Wednesday, April 21, 2010


As I'm sure all of you are aware, the United States of America can very easily name technology as one of its claims to fame. While they would arguably come second only to Japan, we must remember that it is the Americans who (arguably) put man on the moon. It was the Americans who, for better or worse, harnessed the power of the atom. It was in a small valley in California that some bright spark realised that by making computer chips out of silicon they could place a PC in every home.

It all therefore comes as something of a surprise that technology over here has the consistency of my grandmother's Bubble and Squeak. Sometimes you hit gold with a mouth full of delicious potato goodness, other times you are stuck with a mouthful of cabbage.

My first example is the humble lift, or elevator as they so lovingly refer to it. Many of my colleagues at work in Sidcup may be aware that as a general rule I avoid the elevator in our building like the plague. I currently have a theory that our elevator is perhaps the first elevator ever developed. Please understand, I do not refer to the first elevator created by man as judging by the look of the contraption it quite probably predates the early dinosaurs. In fact, this elevator is so ancient and decrepit that it wouldn't surprise me if the company simply employs handyman who seems to be the everyday "fixing" it.

But I digress, we should return our focus to the American elevators which are in many respects far superior. They seem capable or zooming me up or down 14 floors with the same grace as Superman showed in swooping down to save damsels in distress. Also, much like the aforementioned Superman, the whole journey takes approximately a billionth of a second. Even more fantastic, the display which accounts the floor is so efficient that it pretty much skips the numbers between the lobby and your destination.

Nevertheless, there is something quite foreboding about taking a trip in an American elevator. Earlier this evening, I went roaming around the apartment building in an attempt to find some of the fantastic facilities detailed in my hand out. Suffice to say my building must have been designed by the ancient Greeks because somebody obviously felt the need to include a good old-fashioned Labyrinth. I am reasonably confident that had I not been sidetracked into an elevator, I may well have discovered the Minotaur stalking the halls.

Inside the elevator I was treated to another seamless journey that took me from point to point with the same instantaneous transportation one does not expect to find outside of a Star Trek transporter. And I think this is the problem. I am a child of Great Britain, one of the greatest countries to ever pioneer the science of engineering. By nature we build fast mechanical contraptions that are incredible eyesores and usually function with a smoothness that can only be compared to the feel of rubbing a pineapple against a cheese grater.

But despite all this you can always guarantee that an English contraption will last through the centuries due to its basic sturdy manufacture. British craftsmanship may result in rickety contraptions and you are guaranteed to feel every bump, notch and jerk involved in its usage, but there is a certain safety in feeling the machine work around you. When listening to my dad talk about machinery, or Mark talk about cars, there is always reference to the operator feeling the machine at work. In these American elevators, the ride is so smooth that you do not feel the mechanics at work and therefore you do not feel the safety of physics propelling you up or down the building.

Along a similar vein is the cooker in my apartment. In true American design, the cooker seeks to hide absolutely every facet of its function and as a result I cannot comprehend how the freaking thing heats up food. Sure, it has a series of dials to operate, just like in the UK. However the innards of the machine are completely closed off, I can see no gas burner nor can I see the tell-tale signs of the electric cooker. It may as well run off of bloody magic. And since I cannot understand it, I do not trust it. On the bright side I am sampling more than a healthy amount of the local cuisine. Expect a blog on food in the near future.

My final rant on technology should bring a smile to any of my colleagues reading this. As part of an initiative to cut costs last July the case handlers at my workplace were outfitted with the latest high-tech voice recognition software. Unfortunately when it comes to typing, my fingers move slower than continental drift. It is honestly a pace that can only be described as glacial. So naturally I jumped full on board with this initiative and my Dragon allows me to write lengthy blogs with ease. Others of my colleagues treat Dragon like the annoying Aunt at weddings; they keep their head down and pretend it doesn't exist.

The reason I bring this up is because it's not perfect and since I'm using dragon to write these blogs you may see the occasional screwup creeping in. Over the months of using dragon it has come up with some spectacularly wrong interpretations which we have affectionately entitled "Dragonisms". One of my earliest was when I dictated "please acknowledge receipt of this letter" and Dragon kindly typed "please ignore receipt of this letter".

On the bright side, Dragon usually understands nine out of 10 words which is a better level of comprehension that my mother usually manages, especially if the topic is technology.


  1. Bob, I think you need to change professions! You should be writing a column in the newspaper mate! This stuff is just brilliant. I cant help laughing at it, Carl thinks it great as well!
    Luv ya man

  2. Oy cheeky - Although I love your blogs there was nothing wrong with nan's bubble and squeak


  3. Oh and by the way, there is nothing wrong with my comprehension of the english language thank you. cheeky boy - x

  4. Bob, I love your blog, it makes me smile. x

  5. what can you say, you could possibly even get paid to write such a blog. although dragon :( that makes me sad!!! xxxx loves ya cezi x