My devil-possessed smartphone tried to emasculate me

Is there someone I should call?

Something for the Weekend, Sir? My left testicle is bruised.

Next to me, my wife is looking at me with a surprised expression. Once the stars fade from my eyes, I realise I have just screamed out loud like a little girl. Given what had just happened to my testicles, I almost became a little girl.

I really must try to remember to adjust the position of my smartphone in my trouser pocket next time I climb into the front seat of the car. That stonking great slab of telephonic smartness always manages to thrust its way into places it shouldn’t.

My trouser pocket is the scene of an on-going Western gunfight between the smooth rose-gold and prickly rose-pink: that town isn’t big enough for the both of them.

But then that’s what cutting edge technology does to me: it cuts its edge on my nuts.

My wife keeps her smartphone in a handbag which, although less injurious to her physical health, can lead to emotional stress. For some reason, it always finds its way to the bottom of the bag, making it impossible to locate before it stops ringing. I’ve seen it happen: she’ll carefully place the handset into the top of the bag, whereupon it slips beneath the surface as if with a purpose and a minute later its own sheer weight has dragged it down into the murky depths amid the lint and eye-pencil sharpenings.

Either that or it is trying to escape. I’ve noticed some dusty gymnasium equipment lying around. It might be digging a tunnel.

Older readers may remember a time when miniaturisation meant mobile phones got smaller and lighter rather than bigger and heavier. At one point, they got so small that they could only reach from your ear to your earlobe, so manufacturers were forced to invent the flip-phone so you could extend it to your jawbone.

“I am pleased to report that I still own a flip-phone,” announced one of my colleagues delightedly this week.

This was in response to the factoid that regularly pops up claiming that if you placed all the world’s smartphones end-to-end, they would circle the planet eight times. Or ten times. Or whatever number comes into your head that morning.

Incidentally, I know for sure that the factoid is nonsense simply because I read it online.

Remember how Douglas Adams famously mused on the ultimate destiny of ballpoint pens – that they invariably seem to go missing of their own accord? His suggestion was that they escape into another dimension where they live out the remainder of their harmonious leak-free lives in biro-peace.

Just as cheap plastic pens end up in another plane of existence, utter bollocks will always make its way onto the Internet. It is the way of things.

For example, my aforementioned colleague isn’t really a colleague so much as a tech contact living in another country. I have never met this person nor, now that I think about it, engaged her in online conversation. It is quite possible that she does not exist. But if she did, I would at least know that she owns a flip-phone and is pleased about it.

But I digress. Flip-phones weren’t always much kinder to my soft dangly bits than modern phablets, I’ll have you know. In fact, the early flip-phones were still equipped with a small aerial, regularly spearing my … well, you get the idea. Suffice to say, it put me off kebabs for life.

Things only got better when Motorola came up with the Razr, the best flip-phone ever invented – which might explain why none came after it. Yes indeed, I had no problems with a Razr rubbing against my wedding tackle.

Hang on, I think I might have to read that last sentence aloud. Hmm. No, it’s fine.

The striking thing is that, despite the advanced capabilities of my current smartphone in the computing department, alongside its dangly-mangler capabilities in the trouser department, it is not particularly adept at making and taking phone calls. Either that, or the late Norman Collier has been trying to call me from the spirit world.

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One might argue that the ability to use a phone as a phone is quite important but perhaps I am in a minority in holding this Luddite view. And my weak signal is only partly due to me living in a phone-mast-free ghetto of middle-class nimbys. Calls over Wi-Fi are no better.

They are different, though. While regular over-air calls suffer lots of dropout, conversations over Wi-Fi are crystal clear but surreal: the person to whom I am speaking will always end up talking about logs. Yes, logs.

“OK, Alistair, I’ll send the file over to you and make sure you log a loga-loga-loga.”

… Er, you want me to log a what?

“Log a log. A loga-loga-log. A log. Log.”

Sorry, what was that again?

“Log log loga-loga.”

Why are you talking about logs?

“Loglogloglog? A loglog. LOGA-LOGA!”

You are a silly man and I will not speak with you any more. Goodbye.

“Log.”

Not even those robotic digital assistants such as Siri and Cortana can hear me properly. Regular readers may remember when I managed to destroy a pair of BEATS earphones in six weeks by playing 1970s folk rock instead of the regulation hip-hop. Possibly Siri was in cahoots with Dr Dre but it seemed that it could not understand the simplest of instructions.

“I’m sorry, I cannot play with chewed moolah bells by your coal field.”

No, dickhead, I said Tubular Bells by oh never mind I’ll do it myself you cretinous, steaming pile of over-rated development failure.

This is why I keep a bog-standard so-called “cabled” phone on my desk: it understands everything I say into it and I understand everything said to me through it – Bangalore call centres excepted, of course.

Oh, the joys of the desk phone! I love the way pushing it away from me doesn’t slide it sideways instead. I love the way pressing a button doesn’t randomly trigger the button next to it. I love how you can begin talking to the other party immediately rather than beginning every conversation with “Hello? Hello? Can you hear me yet? Hello? Brian, it’s me. Are you there? Hello?”

I love the way you can answer calls simply by picking up the handset rather shouting “Oh come on, answer it, you stupid bastard” while swiping frantically across the capacitive display 27 times as the slider graphic repeatedly bounces impotently back again before crashing and wiping your last two years of voicemail.

Best of all, at no time am I tempted to cram it into my left trouser pocket before jumping into the car. Now that would be scream.

Alistair DabbsAlistair Dabbs is a freelance technology tart, juggling IT journalism, editorial training and digital publishing. He does not mean anything he wrote in this week’s column. He loves his smartphone very much and finds it invaluable on a daily basis. He especially appreciates Apple’s current fad for rounded edges.


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