Category: iPhone

Confessions of a failed evangelist

By , 24 October 2008 5:47 pm

A colleague with whom I share an office and all sorts of things (including probably his cold) has just decided that he’s going to buy an iPhone. Curiously enough this news makes me depressed.

How so? Well he’s buying an iPhone on my recommendation; I’ve talked a lot about it, expressed how pleased I am with it and let him have a play with it. He loves it. So even though he already has some time left on his old phone contract he is going to get one. So why am I depressed? It is that I seem to be better at selling iPhones than the gospel. We’ve talked a lot about Christianity and he’s made some interesting comments, but he’s buying into the phone and not, as yet, into the faith.

Of course it’s easier to talk about a mobile phone than it is to talk about faith. Phones are everywhere, everyone has them and everyone is using them. Phones come up naturally in conversation. These days faith is not anywhere near so frequent a topic of discussion. To talk about it can actually seem rather forced and unnatural. Phones also somehow a much more concrete topic; it’s much easier to say to someone – as I did today – ‘have a play with this’. It is much less easy to say to someone ‘here, try my Christian faith’. And of course it’s easier for people to risk getting involved with phones than with faith. An unhappy experience with a phone will, at worst, leave you a few hundred pounds or dollars out of pocket. An unhappy experience with faith could be far more costly and open you to considerable embarrassment. Nevertheless I’m sure you understand my unease; shouldn’t it be much easier to talk about a faith that means everything and a phone which, however nice, means very little?

And yet. A year or so ago I extolled the virtues of C S Lewis to my colleague who greatly enjoyed Surprised by Joy. The other week he said that he’d picked up a copy of the Screwtape Letters and here his tone grew pensive, he ‘found it very thought-provoking’. Well maybe the dead Lewis can do better than the living me. Actually from what I’ve heard, the living Lewis wasn’t that great an evangelist. Maybe death will improve me, but I’m in no hurry to try the experiment.

Incidentally I had some lovely fan mail from Ghana this week. These nice comments count, they really do.

Have a good week


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


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