"You're never alone with an iPhone". They should get me to do their ads. Has anyone used that riff yet? It's true though. Now that Blackberry has pretty much bitten the dust, the ubiquitous iPhone seems to be PDA of choice. No wonder, it's probably the single biggest thing to impact my life in recent years, technologically speaking. I'm on my fourth ( phones - not lives). I've had many many Personal Digital Assistants, from Psions, Nokias to Sony Eriksons, you name it. The iPhone rocks though.
Especially if you are a traveller, like myself. You can be on your ownsome in a bar or cafe, and whereas in the past I'd have needed a newspaper or paperback as an excuse to while an hour or so away, no one bothers you if you are carrying out these activities on an iPhone, which I do.
In Europe, I'm a big fan of the Herald Tribune newspaper, but have you ever tried opening one of these broadsheets in the cramped confines of a airplane seat? Impossible. That really pisses people off, big time. Not so with a tiny iPhone where you've perhaps previously downloaded your news items. The only other issue is that on the downside, you are always available and in a curious way therefore, you are always working, if you are a business person. You never get to take a break from it, it seems.
If I'm in need of a guitar tuner backstage at a gig, the iPhone has one. If I want to play guitar through it, there are all sorts of effects to make it sound good. If I need to know where I am, like the other day in Boston when I'd forgotten my GPS ( Sat Nav for you Brits) there's an app for that. I simply downloaded a free GPS app and I was on my way. Email, web stuff , dictionary, it's all there. Quite incredible. I'm writing this blog on mine right now, actually. Quick app pick of the week; Flipboard. It brings all your news and Facebook stuff to you in the form of your own magazine - style feed. Much cooler than trawling through news and Facebook if you want a quick fix.
Talking of technology and on the other end of the scale, really - one word: Banks.
Banks really suck ( apologies to any bank employees out there ) but they really do, everyone knows it. The Greeks are about to really know it as are the Spaniards. Here in the States, the whole banking establishment is so corrupt, retarded and behind the times for Joe Public, at least compared to Scandinavia, Europe and Japan. Too Big to Fail - yeah, right. However, I really thought I was going to have a coronary last week when dealing with HSBC in the UK by Transatlantic telephone. I tried a simple procedure to activate my new debit card with them and to get to grips with this silly little security key pad they had sent me in the mail. I was now supposed to use this thing to generate security codes, in addition to the username, password, familiar animal picture symbol, my birthdate, mother's maiden name, favorite town and so on, if I wanted to do anything online. If you are like me, you have so much of this stuff to remember now, with so many different passwords and security numbers, that it's an impossibility to figure it out. Some places or accounts require letters and numbers, some capitals, some need a sign and so it goes. I actually think it's a plot by the younger generation to simply fuck us oldies up and render us redundant and unable to function in the digital age.
I mean, as I said, we were in Boston the other day to visit one of our sons who was appearing in a theatrical production. In the bar afterwards, I was talking to one of his friends who was a PA ( or is that Actual Human Personal Assistant ) to a professor at MIT ( Massachusetts Institute of Technology ) probably the greatest concentration of brainiacs in the world. The AHPA said that the lady professor worked on studying germ warfare for the government and that she had just got an iPad. It seemed that the professor, age 60, needed the AHPA to mostly help her figure out how to use the iPad ( I suppose while she was noting stuff down about a possible new terror threat using Anthrax or something ). That didn't fill me with great confidence. I mean, if an MIT professor can't even get to grips with an iPad...er...now I'm worried.
Stuxnet - I loved that one. That was supposed to be the Israelis but now it's generally believed to have been the US that put a worm in Iran's nuclear program and fried all the centrifuges for spinning the platinum. Technology - just the terms they use, alone, fry your brain. It really is a new language and again, one that the majority of us will not ever fully understand.
Anyway, back at the bank call center, during this 45 minute call with the bank representative, a nice lady whose name was Angel and who was speaking to me from somewhere in the Philippines, I got tripped up. What happened was, Angel asked me for the 2nd, 4th and next to last digits of my telephone security number. The word 'telephone' tripped me up because back when I'd registered my security number, it wasn't called this - so like an idiot I gave her the digits she'd asked for. Wrong! 'Computer says No!' So I tried again, at Angel's prompting . Not telling me that it was ‘two tries and you're out', she then sweetly, in a voice 2 octaves above my own, told me I was about to be transferred to the security / fraud dept. N000ooooo....
This was now a world of pain that I was about to enter.
Anyway, another lady, with a reassuringly deeper voice, did actually walk me through the whole thing again. By this time I'd located the right security number and she explained why they now called it the ‘telephone security number', because that was the new memorable number they needed from you. She also told me not to use Google Chrome as my web browser and not to save the bank's website in my bookmarks, plus something about cookies and so it went on and on. All this just to simply activate a new replacement debit card.
We were now literally 45 minutes into my very expensive phone call, so I asked her if the bank would actually pay for my call. She laughed nervously and said, "no". I then asked her whether she thought the telephone / online banking process was getting just a tad convoluted these days and could be proved to be quite difficult to navigate for some older clients of the bank ( like me ). " Well, Mr. Powell, over 6 million people have registered with the bank to use this new system" - this new security code generator with it's dandy little chain so you can attach it to your key ring along with all the store cards, widgets and dongles etc. When finally, to ad insult to injury, the security / fraud lady asked me if she'd done an adequate job of answering all my questions and would I rate her service? I nearly lost it, but simply said she'd done a good job and added, "these 6 million customers of the bank must have way too much time on their hands". That was it. A good chunk of my morning was wasted.
Since then, I haven't dared go on line to see the status of my account. I simply can't face the thought of 2 attempts at the security code and the "Computer says N000oooooo...." again.