Rupert Goodwins' Diary

Monday 31/03/2003This story appeared... well, online somewhere.

Monday 31/03/2003
This story appeared... well, online somewhere. It is a sad warning of how high technology can betray you: the victim asked, piteously, that no journalist republish it and for good reason. But it's too good to pass up. So I'll change all the details except the central one and give absolutely no attribution: having breached most codes of journo ethics, here's the beef. It gets a bit Simon Bates' Our Tune now, so if you can just imagine the music... ta. Our friend, whom we'll call Sarah, was the very happy new owner of two desirable items: a husband and a Sony Ericsson P800. She was out and about one day recently, enjoying the sunshine of a charming rural town and the company of an old friend. As P800 owners do, she felt the urge to demonstrate her toy: so out it came and Web browsing took place. They were sitting on a park bench, poking away at the phone and talking, and the conversation drifted onto what it's like being married. As the friend was a close one, talk was frank and covered aspects of life together that perhaps would require greater tact with the person under discussion within earshot. Or, more likely, would never come up at all. You can guess what happened next. After five minutes, our pal noticed the 'call in progress' icon flashing in the corner of the screen. Uh-oh. She cleared it, and checked -- the phone had called home. A frantic second call established that hubby hadn't actually called her, but had heard everything. Mortified doesn't begin to cover it. Ooops. Turns out the voice-activated calling system on the P800 is very sensitive. It had heard her mention her husband's name in conversation, and made the call. As she was browsing the Web at the time, it didn't show this, except by the discreet icon on screen. He answered the phone, heard himself under discussion, and stayed on the line to hear more. Well, you would. Sarah is still trying to patch things up with him indoors, and divers have yet to retrieve the P800 from the bottom of the local river. For the rest of us, it's a salutory lesson that sometimes in their eagerness to please our machines can betray us in new and terrible ways -- and that anything with a computer, a microphone and a radio transmitter is capable of badness.