Aeons ago, I cannot possibly remember how many aeons, I
went out to someone's house for an evening with computer
enthusiasts. Computers had started appearing in shop windows,
almost as if they might become The Next Thing. I was
interested. I had just bought a Sinclair ZX81.
At that stage of the game, the only people I knew who seemed
to understand what computers did were students with very
thick glasses and Bruce McMillan at Eclipse Radio. This
particular night, many of us had ZX81s, a couple had the new
Spectrum. 16kb of RAM! A man, with a flourish of hands,
produced a still image of a golf hole with two bunkers and a
distant tree. It had taken him months to program, he said, he
was very proud of it.
I decided then and there my life would be far better without
computers. I would bob and weave my way around whatever
developments the computer world came up with, and never have
to deal with them at any level. If I needed to see a golf
hole with two bunkers and a distant tree, I would go to a
Cellphones made a similar non-impression a few years later,
but like computers, I was soon sucked into their venomous
vortex. And now cellphones have to be smartphones, 48% of New
Zealanders apparently own them. I don't need a smart phone, I
decided, I am smart enough already.
But now I have a moderately priced Samsung smartphone and it
is completely dominating my life. I am boring everyone
bowel-motion-less with what it can do. But what the phone can
do and what I can do with the phone, are not the same thing.
A tiny sprout is poking its head up in life's garden saying I
just may not be very smart after all.
I am, of course, slowed by my circumstances. I am on so much
medication my fingers shake like crockery in an earthquake,
and on a touchscreen, this is producing incomprehensible
texts, my friends are asking me if I have gone back to
Samsung Galaxy Plus.
Apps quickly followed, an obvious black hole I would
tumble into. And tumble into it I have. Everything my phone
suggests, I agree to. I have everything from the Hubble Space
Telescope to a 4-Track Recording Studio, though I am thinking
seriously of replacing this with the 24-track Multitrack DAW by
Harmonicdog after Paul from the Bats recommended it highly. I
have a Mega Flashlight which replicates bright red police car
illumination - and a strobe with eight different speeds - and a
Translator, should conversation slow in the main street with a
bewildered tourist from another land. And I have a keyboard
which enables me to break into Twinkle Twinkle Little
with a number of sound effects. Violin is currently
getting the most raised eyebrows in inner-city cafes.
But I'm not knocking apps. Two Saturday nights ago when
dining at Anderson Bay's exquisite Indian Taste restaurant, I
was desirous of following Lydia Ko in the Australian Open,
which she was narrowly leading. With my smartphone app, I
could do this with ease whilst quaffing a sublime Garlic
Chilli Prawns and not spilling a drop. True, there were icy
looks from our friends at the table, almost as if I was being
rude, perish the accusation, but Lydia Ko is one in a
I have no idea how much data I am downloading, and I remember
well that sad-faced high school kid who turned up on Fair Go
a few years ago with a $16,000 cellphone bill he didn't
understand. But I have signed up to a plan which will surely
remove the substantial stress unintentional download
overloading can cause. And the home PC is no longer needed -
it will shortly go on Trade Me under Nautical Equipment as a
So, I have sort of half-caught the back of the modern
technology peloton. What fiendish thing will the industry
throw up next? Maybe the Hubble Telescope app, which I still
can't work, will show me.
• Roy Colbert is a Dunedin writer.