New additions to the family: Part 2

By , 29 August 2008 12:38 pm

First things first: many thanks to all of you who congratulated me, and by extension, my son and daughter-in-law on their new offspring. We went to see them at the weekend along with Alison’s mother and it was a great moment to have all four generations present. (Although, for those of you who have forgotten, four-day-old babies do very little.) The significance of the event was enhanced by a newspaper report the day before saying that Britain now has more elderly people than children. I’m afraid I can’t remember exactly the statistics and how they defined ‘elderly’ but you get my point. We are an ageing population; babies are getting to be an endangered species.

Anyway, the other new addition I promised I would talk about is my new iPhone 3G. As readers of my books will know, my protagonists in the Lamb Among The Stars use a ‘Diary’, something so close in shape and size to the iPhone that if we do come to filming (and thanks for those suggestions, by the way) there will have to be some clever work done to stop people from saying ‘oh look he’s just copied the iPhone’. My diaries have vastly superior facilities: most notably a ten-year battery, which is clearly fantasy; you’d be pushed to get an iPhone 3G to last 10 hours. Anyway when I started writing the books, this type of thing was very much science fiction; laptop computers were weighing in at 20lbs and had coarse green-on-black screens, and mobile phones were brick-sized. Is it any wonder people write about swords and sorcery rather than technology?

The reason I got one was that my old phone had come to the end of its contract and I felt that an iPhone would save me having to fire up a computer quite as frequently. So, after two weeks use, what do I make of it?

Well, I’m pretty impressed. I have been using Windows Mobile/Pocket PC organisers and phones ever since they came out around eight years ago and have amassed a considerable expertise in handheld computing. And you know what is the best thing about the iPhone? I don’t need to use any of it. The thing just works. One of the most damning things about the Pocket PC was that you never saw a woman using one. This isn’t sexism: women, of course, are far more sensible than men and shun any sort of technology that is far more trouble than it’s worth. They took one look at the tiny screen and saw that they had to poke around with a toothpick on it and decided that it really wasn’t worth it. The iPhone however is very different. Not only do you not need to know anything about computers, you are positively discouraged from fiddling around with the insides. You can only get applications (for the most part sensibly priced at a dollar or less) from Apple. This means that your phone is never contaminated by poorly written bits of software which you can never completely uninstall but which gradually accumulate, slowing your phone down. Towards the end I used almost every day to have to reset my Windows mobile phone and each time it took three or four minutes before the thing would boot up properly. I don’t even know how to do a reset for the iPhone; it doesn’t seem to need them.

No, in almost every way it’s a super piece of work and I’m looking forward to some of the applications that we are promised. One slight negative is that so far there is no real word processing software, probably because Apple, in their wisdom, have not yet got round to creating a cut and paste facility. So you don’t get to write a book on it. Yet.

But everything else just works. Ultimately, in terms of operation, it’s made not for geeks, but for users. And the beauty of that is that the iPhone itself rather retreats into the background. In that respect it’s a little bit like a good writer; the tale – not the teller – is what engages our attention.

Have a good week

Chris

7 Responses to “New additions to the family: Part 2”

  1. Kirsty says:

    Wow, it is like the Diary, isn’t it.
    The Diary is curved, though, and grey, so its case would look a little different. But maybe you should sue Apple.

    However, the real question is: Could Vero make an iPhone into a bomb?

  2. SuperAngel says:

    I am glad the iPhone is working so well for you. My friend is looking into getting one.
    I remember when I was so enthralled with a friend’s watch that had computer info on it. It was pretty neat. Now we have such amazing technology.
    I am excited by the hopes of maybe having The Lamb Among The Stars movies. The only way that I will watch them, though, is if they are exactly like the book and not changed! I cannot stand movies turned books that ruined the best parts of the books. :)

    I enjoyed reading this about iPhone. Gives a very good perspective of it.
    Miss Amanda
    http://superangelsblog.com

  3. daniel says:

    The iPhone battery specs can provide some reasonable assumptions to see if the nearly nuclear explosion of the diary battery in “Shadow” is plausible. According to a message board review, the iPhone needs to be recharged every 3 days (a generous estimate) with intermittent use. It uses a Lithium-ion polymer battery which has an energy density of 300 watt-hours per litre according to Wikipedia. As a rough estimate an iPhone battery is 3cm x 4 cm x 0.5 cm = 6 cm^3 = 0.006 L. Therefore, an iPhone battery has 1.8 watt-hours of energy. 1.8 watt-hours = 1.8 J/s x 3600 s/h = 6480 Joules = 6.5 kilojoules. Those 6.5 kJ lasts up to 3 days for the iPhone. Assuming the diary has a similar rate of power consumption, then in 10 years (3652 days) it would use 6.5 kJ x (3652 d/ 3 d) = 7913 kJ. Since 1 gram of TNT has an energy equivalent of 4184 Joules (according to Wikipedia), a catastrophic discharge of a fully charged diary battery would be the equivalent of the explosion of about 1.9 kg of TNT. Using the equation for blast radius from this Wikipedia article (R=((E*t^2)/(1 kg/m^3))^0.2)), the diary battery explosion in “Shadow” would have a blast radius of approximately 1.5 m after one-thousandth of a second and 24 m after 1 second.
    My assessment (based on the assumptions outlined above, and assuming that I haven’t messed up any calculations) is that a catastrophic diary battery discharge would be lethal at close range, but probably not over an area as large as described in “Shadow”.

  4. Chris says:

    Daniel,

    I am in awe of your maths. However Diaries also contain permanently on transmitters/receivers with a 1000km range, an GPS equivalent, a 10 Terabyte drive and a screen that is readable even under the brightest sunlight.

    But I appreciate your insight!

    Chris

  5. geoffs says:

    Actually, Chris, for that many thousands of years into the future I’d expect the diary to be much, much more capable than that! :-)

    Mechanical drives will be a thing of the past. At the very least you could expect the storage to be solid state and orders of magnitude denser than what we can envision today. We’re talking a petabyte at least, perhaps an exabyte, and maybe even a zettabyte or a yoltabyte… :-) (See http://lists.apple.com/archives/dvdlist/2001/Apr/msg00231.html or http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Terabyte).

    And the screen? Well, I imagine that’ll be something like the electronic ink (think Kindle) but in true color with readability in darkness.

    Chris, think big!

  6. My Boaz's Ruth says:

    You may not have seen any women using the Pocket PC, but there were plenty of us out there. (Or the Palm, which is what I used until my latest iteration. I know three off the top of my head. And one of them is a writer on a Pocket PC website — http://www.mytodayscreen.com/ )

  7. Chris says:

    Hi My Boaz’s Ruth,

    An interesting comment. On reflection this may reflect US/UK differences; the Palm never really caught on here. It may also reflect my limited experience of environments (boardrooms?)in which these things were really useful.

    But a month into using my Iphone I would find it hard to do without it. I pulled it out to get a precise latitude today and was told by a student ‘You use it every class!’

    Chris

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