I was rummaging in the attic the other day, and I found one of these.
I got it in a goodie bag as a prize for sitting through an awards ceremony without starting a food fight. Goodie bags are the awards equivalent of toddler smilies on fridgies: patronising, yes, but by God they work.
The last time I tried to use this digital radio it sounded like John Humphrys was being strangled by his own stomach lining, so it was quickly consigned to the Big Box of Crap. Hey ho, I thought, as I dusted it off; it’s been ten years since I switched this thing on; surely technology has moved on? I mean, thanks to all those accommodating churches and primary schools, you’re never more than thirty feet from a transmitter mast…
So I tried it again, and this time John Humphrys sounded like he was coughing up one of his lungs, which didn’t sound quite so terminal, so I suppose it was an improvement of a kind. Given the march of technology, I think it will be the early 22nd century before you can listen to a whole interview with Kenneth Clarke before he starts to sound like Zelda’s son from ‘Terrahawks’.
Back into the Big Box of Crap it went, next to the larger digital radio which proved to be as incoherent as an ITV football pundit. Back to listening to my clear-sounding no-frills analogue radio, at least that will never let me down.
Famous last words alert!
Be quiet, old man, and use your huge whiskery ears to listen to this message from the FUTURE. Analogue is dead and digital radio is NOW, so it is decreed. Just like digital television; that white-hot cutting edge technology that can take an axe to your favourite programme and chop it into screaming pixels at the first gust of wind, and allows you to toast the chimes of new year about twenty minutes after everybody else.
I’m not sure when rubbish technology got to be made compulsory. They didn’t confiscate all our cars in 1984 and force us to scuttle around in Sinclair C5s, so I don’t know why it’s the case now.
Ha! I’m only fooling with you. Of course I know why it’s the case now. It’s the cash-hungry politicians of course, lured by the siren songs of huge-breasted men in ‘Buffy the Vampire Slayer’ t-shirts, telling them (and us) that the Next Big Thing is so good, that we won’t need the Last Big Thing any more. Kindle signified the end of print, and the internet killed television. And it’s true. How do I know? I read it in a paper, and saw a programme about it on the telly.
It’s not just politicians that share in this conspiracy; the evil empire of Curry’s keeps shoving us down technological paths we’ve shown no enthusiasm for, and to make sure we get with the program they take away what we had before so we’ve no choice but to consume more metal boxes that don’t quite work when we get them home. How apt that they’re using ‘Star Wars’ for their advertisments now; surely it must have been Curry’s that sold the Emperor the same crappy Death Star twice over in seven years. I bet he wanted a nice plain doughnut shaped space station that would last a bit.
They push us in a direction, and it’s always circular, round and back to the same thing we sort-of owned before but slightly worse; lowering our expectations so that we get excited by the journey back to where we were. I remember getting terribly thrilled when I bought a recordable DVD player only to sheepishly remember that I was perfectly able to record television programmes in the 80s; the introduction of DVDs had forced me to drop the habit. It’s like hiding a stick behind your back before throwing it to a dog.
DOG THINKS: Yay! A stick! We’ve got a stick! I love sticks!
(Owner hides stick behind back)
DOG THINKS: You know what this walk needs? Something to add a bit of fun and excitement.
(Owner produces stick from behind back)
DOG THINKS: My dog, what’s that? Is that what I think it is? They’ve finally developed the i-stick 2.0! I hear that you can actually retrieve it AFTER you’ve had it thrown for you!
Remember the lies they threw at us? How digital radio would feel like Chris Moyles was there with you, playing records in your own room (okay, that was more of a threat), how CDs were completely and utterly indestructible, and would play ‘Dire Straits’ even after being smeared with Nutella and fired into the heart of a supernova? How digital television would provide us with some kind of choice about what to watch, and not 83 channels of strange orange ladies flogging us stuff (yes, I’m looking at you QVC and Babestation)? Lies, all lies. The promises are all broken, all that’s left is stuttering and a big ‘ERR’.
Here is a perfect example of circular innovation. In the 80s I used to listen to a cassette radio in my kitchen, a tinny little thing playing tinny little tunes. I recorded the bits on the radio between Jimmy Savile’s incontinent waffle, and made my own playlist. And then came the ‘better’ radio (which broke), the CD player (which couldn’t record), the MP3 (which no-one bothered to make discs for), and now for convenience sake I just put my i-phone on; a tinny little thing playing tinny little tunes – with my own playlist.
Round and round we go, in all areas of our life. Things are lost just so we can find them again. Swanky new bottled water (with a hint of fruit) tastes like the weak orange juice we used to get in cold village halls in the 70s; 3D Movies are the latest thing, unless you’re over forty and have a memory (I’m sure ‘The Artist’ Oscar will probably usher in a new wave of cutting edge silent black-and-white movie technology. WORDS THAT APPEAR ON THE SCREEN AS THEIR MOUTHS OPEN! etc). Greece will suddenly get excited by the idea of having their own currency. Call it the drachma, why don’t you?
Twitter and Facebook keep de-evolving into prehistoric versions of themselves, so they can have the power to gift their bits back to us. It would be like an evil worldwide version of George Lucas, were it not that George Lucas has already got to the metaphor first, cornering the market in being an evil worldwide version of himself.
And so it goes on. The Boomerang effect. They’ll chuck away what you’re using now and hit you with the same thing in the back of the head, and get you to pay for the privilege like red-eyed junkies. And it bloody well works. I’d certainly pay real money to have hotmail back without sodding skydrive. I suppose nuclear weaponry is the ultimate circular innovation; use this most AMAZINGLY sophisticated device once, and hey presto! We all start appreciating pencils and cutlery and fire again.
And what’s the betting Curry’s will stop stocking spoons, and tell you there’s no demand for them anymore…