Cas on Technology

I am treating you all abominably at the moment, dear blog readers. No Sunday Roast again. I sat down at the computer last night to have a quick pre-Sunday gander at what I had instore for you all today, and was driven to swearing. Loudly. Out of deference to my poor father reading this on a soggy canal-side in Essex, I shan’t repeat what I said, but it was rather uncouth and unbecoming of a well brought up young lady. You see, normally by Saturday evening I have around 100 links ready for weeding through. Last night I had two.

Two links does not a roast make so I had to scramble around in my brain, folder of shame and pile of notebooks for some half-written draft I could wow you with. Which is when I remembered the series of Celebrity Squares the Guardian have been running, where they interview celebrities about their favourite piece of technology.

Whilst I am not a celebrity and interviewing myself seems a little bit… egotistical… I really couldn’t see another Sunday sail blithely by without some form of post, so here goes:

What’s your favourite piece of technology?
My 12″ PowerBook G4, aka the PocketCalculator. I got it over five years ago now and I am still totally, head-over-heals, irrationally in love with the shiny thing. When I had to reinstall the OS a few months back my heart was in my mouth the whole time when I had to face the thought it might not pull through. And can I just say – one reinstall in five years? That isn’t bad going.

How has it improved your life?
It is so totally part of my life for so long I can’t really point to any one thing and go “that is better for having it”. In one respect I am actually worse off because it is thanks to its dinky keyboard and portability that I was tempted to take it to the library when writing my dissertation, which directly led to my current RSI woes.

On the whole though, it enables me to keep in touch with people, gives me the means to access a world that fascinates me (the internet), and is always there to act as a repository for my ramblings and writing, helping me make sense of my screwball brain.

When was the last time you used it, and what for?
Right now for writing this post.

What additional features would you add if you could?
I’d give it some new batteries so it can go for longer than ten minutes without being plugged into the mains – it used to last four hours fine. I would also get more memory and replace the processors with some Intel chips so I could run the latest version of OS X. It is starting to reach the point where I cannot play with exciting new pieces of software because they will only run on the dual core modes.

It might be nice to rip out all the guts, keep the shell, and start over with new innards. In the style of Gibson’s Sandbenders. You see, I really, really like the size and shape of the PocketCalculator! The newer Macs just don’t sing to me in the same way. Sob.

Do you think it will be obsolete in 10 years’ time?
Yes. Given the way technology keeps moving forward, I would be slightly foolish to think I would still be on my PowerBook as my main computer in ten years time. I’d like to think it will actually still be running though, if only because it is going to take me ten years to save up for a replacement!

What one tip would you give to non-PowerBook users?
Switch. Not for one moment do I regret moving from a PC desktop to an Apple laptop. Reliability aside, it is just more fun to use, and it is great that it is portable. Plus, it is just so damn sexy looking, all sleek and sliver and tiny. I used to get some good looks when I whipped it out on campus. So to speak.

Do you consider yourself to be a Luddite or a nerd?
I can’t even fight the label, I am a nerd. But a cautious nerd with a few Luddite tendencies lurking in the background. I love new technology and heartily embrace the bits that make my life easier, but I do think there are more than a few instances where the “traditional” methods are just as valid. I am not a whole-hearted fan of the current trend toward digitising every aspect of our lives and putting it on a government database. I am not convinced children of seven need to be doing all their homework on a computer hooked into the network. I worry at the way my own brain and how I think is changing.

When someone asks me “should I get that piece of technology?” (usually my father) the first thing I always ask is “why?” Why do you want it? What would it do to aide your life that what you currently have doesn’t do for you? If you can give me a sensible answer then go for it – why not? But if it is just a case of “it’s shiny, new and everyone has one” then I do tend to suggest caution with a healthy dollup of wait a few weeks/months. If you still want it, then go for it.

Damn, I sound like my mother, but she had a point. Impulse buy everything and 1) you end up with no money and 2) you won’t be able to move around the house for gadgets you never use because the instruction manual is too daunting to understand.

What’s the most expensive piece of technology you’ve ever owned?
Without a doubt the PocketCalculator. The thing set me back £2000 and the only reason I could afford that is because a beloved relative died and left me the money. Perhaps I should have saved the money, or brought jewellery or something, but I like to think she would have approved. I use it every single day, it is throughly a part of my life, and each time I use it I remember her.

Mac or PC?
Mac. Given an option I would never switch back to a PC for personal computing. I have to use a PC at work and that is bad enough. At the same time, I am not one of those devoted fanboys who yells at anyone who says a word against Apple. I can accept there are situations where a PC might be called for and I understand Macs aren’t for everyone. They are damn pricey for a start!

What song is at the top of your iPod’s top 25 most played?
Right now I couldn’t say as I haven’t listened to music for a good few months, but I would have to hazzard a guess at either “Photograph” by Nickelback or (god help me) “Don’t Stop the Music” by Rhianna. I never claimed my musical tastes were that sophisticated.

Will robots rule the world?
Well, Skynet is already up and running, thanks to the British military… Maybe not rule per se, but perhaps manipulate for our own good, a la Asimov and Daneel Olivaw.

What piece of technology would you most like to own?
I dream of my perfect phone/email/web/e-book/camera/writing/portable device thingy. Something that does everything I need to do on a daily personal computing basis, but that fits in my pocket. Ubiquitous computing so when I am at home or in the office I have the power of a mainframe with all its processing behind me, but when I am out and about I can still access my information, add to it, alter it, and…

I read far too much science fiction, that’s my trouble. I foresee a day, not too far off, where computers really are mobile and ubiquitous and multi-function. The only problem will be the interface. Typing has it’s limits, but so does speaking. If I had to dictate my writing I would have to 1) get a lot less shy and 2) have a sound-proofed office!