Friday, 1 June 2007

Walkie talkie

Mobile Phone. Just take a moment to think about those two words. Mobile. Phone. Unless you've been hiding under a rock for the last 130 years or so, you'll know that you use a telephone to talk to someone else who is (usually) not in your immediate vicinity.

Now think about the word "mobile" in the context of telephones. Surely, that must suggest a telephone that you can take around with you, and use to talk to people while you're on the move?

Of course it does. But for how much longer? In the UK, the health and safety Gestapo have already managed to make it illegal to use a mobile while driving unless you use a fancy hands free kit. Yes, I've heard the arguments in favour of this particular piece of legislation, and I think they're utter nonsense. But the law is on the statute books now, and the chances of any government repealing it in the near future are very slim indeed; can you realistically see Brown or Cameron standing up to the self-righteous health heavies? No, neither can I! That battle is lost.

But a new and infinitely more important battle is on the horizon. It seems that, not only is it (apparently) dangerous to drive while using a mobile, it's dangerous to walk while using one, too. I kid you not! According to this newspaper article, research published in New Scientist magazine suggests that folks talking on the phone are twice as likely to step out in front of a car.

Has nobody considered that this might be a perfect example of natural selection in action? Those folks smart enough to walk and talk at the same time will cross the road in safety and go on to sire a new generation of walking, talking, telco revenue streams. Those who aren't quite that smart are plainly too dumb to be allowed to breed in any case, and their demise is no great loss to the human race. This is a natural process and mankind absolutely should not meddle with such things. At least, that's what the ecowarriors keep telling us!

Naturally, governments don't think like that. If all the stupid people are mown down, who will be left to vote for them? It won't be long before the health and safety Gestapo get hold of this pointless piece of research and start pestering for a new law, and, in the interests of self preservation, Her Majesty's Government will be only too pleased to enact it for them. Surely, it is only a matter of time before the use of mobile phones in anything other than a perfectly static environment is a thing of the past.

If this sounds ridiculous, consider New York State Senator Carl Kruger, who wants to fine folks who use a mobile phone, Blackberry or MP3 player while crossing the street. Typical American nonsense, you say? Couldn't happen in Blighty, you think? Guess again. This is the age of health and safety gone mad, and unless Joe Public puts his collective foot down hard and quickly, one more freedom will have passed into history - for our own good, of course!

Not that I expect anything less than a full scale revolution to have any impact upon the Wallies in Whitehall, and revolution just isn't in the British character. So, looking to a future in which mobile phones are sure to be anything but mobile, I've had this idea:

People will still need to make phone calls when they're out and about, so I'm going to build some little sheds out of steel and plastic and fit a telephone in them (land line, of course - wouldn't want to tempt people into moving while they talk!). Then I'll paint them red and stick one on every street corner. They'll probably look a little bit like this. I tell you, these things are the future - remember where you read it first!

Billy Seggars.

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