Although I’m a sucker for gizmos and gadgetry, there’s a lot about the Information Age that I dislike and top of the list is the mobile phone which has allowed communication to become instant, constant, incessant and pointlessly intrusive.
I must admit, I didn’t see it coming or I would have done something about it. Not mobile phone technology in general, just me in particular for allowing it to become my master instead of my servant.
My first real encounter with mobile phones came in 1990 on the back of the Gulf War. Hospitals in the UK had been put on stand-by to receive military casualties should the need arise and I had the job of preparing for the inevitable media interest that would follow.
My patch at the time covered a large chunk of the north west – Lancashire and Greater Manchester – and the nominated hospitals were widely scattered and being a gadget fan, it was an opportunity to add mobile phones to our ‘essential’ equipment list.
The thing was, this was in the days when you only rang someone if you had something to say, and not because you have nothing better to do, as now.
As a result, we didn’t use them much. For a start, very few people had mobile phones so all our calls were to landlines which rather defeated the object as more often than not, the person you wanted wasn’t there and you had to leave a message.
Spool forward to 2003 and seconds out, round two of the Gulf War. The military had either got better at damaging people or patching them up when they were hurt because the plans to receive casualties had to be enacted this time round.
Communication technology had also moved on. Mobile phone were now de rigueur, but email was just as important. The powers that be wanted more than just a verbal report and I found myself in the back of an ambulance on the way back from Wigan where we’d dropped off a group of wounded squaddies tapping out a message on my shiny, new Blackberry.
The London Bombing was another test of communications technology. It was found to be far less robust than you might imagine as the mobile networks collapsed in the ensuing chaos.
Two lessons were learned. First, the derided old technology of pagers carried on working well and second, that a mobile fitted with a SIM card from neighbouring European countries also carried on functioning.
The upshot of this was that in the weeks and months of paranoia that followed, I found myself with a Blackberry clipped to one side of my belt, a pager on the other and a separate mobile phone in my pocket.
And mobiles were no longer a useful tool in an emergency, large or small, but something to use when you had nothing better to do and I became more and more frustrated by the constant calls asking me how I was doing that only interrupted me doing whatever it was I was being asked about.
I’m sure whoever came up with electronic tagging must have got the idea from his mobile phone.
When I finally hung up my Blackberry, I felt utterly liberated and I swore that I would never own a mobile phone again and I’ve kept that promise to myself, at least until now.
I don’t know if time has lessened my antipathy towards the mobile or whether it’s become outweighed by my innate love of gadgetry, but I’ve relented and taken over the iPhone that my daughter discard when she got her new one last year.
And I’ve enjoyed it so far, setting it up to give me the local weather forecast, using it to pick up email, watching YouTube and taking photos. I’ve even created a couple bespoke ringtones for myself.
All I have to remember is not to give anyone the number.