Friday, 16 August 2013

Out of touch and offline in the summer rain!

“...and that way you can be sure you’re safe!”

… and so ends an advert on the tele for some kind of computer safety software, or was it a device, or an app that I can download? No idea. Blimey. I’ve no idea at all. It has finally come to this. I’m too old and too out of touch to understand the bloomin’ adverts on the tele.

There’s no pride in this feeling. I’ve been using computers for decades, and have owned a long line of now-legendary Apple Macs.

I’m loathe to say ‘iconic’, because the word has become worthless, but that beautiful  blueberry iMac I had in 1999 was and remains exactly that.

Anyway, the point is that I prefer to understand the entire universe that has become available through cyber technology. I’m not one of those grumpy luddites who say they have no need of the modern world.

Once I was. When I moved from west Connemara to San Francisco in 1995, I inwardly mocked people who talked of sending emails. With a 14.4bps external modem hanging off my computer, the world on the web was far from wide. It was slow, tiny and tedious. People celebrated for their vision dreamt of and created what is now not so much a cable into the wall, as a doorway into an entire way of life, beyond the wildest dreams of that scornful scribbler.

My generation was the last to be born without the internet. My nieces have grown up in a world where all information is available universally. All truths are out there, just as are all untruths, parked alongside, camouflaged by legitimacy in your browser window.

So what was that advert about? What kind of security don’t I have on my computer that I should? Somehow I suspect that if I watched the advert again and again I’d still be none the wiser.
Anyway, good luck to anyone who tries to cyber-scam me. You see, the leaves are out on Terry’s trees, and when the wind blows from the south west, as it tends to do in these parts, I can’t get a connection for love nor money.

Thankfully, there are internet cafes and newspaper newsrooms that I can visit when I’m in town, to deal with the internet. Even for a duffer like me, these days that includes banking, bill paying, sending and receiving work, socialising and the very local very long-term weather forecast, to find out when it’ll stop raining long enough to allow me to mow the lawn (October 23rd’s looking a bit drier).

It’s not an easy task for this native Londoner to stand in front of his septuagenarian Aunt and explain to her that no, I can’t FaceTime her, because the leaves are out on Terry’s trees. Standing in 21st century London, my excuse sounded beyond absurd, but to be honest, between you and me, I don’t mind.

Of course I find my seasonal lack of internet frustrating, and yearn to be able to work and research and engage the modern world as much as any city dweller, but equally, I love living here.
In a few weeks the leaves will fall off Terry’s trees and with a favourable wind and a puff of love from the Faeries my internet connection will be functioning once again. I’d rather be here, rural and offline in the Summer rain, than have 100 meg fibre-powered broadband shooting into a city flat, in a noisy sweaty street.

Each to their own, and although I’ve had my credit card skimmed this year, I don’t think I’ll go looking to buy that whatever-it-was on the advert for my computer.

We used to let everyone look at our name, address and phone number, in what was known as the Telephone Directory. Then, each time we used our credit cards, we’d give away a sample signature and the card number to the merchant using the zip-zap. We’d write checks that had on them yet another sample signature, our bank account number and our bank’s branch sort code.

It’s not the internet that has created risks. It’s identity theft that has grown, and yes, of course there’s a link, but where crime is concerned, maybe the common factor is simply technology. Skimming credit cards is big business, because once you’ve got the pin number, you’re away to play. Security technology has just made it easier to rob us.
Don’t think the advert said that.

Anyway, computers are old hat. Microsoft put a Windows PC in every home, but failed to notice when everyone stopped using them. Your phone is your personal computer now. Apple beat Microsoft to that game, and now Samsung are outselling Apple. Spotify and iTunes created a new musical world, while Amazon’s Kindle destroyed and recreated the book industry, as e-books now outsell p-books.

That’s how the industry now refers to the items we used to just call books.

So forwards, hand in hand, science and capitalism march on together.

But not around here. The leaves are out on Terry’s trees.

Thankfully, also born out of this online universe was a brave, exciting and independent way of thinking. The unique way in which the internet can harness the collective power of millions of individuals led to the Occupy Movement. WikiLeaks opened the door to whistleblowers. Lurking in the freedom of the web, as latterday Robin Hoods in Sherwood Forest, these new folk heroes have arisen to fight for social justice. They alert us to the underhand methods and subversive greed of the twin towers of State and Corporate. All power to you, whistleblowers of the world, who dare to take on the CIA and IBM alike. Thanks for your courage.

Now Twitter has become the microphone of choice for major world leaders, while Facebook and You Tube host live revolutions. But not here.

Here the rain falls, the wind blows, the branches sway and ripple the leaves on Terry's trees.

No comments: