CHARLES GRAHAM - Getting left behind by technology

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RARELY in the history of mankind have technology and invention changed at such a remorseless and rapid pace as they have in the last couple of decades.

The world has been divided into two camps by this remarkable evolution: those who love spending all their money on the latest gadgetry either because it excites them, they don’t want to be left behind and/or they see its values; and those for whom they would rather it all went away. Into the latter category are included people who don’t have the money for endlessly upgrading this and that, those who always found technology a complete mystery and those who, as they get older, weary of constant change and disruption and say “do you know, I’m just going to stick with what I’ve got now, thank you very much.”

Those living in Camp II could be forgiven for thinking the world is running away from them, that their views though held by many, are an irrelevance, especially as the planet is largely run by people from Camp I.

There has come a point on some TV programmes now where less technologically savvy viewers are excluded from interaction. It’s their look-out if they haven’t adopted the latest social networking tools and too bad the programme doesn’t allow them to pick up the phone and speak their views in the old-fashioned way anymore.

In what is supposed to be an inclusive society, this is a great shame. I am perfectly aware that markets and progress drive most industries, but not everyone wants to read a novel on a hand-held computer. Some folk, set in their ways perhaps, like the tactile experience of a “real” book and will remain a large part of the literature market for a long time to come.

It goes without saying that there are more older people in Camp II than Camp I but neither group is generationally exclusive. I know quite a few pensioners who enjoy their texts and tweets, and much younger people who shun them.

An example of how it pays to accommodate both camps has arisen in Wigan town centre recently.

As an experiment, the council introduced a parking regime in the streets surrounding the town hall which you pay for using your mobile phone.

I can see the presentation now: lots of people have mobiles now, it saves you having to have the right change and it’s only a few roads where this will apply.

All perfectly valid arguments. Unfortunately Camp II hadn’t been factored in sufficiently, particularly in respect of the business they bring to local shops.

Suddenly the phones in editorial were jangling with calls from traders around Library Street saying that custom was drying up because folk weren’t using the new PayByPhone scheme.

A delegation went to the town hall and, mercifully, the council has performed something of a U-turn. While sensibly allowing the PayByPhone scheme to continue, it is also re-instating the more traditional meters on the same streets to keep everyone happy.

There are occasions when a depleted Camp II has to lump it and accept that it’s Camp I’s way or no way, and paying to park by mobile might be one of them one day.

But for the moment it’s good to see in this instance that all tastes continue to be catered for.