Rupert Goodwins' Diary

Rupert Goodwins' Diary

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

TOPICS: Tech Industry
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.

Topic: Tech Industry

Rupert Goodwins

About Rupert Goodwins

Rupert started off as a nerdy lad expecting to be an electronics engineer, but having tried it for a while discovered that journalism was more fun. He ended up on PC Magazine in the early '90s, before that evolved into ZDNet UK - and Rupert evolved with them into an online journalist.

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  • Welcome back to the modern world. As someone who likes to keep taps on modern technology, I seem to have the worst luck when I find places to live and work. I bought my first mobile back in around '94-'95 when I was working in Birmingham. When I got back home (suburb of Southamptopn), it didn't work. Quick call to Orange: 18 months, maybe.

    I switched to Vodafone, but that wasn't much better. Upstairs in the bedroom, leaning out the window got a signal. Company sent me to an office in the deepest darkest depths of West Sussex (near Petworth). No signal. 'Phone Orange (back with them again, although still not working properly at home): maybe in the next 2 years... My brother lived just outside Farnham, no signal there either when I visited.

    Now I've moved to Germany and live in a little village outside of M