids up to these days?” and so on. So I connected my smartphone to the PC via a cable and started the process of choosing and then ‘transferring’ a suitable selection of about 20 items.

Imagine my surprise therefore, later idly touring my smartphone in front of the television, when I discovered that – whilst I had indeed successfully completed my ‘family photo downloading’ process – my PC and smartphone versions of OneDrive had also synchronised themselves.

As a result my smartphone now had not just my 20 chosen photographs loaded upon it, but (via OneDrive) the entire contents of my ‘Pictures’ folder as contained on my PC – in other words, about another 1,600 photographs more than I had chosen, wanted or needed … including my lovingly-collected stash of ‘early career’ images of my favourite actresses and/or female celebrities in the nude as amassed over the past forty years. Not only that, but as part of a showing-off ‘new technology’ facility, whenever I went to my ‘photographs’ section my smartphone helpfully ‘random scroll-displays’ a sample of its wares. Thus, if I were for example to hand it to a maiden aunt or equivalent, the better so that she could view snaps of my kids when they were babies or indeed youngsters playing in a paddling pool together, she might well find these interspersed with samples of the youthful Madonna, Helen Mirren, Natalie Imbruglia et al. au naturel (or as near as dammit).

It took me the best part of two days’ solid concentration to work out how to rectify this potential calamity – which in the end was achieved by disabling the OneDrive app on my smartphone altogether.

Secondly – as I recently confirmed by going back to the phone-shop and asking – what the average senior citizen doesn’t fully appreciate is the extent to which things overlap.

Take satellite navigation or maps, for example. You’d think that your smartphone would give you just one variation of these, but no. Google does one, Microsoft does one, Garmin does one – and they all do exactly the same thing. However, it was only after I’d ‘surfed’ my app section and signed up to three of them that I realised this. In doing so, of course, I’d used up three times more space in my ‘memory’ storage than I needed to. So I got the sales assistant to advise which in her opinion was the best map/navigation system of the three and then ‘disable’ and wipe the other two. Simples.

Another thing that bugs me is the range and type of apps and facilities that smartphones offer you.

For example, my new smartphone offers me Hangouts. I’ve probably got this wrong (I haven’t dared go past the introductory page) but I think the ‘scheme’ is that somehow this app collects data about you and everyone in your contacts list so that – if you want – not only can you find out which of your contacts might be ‘hanging out’ in some hostelry or another close to where you live and/or might be going that evening, in case you should wish to hook up, but it allows you to communicate and/or provide reviews of the best places to go, and so on.

I cannot think of anything more nightmarish or horrendous.

It also boasts an app called Keep. Apparently this allows to make a note of your left-field creative ideas or even sketches, which will then be automatically shared with everyone in your contacts book.


I could go on.

puzzledWell, actually, I don’t need to. I’ve had my shop assistant help me choose which apps – or which versions of which apps – I really need and I’m leaving it at that. I’m sure that there’s still about 95% of my new smartphone’s capabilities that I shall never visit, let alone use.

Do I care? Not in the slightest. I know this shows my age, but I like technology that does exactly what I want it to do … and nothing else. The trouble with the modern world is that the technology is so smart – and indeed getting so much smarter – that before long I won’t be able to express a private opinion on something (anything) that won’t immediately be broadcast around the world via Facebook, Google, Bing, Twitter or YouTube – or indeed GCHQ or the Government – and that any time now I’m going to tune into the BBC 6 O’ Clock TV News and find it second up in the news headlines …

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About Oliver Fortune

A doctor formerly specialising in sexual health, Oliver has written widely on matters relating to sex, relationships and counselling. He is divorced and has one daughter. He is a keen skier and mountain biker. More Posts