In last night’s BBC4 offering, Upgrade Me, poet Simon Armitage – who, just as an aside, is my daughter’s favourite poet – waxed lyrical and rhapsodically about how technology, and its rapid and ever changing pace, is shaping all our lives.
This show was part of Aunty Beeb’s Electronic Revolution season and it wore two hats; it was a trip down memory lane for those of us old enough to have one, and it was also a look into the future of gadgetry. And I have to say, despite thinking I’d find it all a bit of a yawnfest, it was actually pretty interesting.
For instance, during a trip to Seoul, Simon met with a bunch of people who make up Samsung’s “ringtone team”, so in case you’ve been looking for a target when the sound of someone’s exceptionally annoying ringtone keeps going off – as I have been, ever since that chuffin’ frog tone was the ‘in’ thing – these are the people you want to aim for, or at.
But not everyone in the world is hooked on gadgetry and Simon met with a woman who lives a subsistence Good Life sort of a life in a hut in some woods, without all the bits and bobs that the rest of us think we can’t do without. And she seemed quite happy to be without a mobile phone that can do everything bar make the tea or an iPod that can hold enough songs to play continuously ‘til you die.
One of the many interesting points that Simon raised last night though was how today’s generation of youngsters may in fact be missing out on nostalgia, simply because the technology of today is moving on so fast…
Whereas we old farts can look back on the times that most of us owned – as we saw in the programme – a Dansette record player, what have today’s kids got to grow misty-eyed about in their forties? A slightly larger MP3 player than they’ll have then? Or a phone that in fact couldn’t make the tea as well?
And almost inevitably, thanks to sci-fi horror films and their vision of the future, Simon touched upon the sort-of-sinsiter subject of technology being in-built into us humans too in the form of computer chips that can offer the deaf hearing and the blind, sight. However, I probably only find that stuff scary because I’ve seen Terminator too often…
But, amid all the futuristic prophesies for gadgetry, there were many comforting looks back at the things that made my generation somewhat unique, if only for our easily-pleased quirkiness. Simon made mention of a radio that he’d owned, and said that it, “…only played Radio 1. In fact, it only seemed to play “Grandad” by Clive Dunn.”
I think I owned the same one, but mine also played that remix about loving Grandma too… Ah, good times, and Simon deserves our thanks for making this show as watchable as it turned out to be. Someone less prone to creativity and verbal badinage may have made a balls-up of it, but as it was, it was just the right mix of nostalgia, information and fun.