Gill Smith
Gill Smith - Comedy Writer & Performer

Gill's Journal, Issue

Eureka
Quarterly magazine of The ARM Club the Leading Independant
RISC OS Computer User Club.
Having sorted a little technological hiccup, your chairman and I finally got our copy of Eureka, (it even happens to the chair!) giving me the opportunity to have a read, and think about what on earth to write for you in this journal. As I read through it, with Toby safely out at a meeting about the Epsom show, and whether it would go ahead, I started to wonder about the whole future of The ARM Club, post Black Thursday. I'm not the first, nor the most knowledgeable on the subject, but I'll share my thoughts with you anyway.
Gill Smith opens her Journal to reveal how spods suffering Acorn withdrawal symptoms can find comfort in some other technology now invading the home.

Reading through Eureka, and talking to Toby at great length about the possible Epsom show, things seem to be in a silent limbo. Eureka reviews new upgrades to products, and people are trying to see which bits of the OS they can put to another use. Any show does far better if it's after - or the occasion of - the release of new hardware, or at least some decent software. Toby and I missed Wakefield last year, where the Phoebe was shown off, in all its yellow glory. This year, The ARM Club hope to have PD CD 3 released. That'd be great - for those of you waiting on tenterhooks, for the show, and for the club's coffers. But if we're really honest, it's not quite the same as that moment when you first saw the Phoebe, and realised that it was just as yellow as rumours had made out!

This year, nothing is that new, nothing that thrilling. There's been no sign of the Phoebe, or anything else for some time (I was lucky enough to spot one at the Holland show,) in spite of all the leaflets they handed out. The Peanut is still a distant prospect, and we only know that the RISC OS Foundation are trying to sort something out. Rumours of possible successors to RISC OS abound, and of new products that will sell, and make a show worth attending, but nothing is sure.

This is strange for your average Acorn spod. I know several who, even through the poverty struck days of University, had to be able to get the new Psion, or latest Acorn machine, by going without a few pints, or selling on the old machine to unsuspecting Arts students, whose parents had an Electron when they were younger. (Who else remembers 'Snapper' instead of Packman?!) The Psion 5 came out, and I feel rather left out by not being able to IR files about, and still having to use good old-fashioned wires.

Of course, there are rumours of all sorts of other innovative Acorn technology. I've been told that set-top boxes might be the next big thing, or that Acorn will be the first with the successor to Digital TV, or whatever else. They might be, but Acorn themselves haven't said anything, and there's no guarantee that it'll be for the general public, rather than business, or anything like what you were looking for.

So what can we dedicated spods buy instead?! How can we keep up to date with the trendiest, flashest gadgets about? I've noticed a larger number of waists that have a Psion 5 on one side, and a mobile on the other. Orange appears to be the network to be on, to send SMS messages to tell other committee members that you're about to arrive at the meeting. You can even send them off their website, to say you're working hard and will be late home. You can IR phone numbers or appointments from your phone to a laptop, and vice versa, although it may need to run the dreaded Windows. Other networks include Vodaphone, where a click on a 'Scoot' website link sends a phone number straight to your phone to save you even dialling. I just wait for the day when a committee member gets arrested somewhere for diving at one or other of their waist holsters and getting it mistaken for a gun!

In other areas of life, beyond communications, technology is allowing the average spod to cope a little better with the wait for Pheobe, or her successor. DVD allows an outlet for the serious spod to keep up to date. Digital television is also giving you more to watch on TV, so you don't miss the thrill of setting up a new OS, and installing everything quite so badly. Plus, these are things you may be able to find company to watch with you, which has it's bonuses. All the spoddiness of new technology, together with the social benefits of great viewing.

I'm also looking forward to visiting someone with these new fridges you hear about. You know, your mum has a fridge, big white thing in the kitchen... never mind. I haven't seen them on sale yet - (although I haven't exactly been hanging-out in my local domestic appliances store), but soon, the geekiest spod in town will be the one with the fridge that reads barcodes. You scan things in as you use them, and it orders your next 4 pack of lager, and weekly supply of microwave meals direct from the supermarket by emailing them the list, and gets them delivered to the door. Personally, I plan to keep a bar code for something confusingly healthy, like a lettuce, to hand, so that when I'm visiting, certain friends, I can secretly scan in and order the lettuce, and get the delivery boy to take a camera!

Technology like this may soon move into strongly into the rest of the house - assuming you keep your Acorn in the study, and know how to distinguish the kitchen from it. Will your traditional spod have to move from his two bed-roomed flat (one for them, one for the computers), into a house, just in order to have a garden for the automatic mower? Will the washing machine be able to scream "that suit is dry-clean only!" and go on strike before washing anything? The microwave might get stressed if it doesn't get used for a while, and set an alarm on your computer to remind you to eat. Perhaps the alarm clock could be networked with the computer, so you wake to the sound of "You have mail!" (TM), and be sure to get straight out of bed!

Personally, I'm just looking for a technology that allows me to be half asleep in the morning, and still get washed and dressed properly, eat breakfast, and be out of the door in time for work. And you know what, I found it. They can be very expensive to install, maintain, and not always cheap to run, but I think it's worth it. I got myself a husband. And now he hasn't the time or money to worry about the latest technology!

Written by Gill Smith. Published Summer 1999. Reproduced with permission.