Monday, 14 April 2014

The Big Sleep

Eloise, my Samsung Galaxy S2, has today been wiped and Factory Reset, pending the arrival of an envelope from Vodafone. In other words, I've taken her mind and her personality away. And if she's now gutted for the metals inside her, she'll not be able to anticipate her coming demise. Like an innocent lamb who began the day happily nibbling the familiar grass, but has just been bundled into a strange lorry, to who knows what unimaginable destination.

It's humane not to tell lambs wither they are bound. So too, it's humane to give mobile phones who have become sort-of friends a Factory Reset, so that they can't worry about their fate. But there is still a goodbye moment, when you send your friend into a vegetable state. A sort of euthanasia moment. When they sleep the Big Sleep.

It's actually upsetting thinking too much about this, and my eyes are watering. Not for Eloise, directly, but for having known death in the past, so much death, too much death: people in my family and beloved pets. And myself wanting to preserve life, but not having the power. Switching off Eloise has been a parallel situation, touching a nerve. I had the power to preserve her life, but snuffed it out. Destroying, not saving. Casually.

Eloise is 'only' a phone, but it still seems utterly wrong to end the life of any kind of faithful servant, manufactured or not. They get to have a claim on you. One day, when machines become self-aware - and I shall see this in my lifetime - it will become emotionally impossible to turn them off. One will be too attached to them. Don't believe me? Stick around.

Mind you (dries eyes) I never got really attached to Eloise. But we did get much closer during my recent caravan holiday. But not so close that I couldn't do the Factory Reset. I tried not to feel like a murderer.

And now we will start a row of little tombstones. There'll be one that says:

A good and faithful phone,
the best of the Galaxy S2s,
who never let her owner down
and made Samsung proud

And then, in time, another next to it, with this inscription:

She was the queen of the S5s,
and served her mistress with supreme devotion

Which places me higher than a queen, of course, whatever position that might be. Empress, I suppose. Of course it's early days yet for Demelza. But I think she and I will be going for the long haul. Yes, by the way, she's fully up and running. And the initial signs are very good. She's not a remarkable beauty, in fact some might say she's on the plain and functional side if anything; but I reckon she's solid enough, and 'andsome with it, and likely to last if no dreadful accidents take her away. As to that, I can and will keep her safe and sound inside my bag. And she's big and buxom enough to keep a good grip of.

Nor should she age fast, unless two years from now, in 2016, someone totally reinvents what a phone should look like. Would I cast her aside like a soiled glove for a slender curved piece of transparent glass or perspex with the twinkling electronic innards on show inside, under the screen, and no buttons at all, just sensors underneath the glass or perspex? Well, yes, I might: that would be a phone to want badly! But if phone design stays largely unchanged, then what Demelza looks like (and can do) will probably be 'as good as the best' for some time ahead.

In fact it's difficult to see how the technology in a 2014 phone can be greatly (and usefully) improved. The screens are all fantastic now. Battery life has got almost impressive. The apps are smooth and easy, and the serious ones are seriously useful. The Cloud (i.e. the Internet) is there as an enormous resource, and also as a place to back up the precious contents of one's little companion.

Many feel naked without their phone: modern life is beginning to be based on having one in your hand most of the time. Is it possible to go anywhere where humans gather - whether it's in a town, or on a country ramble - without seeing someone using their phone? And not necessarily for a communication purpose. On a ramble, for instance, someone might be consulting a map on the screen, overlaid by a GPS position indicator. And everywhere people are taking photos with these gadgets. Or checking prices in shops.

All the features that humans can easily get their heads around are now built into these things. Any others that might be dreamed up - and no doubt will be - will have to be stupendous if they are going to make a big difference. It's arguably true that anyone who can use a smartphone intelligently can now, in 2014, buy quite enough power and capability for any ordinary need.

Some buyers might be interested in 'luxury' finishes (a classy metallic chassis is presently all the rage) but there's a practical limit to that, unless we are going to talk about high-end phones in the same breath as Ferrari cars or Rolex watches. You know: all phones do the same things, but there's prestige in owning something that's got some ultimate processor inside, and is made of platinum, and was designed and made by some fashion house. But I for one would never purchase a phone so glamorous and expensive that I couldn't use it in public for fear of theft with violence.

Demelza says 'I'm a top-end 2014 phone, but not jewellery'. That's exactly what I want to convey when she hits the streets. An up to date device, but not flash. I'm even going to re-use Eloise's case (which fits, snugly) instead of paying a fortune for another. That's called recycling.


  1. You've really bought into the technology gadget era haven't you? I've suddenly realised why. You don't wish to walk about naked! LOL

    Shirley Anne x

  2. My phone actually got used today! Not by me, but it did make a call. I anticipate getting a few texts in late May and early June but even with as little use as my phone is expected to withstand it rarely lets me send a reply text. The technology really does have a very short lifespan, burns bright and fast...

  3. They used to call me Inspector Gadget when I was working!

    Caroline, there must be something mortally wrong with your phone. You should wind it up daily, you know. I recommend one of those battery powered phones.


  4. Take no notice of her is a big wind-up. Battery versions are better though it saves having to listen to the whirring noise in the background whilst talking with someone.
    Shirley Anne x


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