It is running joke among friends and colleagues – two groups that are not mutually exclusive, I may add – that sometimes I appear to be stuck in a bit of a timewarp.
I’m not really sure where it comes from. Maybe it’s the bag of On The Buses videos I bought the other week, but in mitigation they were VHS rather than Betamax.
Eyebrows are also sometimes raised when I tell people I have never owned a computer or smartphone. And then there is the car.
Now I can understand that some might consider it a tad eccentric driving around in a 37-year-old behemoth which takes up two spaces at the supermarket, does 10mpg (on a good day), and costs the price of a small hatchback every time it needs a service. But it’s got an eight-track cartridge player, and how many of the naysayers are able to listen to Demis Roussos in quadraphonic sound?
You might deduce from this that I’m a bit of a technophobe, but in fact the reverse is true. I find sat-nav invaluable, it even means I can now get around Birmingham without getting lost.
For too long, anyway.
I love innovation. But the trouble is, there isn’t anywhere near enough of it around these days.
Take rail travel. Seventy-five years ago, the LNER steam locomotive Mallard earned its place in the record books by travelling at the unprecendented speed of 126mph. Today, on the West Coast Main Line, we have the funky new Pendolino trains, with their bullet-nosed styling and flash paint jobs. And their maximum speed? Er, 125mph. To be fair, the engines themselves can manage 140mph, but they have to be limited because the signals aren’t up to it. Not a huge stride forward, is it?
It’s the same with these iPods. The kids think they’re the coolest thing on the planet as they wander around the street, bopping to the beat, oblivious to the traffic around them. But whether it’s a Mini, a Nano, or whatever other varieties you can get, it’s still only a music player, isn’t it? It’s just a gramophone with nobs on.
Then we come to smartphones. Yes I know they’ve got the internet and email, but they are essentially a refinement of what Alexander Graham Bell invented in 1876. Isn’t it about time we invented something new? I dunno, something like an affordable teleporter like they had in Star Trek, to cut out the stress of the rush-hour traffic? Or a new brand of chips which provide a healthy balanced diet, without having to go all Jamie Oliver?
The trouble is, most modern technology is, well, just a bit boring.
In 1877, Thomas Edison invented the record player, and two years later he followed it up with the modern electric lightbulb. Then in 1891, he invented the Kinetoscope, which was basically the first movie projector. That was a time when every day brought an exciting new development which would transform our lives. These days people queue round the block when the phone gets a new touch-screen.
Of course the exception to the rule is medicine, and it is fantastic how huge advances mean we now live longer, healthier lives than people a generation ago would have ever thought possible.
But in all other areas we seemed to reach a plateau about 25 years ago, and have slowly started moving backwards since.
In the late 1980s you could get a Concorde flight from London to New York in three-and-a-half hours. Today it takes double that. Also back then, you could drive your Escort, Sierra or Cavalier into town and there would be these things called shops. Remember those? You know, the places where you could buy stuff, before they all made way for bookies, phone shops and coffee houses.
I’m not the one who’s stuck in the past. I’m simply looking back to the future.