During lockdown my phone became my companion to the outside world and I let it live by my bed at night, because any notification could be important, and checked it over morning coffee while my computer was still warming up. I noticed it occasionally notified me about the weather – told me what the temperature was, for example. Or what it would be tomorrow. I hadn’t asked it to, but that seemed harmless enough.
More recently it decided I need to see news items, including news items from media which don’t share my views at all. As fast as I swipe left, more take their place. It loads games I don’t want, which take up space. It tracks my movements and tries to control my banking (with the support of my bank, which has some functions which can ONLY be done by phone). There’s talk the tracking app may be optional now but all future phones will have it built in.
I’m – puzzled. A little concerned. Add a tiny dash of paranoid, if you like. I’m not on iPhone so Siri can’t start telling me what to do but at what point will Alexa, or another of the android options, load themselves? Will the wake-up be when my phone decides to ignore my alarm settings and wake me earlier? How bossy is my phone going to get?
Oh, that was all I really had to say, the rest of this I’m just bumping my gums. Phones and I go way way back. We had black Bakelite phones in the 60s when I was a kid – and yes, phones plural, one upstairs, pretty cutting edge. Back then extra jacks cost, and not a little. An extension phone was something you thought seriously about and budgeted for. Was it really necessary?
Technology whizzed on but there were still reminders of the not-so-far past – in my teens I had a horse stabled in the country and if I needed to phone from the stables I had to pick up the headset and whirr away on a little handle to reach a switchboard operator. I couldn’t, of course, if someone was already using the party line.
In my first job in the 70s I was expected, as a junior, to do lunchtime cover on the plug-in switchboard, which gave all us quivering juniors nasty little shocks as we pulled plugs in and out. You booked international calls in advance back then and I accidentally disconnected the CEO who was on a Hong Kong call which had taken two hours to come through. Rite of passage. He shouldn’t have been making calls during lunch if he didn’t want to be disconnected, am I right? I found the identical, I swear, photo but this board is circa 1900. Evil old thing, but phones really lasted back then.
The last really big catering function I worked on, we were re-opening a major shopping centre with several thousand guests expected. Four bar points, eight catering points, the function kitchen set up in the parking garage, hectic. As function overseer I had cellphone in one breast pocket and walkie-talkie in the other. They were both enormous and weighed a ton and oh my the years have flown, that was 25 years ago.
Cellphones got much smaller over the next few years. I moved to the UK and learned to call them mobile phones. I enjoyed my flip phone (beam me up), then a slimmer phone, which was tiny, the last of the truly tiny phones because they started getting bigger again as they got smarter. I was late to Smartphones – all I really wanted was a phone for when people wanted to reach me, and to get hold of people I wanted to reach, but the slimline phone / text type was nearly obsolete by 2015. I wasn’t crazy about the upgrade, half the time I forgot to put it in my handbag. It wasn’t a big deal. The fact that I could send emails and photos and stuff was handy but not vital. My next Smartphone was bigger and could do more, but I could still take it or leave it, I wasn’t addicted. I really wasn’t.
And now – it is trying to influence me. I bet that old plug-in switchboard is spluttering with laughter.