Wednesday, June 29, 2011

today : bad apples

ipads are stupid and I hate them. Actually I don't hate them at all really. And they are also undeniably a miraculously clever invention. They are another example of how actual things are now seemingly outstripping the sci-fi predictions of my youth.

But watching Sky News in the past couple of weeks has made me notice something. What are stupid and hateful are the people who wave their
ipads around, showing them off. One or two of the presenters on Sky do this during the late-night paper review. Obviously they have a new thing where tomorrows front pages are now stored on an iPad, connected to the screen behind them. As they move through the stories and discuss them with whichever guest (they have pretty good guests most nights), they can control what appears by using their iPad rather than having some technical boffin in the gantry do it for them. I guess the presenters have all been given a shiny iPad. Some of them can't help but blatantly angle them towards the camera and make very obvious iPaddy gestures. Sometimes when they are scrolling or resizing a picture the camera gives us a close up of fingers on screen. They might as well have a t-shirt that says 'iPad Owners Club' on the front.

The same thing happened with the F1 coverage on the
Beeb last year. That guy who's like a Blue Peter presenter who presents it, insisted on walking around with his iPad on show, until a certain point arrived when, either he realised that it looked stupid and childish, or someone from the Beeb got nervous about product placement and confiscated it.

I've seen this a lot in the past. I was a teacher during the original rise of the mobile phone and most children, upon getting one, would find any excuse to wave it around and show off. I expect this from children, but when the
iphone appeared this behaviour broke out among adults too. Any visit to the supermarket or a coffee shop meant negotiating people pointlessly waving their iphones around whilst clogging up the town. Notice how they never call it a phone, but make sure they use the word iphone. It's a phone, and tell me how many of the hundreds of 'apps' on yours you actually use regularly, and how many are sitting there - 99p wasted? Apps are the new ringtones. Eventually people grew up and realised that variations on the sound of a phone ringing was quite adequate enough thank-you.

It's clever of Apple to harness this childish impulse towards one-
upmanship. Coupled with the quasi-cult religion behaviour amongst Apple fans, it puts almost a mystical air around their machines. This I can kind of get. The machines themselves are pretty brilliant and unbelievable expressions of technology. But I personally am baffled by the shots of gawky bespectacled boys sleeping on pavements in order to be the first to pick up a new Apple gizmo. What's the point in having 'face-time' in your pocket when you don't have an awful lot of real friends?

I'm stereotyping nerds, of course. Which is unfair. But actually, nerds aren't the issue. They'll always go for the next latest gadget and endlessly discuss it with other nerds. No problem for the rest of us, and possibly an essential part of the leaps forward technology is making in recent years. The problem is the try-
hards, the self nominated fashionable and cool people. Because all this boils down to what's considered cool.

Like the Apprentice style business-suited woman in front of me in the queue for cigarettes today in the supermarket. Shouting into her
iphone like Dom Joly's mobile phone man, I noticed she mentioned the fact that she was using an iphone twice to the person on the other end. Unless it was being conducted in code and she was some kind of Anna Chapman figure, the rest of the conversation did not seem to be of any consequence. At the counter she put her phone onto speaker, placed her iphone on the counter ("I'm putting my iphone onto speaker") and continued to shout at it whilst she bought a single can of Red Bull and paid for it using a credit card. Everyone in the queue crossed their arms and tapped their fingers as she continued to juggle the conversation, entering her pin number and putting her card back into her bag. Finally she finished and I quickly bought my cigarettes. On the way out I passed her. She was now standing still talking into her phone.
"Okay, see you in two minutes. I'm heading back to the office now." she said.

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