Hurrah! In a breakthrough for mankind rarely equalled, London Transport has got on the Web. At last, anoraks around the world can find out fares, stations and routes; sample the delights of LU's many fine poster campaigns and browse long into the night in appreciation of one of the finest monuments to anorak-dom ever created - the London Underground. There's clearly an enthusiast or two at work behind the scenes, with trivial matters as lovingly covered as the mundane business of getting Londoners from A to B (via a signal failure at C and twenty minutes stuck in traffic at Z). Find out the deepest point on the Northern Line, the longest journey you can make without changing and what on earth's going on south of Charing Cross.
Recommended, if you're male, eat fish paste sandwiches from a Tupperware lunchbox and have at least five friends named Keith.
After my penultimate stint at Viva! Radio (closing down in two weeks, to reopen two weeks after that as 963 Liberty AM, with a brand-new staff and no Rupert), I troll along to the Fleet Street Meet. I started a conference on CompuServe a while back, called Fleet Street and dedicated to the gentlemen and ladies of the press. It continues in a stuttering fashion, but now and again groups of the keener participants end up in a pub to discuss ... well, just about everything. Most fun was talking to the chap-ess in charge of BBC Online - big things afoot there - and meeting some journalism students who were really rather pleased to find out that all the things you ever suspected about hacks are actually true.
I'm not sure whether to be disturbed or pleased that so many of my social contacts have come through online meanderings. I've certainly found a whole skipload of pals, and despite all the changes on the Net over the past few years, this seems to be going strong - AOL admits that it makes nearly all its profits out of its online chat service. What did we all do before the modem?
You can't escape it - the keyboard is the least sexy peripheral yet invented. A mouse is cute, a modem has flashing lights, the joystick has some amusing overtones. A keyboard sits there and gets clogged up. Which makes the job of KeyTronics - the company responsible for many keyboards used by PC vendors - particularly difficult. The firm has decided to go retail and invites me to a hotel in Marylebone.
To my considerable delight, the KeyTronics people turn out to be excellent fellows one and all, with a dry sense of humour and willingness to talk about almost anything. Keyboards are one thing, keyboard people who take it all with a deadly seriousness would be unbearable.
They show me the new range, including keyboards with built-on trackballs and touchpads and various wireless options. All... keyboards. I remain unconvinced that many people will be persuaded to shell out the recommended £125 for a keyboard with a trackball that doesn't work very well (none of them ever do) and a wireless link that needs batteries which run out after three months. Why not have a solar cell on the thing to trickle charge the cells? £125 gets you a lot of other things these days.
Surprisingly, they agree, while pointing out that the black keyboard with the sculpted edges (a much more reasonable £30) has considerable geek appeal. It does. I want one.
Stuff coming up soon -- biometrics (fingerprint scanning) and smartcard readers. Now that sounds like fun.
Bit off colour today so I stay in bed and stare at the ceiling. Excused a diary entry. This has nothing to do with the 3M/Wall Data party last night thrown to celebrate an official Post-It Note e-mail software interface. One thing does permeate my fevered consciousness -- the great child porn e-mail scam that ended up with thousands of users getting an invitation to buy unspeakable filth turns out to have been an evil prank perpetrated as a result of an argument getting out of hand.
You haven't heard the last of this...
Congratulations to Davey Winder, who scoops the pool at the 1996 BT Technology Journalist Of The Year awards, and also to Steve Homer, Toby Murcott and Tim Malyon who hoover up various section awards for work well done. It does look as if the awards could easily be renamed Internet Journalist Of The Year -- perhaps someone could, again, remind me what we all did before modems?