When I graduated with a degree in Electronic Engineering forty years ago the world seemed an exciting place and we scientists were going to improve life for the general population beyond their wildest dreams.
At the time I started at The Lucas Research Centre we were starting to put sophisticated electronics under car bonnets and at the side of roads. We were developing engine management systems that would make cars more efficient and less polluting. We were making vehicles safer with better braking systems, reliable lighting and ergonomic controls. We designed and manufactured street lights that came on automatically when it got dark and we invented ways of getting accurate, up-to-date traffic information to drivers without distracting their attention from the road.
When I moved to Plessey I became involved in communication systems. The laborious telephone dial was replaced by a push-button. Memories were incorporated into phones together with features such as redial and callback. Phones were becoming smaller and more modern looking. And then we got hands-free phones which eventually morphed into the mobile phones that are in use today. Soon I moved into other areas – data communications, digital exchanges and fibre optics.
And what has all this space-age technology produced?
On every street we see zombies walking round tapping away on their infernal devices or with the things glued to theirs ears shouting at the tops of their voices. It seems it is now socially acceptable to discuss your sex life at full volume on public transport. Or, with a few deft thumb strokes, you can inform the whole world that you've “Just sat down in Starbucks with a skinny latte LOL :).”
As if that isn't bad enough we end up sitting on the bus next to some hoodie playing some sort of 'shoot-em-up' game on a tablet no bigger than a postcard with faint sounds of gunfire and explosions emanating from it. And if we want to ask someone to move out of the way or ask if a seat is taken we are in danger of being ignored because of those invisible earpieces playing tinny music rendering them deaf to the outside world.
No one can follow written instructions or read a map anymore because of these marvellous satellites that guide us up dead ends and down river banks.
What happened to my Utopia? I'm living in a nightmare which I helped to create. Where the hell did we go wrong?