No other generation will experience such changes

Date posted: October 31, 2011

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I was born in 1950. In those days we had a party line telephone – two households to one line. Most communications were by letter or postcard or, if it was an emergency, by telegram. Today, contact is worldwide and virtually instantaneous. Not only can we speak but we can see each other.

When I was at sea as a naval officer, one of my tasks was to fix the ship’s position. Today, we press a button and we get an immediate position to within yards of where the ship is steaming. In those days, I had to use a sextant, it took at least 30 minutes to plot the ship’s position, and after months of training I became good enough to be able to report to the captain that we were within a mile or two of the position plotted.

Most of my life I have had to use maps. They have varied from small scale country-wide maps to large scale Ordnance Survey maps where 1 inch was 1 mile. Going long distances and arriving at your destination took planning. Today your computer tells you how far you will be travelling and your satnav will tell you how to get there. To the door of your destination. It will even speak the language of your choice!

I wrote A Million Tears using an Olivetti portable typewriter whilst sitting on an oilrig off the coast of Nigeria where I was in charge of a saturation diving system. The ribbon dried out and I used to have to smash the keys down to make an indentation on the paper until I could buy a new ribbon. Today I have progressed enormously. I now use Windows 3.1 and write on an IBM Think Pad which 20 years ago cost us just over £2,000.

In my youth we had BBC1. Then ITV. Then BBC2. Now? Now there are hundreds of channels, with a huge variety of programmes (mostly rubbish as we all know) and we can record them, store them and watch them at our leisure.

As a writer of fiction, I can allow my imagination to run wild and think of things that don’t exist. One example was the explosives detection torch in “Mayhem”. Although I dreamt it up, I have subsequently learnt that in the last couple of years something similar has been made.

Every aspect of our lives is now controlled or influenced by a computer. The power of the smallest chip is mind numbing.

My favourite topic – Books! I remember seeing the first e-book reader a few years ago. I thought “this will never catch on – too clunky and awkward”. Now look at the Kindle. With the power it has to hold so many books you can carry almost a library on a machine slightly bigger than the palm of your hand. You can even change the size of the print. It is no wonder with the reduced price it will be one of this year’s most popular gifts for Christmas.

No generation will ever experience these huge changes within their lifetime. No other generation will appreciate and be awed by technology the way we are. They will take it in their stride and come to expect ever greater power and innovation. Smaller, cheaper, faster.

What, I often wonder, would David Griffiths of the Tears Saga have done in today’s world. Like me I suspect he would have been in awe. My son, Richard and my daughter, Louise are in accord on one fact. I’m a Luddite. Albeit a nostalgic one for my trusty sextant.

My books are now on Kindle by the way.

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