I’ve held off from writing this blog for a long time because I worry that it makes me look foolish, and what’s worse foolish in an old, past-it, off-the-pace kind of way. But here goes anyway.
If it really is true that the future will consist largely of people much younger than me choosing for preference to do all sorts of things on their mobile devices, then I take my hat off in advance to recognise their extraordinary patience. Because most of the time that I try to do anything on a mobile device – especially anything which involves a number of clicks – it’s just so incredibly, maddeningly, uselessly just-give-this-up-right-now-and-leave-it-till-I’m-at-my-nice-fast-desktop SLOW.
OK, to some extent this reflects problems of my own making. My poor old phone is on its last legs, and freezes, hangs and fails to notice my commands (or if it notices, then fails to obey them) a great deal of the time. Here in France where I’m writing this, our satellite internet connection means that the humblest request to buy an extra litre of milk takes an age to go hundreds of miles out into deep space and back on its way to whichever one of us is in the supermarket. My texting is pitifully slow and so horribly inaccurate that it frequently defeats even the HTC One’s amazingly intuitive spell-check.
But still, allowing for all this, the fact remains that even checking out the BBC’s totally fictitious football gossip column first thing in the morning routinely involves a hard-fought and narrowly-won battle with the will to live, and, typically, at least two minutes of feeling my blood pressure rise while I stare furiously at a succession of empty white screens.
A few days ago we were driving to collect my daughter from the airport, and, running a bit late, I cleverly thought of using the flight tracker app on the easyJet website to check on her progress. Now, I thought, we could experience all the wonder of the mobile revolution right there before our very eyes. Except not exactly. By the time I’d slogged my way through to the right screen on FlightRadar24, we’d arrived at the airport and Chloe’s flight had landed. And then the program froze so that I couldn’t actually scroll down to see what was happening at Toulouse. I was too busy prodding angrily at my phone to notice Chloe emerging at Arrivals.
Of course if you’re already logged on to incredibly fast wireless, you may not recognise these problems. But realistically, how often are you logged on to incredibly fast wireless? Much more likely, you’re either connected to incredibly slow wireless (like on trains, where things happen at the same imperceptibly slow speed as when you watch the London Eye), or to equally slow 3 or 4G, like in the back of the cab when you’re desperately trying to find the address of the restaurant before the driver goes straight past and exits the foodie hunting-grounds of Shoreditch for the badlands of Poplar.
Anyway, apparently the young have no problem with this and are perfectly happy taking 9 minutes to undertake a simple banking transaction, or 14 if they’ve forgotten their password and have to get a reset code sent to their email and then reset two or three times before coming up with a series of letters and numbers meaningless enough to make sure that a) the bank will accept it and b) you’ll have forgotten it again next time.
As a fractious old hare, I think this zen-like calm reflects very well on the young. But in its demand for a tortoise-esque mindset, the brave new digital world is once again turning out a bit differently from what we expected.