Technofeary – Why Tomorrow’s World lied to me

In the last year or so my career has taken off again like a rocket. This is in no small part in thanks to my wonder wife Diane. It was her advice that led me to focus on creating an online presence, one which I am still working on. In fact this week, after a very long time avoiding what I saw as a potential time eater, I joined Twitter . So I am now as near to fully 21st Century as I can possibly be, or am prepared to be, and must admit I am having very mixed feelings about the whole process.


As I said my career has taken off again, after many years in the doldrums. I truly had no idea how much researchers now relied on the Internet to do their job in today’s media. When I did my BBC training in research for the media we all had to trawl through papers and publications, visit libraries and read books and contact experts in our or the channels contact lists, as well as use the fledging world wide web. But those days have long gone. With so much being available with the click of a mouse why would anyone waste time with any other method of research? Especially in a high pressure industry like the media. Diane kept saying to me “If you don’t exist online, you don’t exist”. I didn’t believe this, even though I should have learned by now that my wife is always right, until the BBC transmitted Are You Having A Laugh , a programme that explored the history of disability on TV in 2010. As someone played a pivotal role in the industry during the late 80’s and early 90’s, and who has a long list of “firsts” under his belt – including first disabled actor in a UK soap, first disabled presenter on mainstream kids TV, first disabled presenter on Channel 4, first disabled live continuity presenter… the list goes on but I don’t want to brag too much (yeah right) – I was most upset to see I had been left out of the show. As I always believe in not getting mad but getting even, this was what lit a fire under me and got me wanting to get back into the industry. Until this show I had decided that my time had passed and that I should wheel aside to allow newer talent to pass, knowing that my past work would always stand to show I was there. But as I had now been written out of history I had to come back, if only to prove I existed back then. (Yes this does give an insight into my psychology in a big way, but hey I know myself and have faced up to what it says about me) My wife explained that if I didn’t exist online how would anyone know about me? So together we plotted to change this, and planned for my come back….


Move forward three years and I am back. Maybe not to the level I was during the early to mid 90’s but it is harder to come back than to get there the first time I can tell you. For one thing I’m definitely no longer new talent, which is an industry obsession. But I digress. This blog is about the ever spreading new technology and the applications that it uses… and my problems with using it all! Now they mainly revolve around the fact that they are making me feel old. I remember when we got our first video recorder, which was VHS and not a Betamax… unlike us to get the right one first time. While my parents had made the correct choice more by luck than judgement, that was as far as their techno-knowledge went. They never got the timer to work, and regularly videoed the wrong program, either on the wrong side or at the wrong time. So many of my TV appearances were recorded over with Coronation Street or bad late night films too, and as a fan of all thing techie I laughed at their apparent fear of these new gadgets. As I grew into adulthood my love of technology continued. A had a studio full of electronic gizmos and keyboards covered in knobs, and ever advance in music and video players I just had to have. CDs, DVDs, Mini-Discs, DATs, and of course MP3s. I replaced my music and videos with each new advance. But then in the last few years I slowly found myself saying things I heard my parents say when fighting with the video recorder all those years ago. “Why isn’t it working?”, “What do I do again?”, and of course “Damn stupid thing” (or much, much stronger) all fell from my lips, while I fought to grasp what I was doing with some new bit of kit.


It started with my first smart phone. I had been super fine with computers. I even built them, for FUN. I now have a flat full of out of date PC’s (and piles of circuit boards and components) all of which are less powerful than my current mobile. I also have loads of software but all really old versions that are basically expensive coasters now. I suppose as I spent a while out of the game while I was ill back in the early 2000’s, meant I fell behind with technology, but in truth I feel it is something to do with the fact that more than ever before every single one of my bits of technology does so much stuff. Back in the olden days, when everything was olden times like, gadgets all tended to do one thing, and if you paid a bit more they did that thing very well. Now all of our gadgets play music, surf the web, get e-mails, are phones and texting devices, plus are cameras and video cameras and hold all of our information and all to high level of functionality. My new PC is a mammoth great beast with 16Gb of ram (my first had a measly 256mg!) and it can do everything super quick, but then so can my Dell Windows phone. But they have to be this amazing as there is so much more for them to do. My new PC is capable of editing video to the same level of a machine that would cost hundreds of thousands of pounds back in my TV days, and as for music I now have a studio that I could only have dreamed off in the 80’s all for really cheap. But all of this is also running on the same PC I do e-mails, run my diary and write this very blog on which can lead to moments where I resemble my Mum and Dad hunched over the VHS. But also let’s not forget that as well as all the things technology can do, we are all connected thanks to the social network.


I am totally new to the concept of social networking. I avoided the whole thing for two reasons. The first was that I already felt that I spent too much time hunched over my keypad typing or peering at the phone with my aging eyes straining to see what was on the 4 inch touch sensitive screen. Now I am on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, YouTube and have my own blog based website which you are currently now on dear reader, and they all eat into your day in a way that no other invention of the last 100 hundred years could. The second is a mixture of not wanting to put too much personal information out there about and a fear of my inability to filter what I say sometimes. With my conspiracy theorist brain, now feeling I was right after the new broke that GCHQ has been spying on all of our electronic communication, filled with paranoia about who is watching what I might write, and my skill of saying the wrong thing at the wrong time I am still unsure if I made the right decision to go for it and network myself up. So far I haven’t put anything online that would interest the powers that be, other than my comments on their policies concerning disabled people, or have I ranted about someone or something in a way I can’t take back. We’ll just have to wait and see eh?


I will say I am finding myself becoming addicted to checking my Twitter and FB on my phone, and am enjoying a little too much watching the number of followers I have creep up. Yet again I know that this feeds the part of me that made me want to famous in the first place. I am also loving interacting with like minded people out there and sharing thoughts and concerns with them. I am sure it will lead to a whole new form of disability movement that will be unstoppable this time. But I still worry about all the things I am not doing while I am tied to some form of technology. I have lost count of the number of sunny days I have watched through a window while I type away on my PC. Sure that what working is, but I am a freelancer with at least three laptops so why aren’t I in the park sunbathing while I write? Because I might need fast Internet or access to my networked NAS hard drive storage devices or wirelessly print something or some other vitally important techno function. Because the one thing all this technology has done has made every single thing we do super urgent. No time for it to be done tomorrow, we are contactable 24/7 so we are working 24/7. Even if we work for ourselves!


Maybe that is what I like the least. The lack of time to stop and smell the roses. When I was a kid I thought of a future filled with time saving gadgets and dreamed of a world filled with robots, space ships and lazer beams. Now I’m in the future and all we have is piles of stuff that eat into our time and have come up with new ways of spending time, with none of the cool stuff from my childhood imagination. So not only have I been robbed of the “world of tomorrow” I dreamed of, but what stuff we do have isn’t exactly freeing us up to have more fun. But I wonder if it is really that we are at a cross roads. I have a collection of classic analogue synthesizers, some older than I am, and they became considered old fashioned during the late 1980s, early 1990s with the roll out of tech like the DX7. So away went all things with knobs on and in came slick boxes. But now knobs and old school looking tech is all back in. I wonder if that is what will happen with the other stuff around us. We will reclaim what they were originally meant to do, and not be suckered into how new they are right now. The key point of any piece of technology is to save us time, and the sooner we remember that the better. Hopefully they will have more knobs on too, and be a little easier to get to grips with at the same time, but that is just my aging brain asking for some assistance with the ever increasing number of programs I am having to learn. A few well marked knobs or at least GUI buttons and I would be away. And less time spent fighting with technology or being tied to it for very little reward would allow us to do more living. That’s what the future should be. Living with technology that works for us while we live, interacting with it as a tool to make life better and not feeling chained to it, unable to escape work and deadlines while we scream out loud at inanimate objects as we try to make them work.


Anyway, enough rambling ranting about technology. I’ve been away from Twitter too long writing this and might have something important. The I’ll have to announce this blog on Facebook and Tweet about it too. There is no escape…

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