Thursday, 24 March 2011

Badge and Gun

Which devices would you gather for an extended period away from home, if given only fifteen minutes warning?

That is the question posed by Blogger, Mobilist, and now Stroke Survivor, the Mighty @Reyes here . My first response was: phone and laptop.

Phone and Laptop

My phone is a Nexus One. It's a pretty old device, although it's now running 2.3.3 Android, which is around 0.3.1 more than when it was new. My employer offered me a later device: the iPhone 4. Quite soon, I discovered that iOS still won't run my preferred secure e-mail client in background. I went back to Android.

My laptop is lenovo X201, running the pointless Windows 7. It's fairly new. I put in for a small laptop after I moved house last year. My previous machine was big, barely able to be called a portable. The fifteen inch screen intruded into the space of neighbouring train passengers. The battery didn't last for my one hour commute. Since trading up to this tiny chap, I'm not only open and running for the whole train journey, but I tend to keep the thing at my side more at home. We all need to update while we watch the TV, right?

As you may have gathered, these devices are not mine in the sense of ownership. They are mine because I use them, by choice. You may say that not having paid for the devices reduces the value of my opinion. It's true that price is not a factor in my selection of laptop and phone, although it is a factor in my employer's selection. Then again, by not having paid, I am not entrapped into playing the iGame. I don't have to continually tell myself that these are great devices in order to drown out the persistent whisper that they cost twice as much as the iQuivalents that do the job almost as well.

Explaining my first response, phone and laptop, seems unnecessary. Nobody reading this needs to be told why, given fifteen minutes, I would grab my phone and my laptop. They might wonder why I didn't reach for a tether or MyFi (?sp), but only if they had not seen the specs of my grab-devices. Both N1 and X201 have WiFi. Each also has its own SIM card for GPRS, 3G, mobile broadband or whatever other packet data service is available from my cellular phone service. I don't need anything else to be connected, but then that's me.

I guess I'm pretty fortunate to have access to such devices. To quote a favourite film of mine and Reyes: Always first class, Same old Roper. Another quote, from countless films and television shows, is also my second response.

Badge and Gun

    You can't take me off the case! I made the case! I am the case!
    That's just it ATC, you got personal. Now hand them over.

ATC: Hand what over Cap?

APC: C'mon, ATC, we been here before. Badge and gun.

Now, I don't wear (or is it carry?) a badge, and I wouldn't know how to shoot a gun, and I'd like to think I don't have any misplaced machismo issues, so why badge and gun?

Because each of those symbolises something else.

The badge is what identifies the cop, personally and authoritatively. My equivalent, for the purpose of the fifteen minute gadget grab, is my SIM card. I could add my debit card, I think. The other day my contactless card arrived through the post. Add that to the chip & pin that was already on-deck, and my debit card now has enough micro-circuitry to qualify as a mobile gadget.

The gun extends the cop's physical capabilities. My grabbed equivalent is the mobile phone. It doesn't enable me to shoot people, but it does enable me to photograph them, talk to them wherever they are, send them messages by e-mail or SMS, and read their blogs. There's even ammunition, 8 gigabytes of it, and all in the spout.

Since my SIM is generally fitted in my phone, when I grab it, I have both badge and gun. It seems like I don't need to grab my laptop. If I was the American TV Cop in the script, I wouldn't need that either. As has been seen many times, ATC doesn't need his badge and gun to solve the case. He has something much more powerful.


That's right, technology is what the American TV Cop has, even after losing his badge and gun. It's also what I have, even without my phone and laptop. Technology is not hardware.

The Web 2.0 is technology. Roper's martial arts is also technology, and so is the cop's "nose". These may seem like odd assertions, but they are consistent with the dictionary definition, as supplied by Chambers, the foremost on-line dictionary, here.

The English word technology comes from the Greek word techne, meaning art or skill. The English word technique has the same root.

It's ironic that, these days, technology often refers to stuff you can buy. But does owning a smartphone, or other piece of geek-bling, make you a mobile technologist? No, it doesn't; a chimp with a bible is still illiterate.

Conversely, what happens if you take the iPad, Blackberry and Kindle away from Reyes? Does he become a mere mobile monkey? I say no, although he is kind of hairy. It is skills, not stuff, that makes the man.