My family gave me some terrific presents for my recent 80th birthday – all of them I have to admit, part of the electronic age and all of them much more clever than me!
For a start there was the iPad, from our daughter Kerry, and no, I didn’t use it to cut meat on, like the television advertisement. It’s taken me several weeks to discover some of its most basic capabilities, but now that I am becoming increasingly familiar with it and less frightened of it, I’m stunned by what it is capable of. It receives all my emails, and sends any I write myself, it carries a complete encyclopaedia within that flat little case, as well as numerous games, maps that show me the whole world and tell me exactly where I am on that world, and it tells me what the weather is due to be like, hour by hour, wherever I might be. I can also use something called ‘FaceTime’ to communicate by video with Kerry, living in England, as well as anyone else who happens to own an iPad, with a picture so good it’s like having her in the room with us! I can also add things called ‘apps’ to the unit, little pieces of software that vastly increase its already impressive capabilities, so that I can perform almost any function, play countless games, turn it into an instant reader of barcodes and those other weird codes appearing on nearly everything these days, a sort of square made up of apparently random lines and dots, but which on being scanned, turn into more pages of information! And I’m sure there are a million other things iPad can do, that I haven’t even thought of yet!
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I also received an iPhone for my birthday, which is a sort of mini iPad as far as I can make out. It does pretty well everything the iPad does, and it’s a camera and a telephone as well. (Yes, I know my iPad takes photos too, but you’d have to admit, it is a little cumbersome to lug around, and having seen others doing it, I think I’d feel slightly silly holding that up in a crowd, because I’m shy and I embarrass easily!). The great thing about the iPhone and the iPad is that they talk to each other all the time! I don’t know exactly what they say to each other, but whatever information one of the gains, the other is instantly made aware of it too. Of course, being a telephone the iPhone operates on the G3 system, as well as the Wi-Fi, whereas the iPad only has Wi-Fi capability, something I’m sure the iPad is very jealous about – but as I say to it, “You can’t have everything, in this world”, and it seems to accept that.
Our son Ross gave me a camera, a Nikon COOLPIX S7000, which is almost as clever as the two items I’ve described above! Not only does it take beautiful quality photographs, but it can apply all sorts of special effects, it recognises faces, (and whether they’re smiling or not) and it takes beautiful high definition movies as well. Oh, it talks to the iPad and the iPhone too, which I find a little unnerving , passing every photo I take to them so they can save them in something they call ‘The Cloud’, including all the technical data about how the photo was taken, what exposure was used and what aperture and hundreds, (it seems), of other useful bits of information valuable to the computers! Like the iPad, this camera can also do a myriad of other things too – that’s another couple of weeks of careful study for me, just to get a grasp of all that. If only I was three years old, I’d have it all in about five minutes flat!
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Finally, I was given a smart watch and yes, you’ve guessed it, it talks to the all other pieces I’ve mentioned above, telling them my heart rate, how far I’ve walked, how many calories I’ve burned and whether I’m sleeping at night or not! Not only that, and I’m sorry if I’m getting repetitive, but the damn thing is also a camera and a voice recorder, it tells me quietly that it can be very useful in a spying situation, but I don’t do a lot of spying these days, so I’m not too sure what I’m going to use those skills for.
It’s all a bit frightening for an old man, having tools like this, which are obviously more skilful and quicker at most things, than I. I suppose the day isn’t too far away that I shall be able to just send my camera out on its own, telling it what I want and it will shoot it. Come to think of it, I suppose these new four-bladed helicopter things are more or less doing that already. Oh dear!
Tell us, what have you grandchildren given you for your birthday? Would you like some of these tools? Or do they scare you a bit?