Rupert Goodwins' Diary

Summary:No mobile coverage in Scotland, no peace on the train and no shortage of SCO controversy: Rupert's coming home

Monday 16/8/2004
Coming to the end of a long sojourn in Scotland -- mostly Wester Ross and Edinburgh, with a little Perthshire and Fife thrown in -- I realise just how far technology has come, and how far it has to go. At one point I'm in Applecross, a picturesque village on the west coast that's shielded from the rest of the known universe by enormous lumps of rock.

There is no mobile phone service in Applecross. In fact, I suspect that radio waves in general are as rare here as English tourists. Even stalwart Radio 4 on the long wave band -- a signal so reliable nuclear submarines at sea are reputed to use it to assure themselves that civilisation continues -- is beset by wails and crackles like a bagpipe on a bonfire.

However, I must check in with Number One Son, who is back in London awaiting his A level results with nerves of hardened Chivers. I seek out a phone box (30p a call? When did that happen?) and ring home.

"Hi, son," I say. "Sorry I didn't call earlier, but I've been out of mobile range for a couple of days. Not a sniff of network."

"Oh, right!" he says, cheerfully.

There is a pause. I feel bewilderment forming at the end of the line like a cloud of midges sniffing a plump journalist.

"But… if you're out of range, how are you calling me?"

"Call box." I said. "Ooooh!" he said, much in the vein of Tony Robinson unearthing an Iron Age pot with a picture of an auroch on the side.

We must get used to this, fellow travellers. A photographer took his 35mm gear along to a friend's kid's birthday party to shoot the crazed antics of the cake-fuelled prepubescents. He hunkered down, pointed the business end of his very expensive, very superb camera at the broiling melee and let fly with the flash. The result was similar to the aforementioned plump journalist appearing out of doors in the Highland dusk: every one of the noisy, tiny beings in the vicinity stopped what they were doing and headed towards him at Mach 2 with proboscides drooling. The children's disappointment at not being able to see themselves immediately on a small screen at the back of the camera turned into surprise and misery at the discovery that no, not every camera in the world had such a screen.

I know that the Highlands are the home of many fine antiquities, but I never expected to be one myself. Not so soon.

Topics: Tech Industry

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Editor, ZDNet UK. Ex technology/technical editor of ZDNet UK, IT Week, PC Magazine, Computer Life, Mac User, Alfa Systems, Amstrad, Sinclair. Micronet 800, Marconi Space and Defence Systems, and a dodgy TV repair shop in the back streets of Plymouth. Can still swap out a gassy PL509 with the best of 'em.Dear Reader - contact me via our m... Full Bio

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