Friday, June 15, 2018

World In Your Pocket

Apologies for the abrupt loss of signal. I did mention a few times, in passing, that we were going away, but I neglected to put up a Service Interrupted message. Always bad form to go afk without warning.

Mrs Bhagpuss and I got back yesterday, around tea-time, having thoroughly enjoyed another excellent holiday. While we were away we had a number of lengthy philosophical discussions  - long drives will do that - about the way the world has changed in our lifetimes. Getting older will do that, too.

One particular observation occurred to me as we were traveling that seems almost emblematic of where the culture finds itself now. It's is not anywhere I - or most people, probably - expected it would be. We all grew up expecting a science-fiction future but who expected to go on holiday carrying no fewer than five computers, any and all of them probably more powerful than the mainframes that filled rooms when I was in college?

I took my new 6" Android phablet, my elderly iPod Touch and my dual-OS 10" tablet. Mrs Bhagpuss had her Kindle Fire and her iPhone. This seemed normal. It probably is normal.

That surprises me almost more than anything. It was only a few years ago that I was pontificating on the way digital ecosystems would compete with and devour each other, the way previous technological revolutions had taught us they should.

We drove deep into the country to see the Chufin Cave. It was closed. We never saw a single Chufin.
I found it difficult back then to imagine why anyone would want to own - far less carry - a variety of separate devices, when a single machine could do the work of all them. I thought tablets would eat laptops, mobile would consume desktop and who would want to bother lugging around a dedicated device that just read books or only played music?

Plenty of people, apparently. The death of the laptop, which was widely predicted by far more widely-read pundits than I, seems further away than ever. The airports were filled with folk nestling clamshells on their actual laps, most of them branded Apple. Every child had its own device playing Peppa Pig or Postman Pat. I also saw plenty of people reading text from screens although, speaking as someone whose livelihood depends on it, a comforting number of people were reading actual paper books.

Scanning through the many hundreds of unread posts in my Feedly feed last night, it appears that another technological extinction, widely predicted a few years back, has failed to arrive on schedule. I remember reading any number of reports in the quality press not so long ago, predicting the then-current generation of Gaming Consoles would be the last. Gaming would thrive but the specific devices associated with it would not.

Then again, if this is the size of a Chufin egg, it's probably just as well.
Hasn't happened and, if the reports coming out of E3 are to be believed, it's not about to happen any time soon. The success of The Switch seems to confirm that hardware designed specifically to play games is still in demand and console technology appears determined to keep up with increased audience expectations.

I certainly wasn't alone in believing the technological future was going to be more streamlined, more minimal and in some ways it is. The days of traveling with two suitcases per person are gone. We both managed happily for almost two weeks with a bag each not much larger than the one I used to carry to school every day in the 1970s. The devices themselves get smaller and thinner and lighter, their physical footprint dictated only by the size of screen you prefer to watch.

We travel the world with a freedom that would have seemed dreamlike even in the 1950s, when mass tourism was getting started but, more than that, the world travels with  us everywhere we go. It's still possible to leave it all behind but to do so takes a concerted effort these days.

Every hotel and cafe has wifi and usually it even works. Many cities pipe free connectivity into the air. Vehicles come with charging points for your devices built in and the mobile signal carries almost everywhere. It's an opt-out life we live now, not opt-in.

Who would win in a fight between a Lion and an Eagle? Unless that's a Chufin...
And for a short time I did indeed opt out, if only partially. I gave myself a complete break from the kind of thing I do every day at home, at least. I declined to check Feedly or post on my own blog. I had MMOs on two devices but I played none. I didn't watch YouTube or read Pitchfork or even listen to music on my iPod.

What I did do was use the phablet or tablet every day to check the weather, book hotels and plan the route for that day's drive. Oh, and I started reading an eBook on the last day. I didn't consciously decide to avoid anything non-traditionally holiday related - mostly doing anything like that just didn't occur to me.

Mrs Bhagpuss stayed more connected. She managed her business via her iPhone, taking bookings by SMS and email, giving me the tremors every time she held it out over a bridge or a sea wall to take a photograph. She also used her Kindle Fire to play various games of the Candy Crush variety and we played Eggheads together on my phablet most evenings, just like a regular late-middle-aged couple.

I certainly don't eschew the concept of playing games when I'm away. Gaming has always been a part of going on holiday.  We used to take cards or dominoes or travel board games but with the streamlined luggage, gaming on the phone makes more sense.

When you pay two Euros to see inside a small castle in a small village in the mountains you don't expect something like this. Chanting, lights going out, screams, 1930s radios playing torch songs, rocking chairs, faded newspapers, mysterious men in black... I wasn't sure whether we'd time-slipped into a 1970s Hammer Horror or portalled into The Secret World...
Sticking to games I never play at home maintains the break in continuity and that separation is essential, I think. Or, at least, it is while I'm still working. When I retire and we can - all being well - go away for longer periods and more often, maybe that particular firewall can come down. Then, I can imagine taking a laptop and both playing MMOs and blogging about them in the long evenings.

Ironically, having read - or at least glanced at - something like three hundred news items and blog posts since I got back, I'm not entirely sure I'd be able to find enough to write about anyway. Not a lot seems to have happened. I certainly don't feel I've missed much.

I notice Daybreak Games hasn't gone dark with the coming of sanctions so I guess that was all a storm in a samovar after all. ANet has fallen even further behind on their self-imposed schedule for The Living Story. There was some gimmicky special week in WvW to take our minds off the absence of new content. Glad to have missed that. There was the Steam thing...

Anything else? Don't think so. Given the choice I'd rather have stayed on holiday but failing that I guess I'll just log in and slip back into the old routine. Roll on retirement!

1 comment:

  1. I took a forced break just for a weekend as I was travelling and working and didn't have even 5 minutes free for reading about gaming, let alone actually gaming. Naturally I was fully connected all the time because of the need to read emails, take calls and look up directions,etc. online.

    It was good though to be away from it (gaming) for a few days just to restoke the enthusiasm. Your points about the amount of tech we take these days was very much in evidence as well - I travelled with a large group of young people and they all had at least a smart phone (several had tablets too) and were constantly tweeting, snapchatting or whatever about the trip and each other.

    Flying back a clear majority of people had laptops or tablets as well, but laptops were more evident than tablets (or at least tablets with a keyboard), so that too seems true - the keyboard is not dead yet.

    On my own last holiday I was very happy to not take too much tech with me, naturally I had my smart phone as it's my primary camera. But I rarely used it for anything else - I'd much rather read a book or Kindle while away than do anything online.


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