To the Copyright Bar in Wapping for our Q1 party, right outside the brooding menace of the News International empire. Wapping is one of those areas of London that seems to have its own psychic microclimate: everything is a degree or two colder, the buildings a touch more threatening and the sense of foreboding just that bit more forebodery. The venue itself is typische: slightly dodgy disco, bar staff bravely willing to practice their English, and posters on the wall for Smack — a 'dark fetish/BDSM' night — which we note is timed to kick off just as the Sunday Times editorial team gets off duty. All good fun.
Time was, I'd spend such occasions flirting with colleagues, passing on or making up outrageous gossip, persuading people to spill beans — in general, behaving with happy irresponsibility. But not tonight. No, the high spot of the evening shamefully revolved around technology.
First, some background. I used to review videogames for newspapers, until I realised that if the gaming companies couldn't be bothered to come up with any new ideas to play then I couldn't be bothered to find new things to say. Since then I've been allergic to the entire genre, to the disappointment of various friends and offspring. And when it comes to portable tech, although I'm not quite as cynical here as with gaming it does take a lot to make something stand out from the identikit phones, MP3 players, portable multimedia gubbins and what have you.
So I didn't have particularly high hopes for the Sony PlayStation Portable until a colleague pulled one out of his pocket at the party and showed off a few Wipeout moves, followed by some video clips. The whole design is sleek and futuristic in that way I thought Sony had forgotten how to do, it fits in the hands perfectly with all the controls just where they should be. It's smaller and easier to pocket than the pictures make it seem. But all that falls away when you look at the screen, which is as close to having a cinema in your hands as I can imagine. Rudely bright, shamelessly colourful, ridiculously high resolution and pig-whimperingly fast, none of the stats or images of the device will prepare you for the first time you see one in action. Science fiction lives. I want one.
But thank goodness for those proprietary storage formats, which means I won't be able to put my video on the thing. That alone will save me from actually buying one. When that's fixed, then forget the iPod. This is the next must-have gizmo.