Rupert Goodwins' Diary

Monday 10/1/2005What ho! Hope Santa brought you tons of top presents.

Monday 10/1/2005
What ho! Hope Santa brought you tons of top presents. Having educated the nearest and dearest in the true treasures of this world, my stocking bulged with green laser pointer, theremin, DAB radio for the bathroom so Phil Jupitus can join me in the shower, and a dandy little portable iPod speaker system. Yes, I have the complete portable Jean-Michel Jarre kit. Watch out, Docklands.

However, Goodwins Minor celebrated his first Scottish Hogmanay by contracting some devilish disorder, and got booked into Glasgow Southern General for a week or so. There is no sight so sad as a teenager, to whom broadband is as essential a gift of nature as air and vodka, laid up in a bed where all forms of electronic communication are interdit. He has for his spiritual sustenance a pile of gaming mags, a Game Boy Advance, and hospital radio.

Readers whose minds haven't been beaten into pulp by the horrors of festivity may recall a recent disparaging remark about hospital radio and the consequences. But as we sat there, contemplating mortality and the cost of Glasgow taxis, the other half had a bright idea. Now everyone's got portable radios, she said, why don't the hospital radio mob do Wi-Fi?

It's a stonking idea. Presumably the blanket ban on two-way radio stuff is in case it interferes with the machines that go ping, which is a bit specious -- one hopes the medical kit is designed not to dump two litres of morphine into the bloodstream if a passing CBer calls ahead for a pizza. If the hospital has experts on hand who can install wireless access points and sort out any problems, then that really holds no water. A collection of old portable computers would provide at-bed access delight to those not already in possession -- how many three-year-old laptops are mouldering in cupboards for want of a battery and any eBay value -- as all you need to stay sane is Web access.

It all fits. Hospital radio dates from the time when technical enthusiasts clustered around wireless as the best game in town, and now the same chaps are deeply digital. Those incarcerated at the NHS' pleasure once lacked for pocket radios and portable CD players; now it's email and their 20 favourite sites. Not sure the doctors will appreciate their charges researching maladies between consultations, but I dare say we'll learn to live with it.

Hospital radio chaps -- your country needs you! Cableheads, pick up your twisted pair; DJs, polish your blog code. Save the disconnected teenager from a fate worse than dissertations.