Simon Kelner: I've been driven to admiration by a hi-tech gizmo

Kelner's view


With increasing regularity, I have found myself awestruck by some technological advancement of the modern age.

That being said, bear in mind that I am the man who spent the best part of half an hour at the weekend trying to fathom out how a locking petrol cap worked, so it's not surprising that the world of technology is a place of wonder to me.

I used to spend most of the time I was connected to my iPod amazed by how a piece of equipment the size of a matchbox could house my entire record collection. Or how satellite tracking could tell you exactly how far your golf ball was from the flag ("a bloody long way" might be the simple response).

Now, however, I think this sort of stuff is old hat. Last week, I borrowed a car – an Audi, to be exact – which had a feature I never knew existed.

I have driven since I was 18, but I have never been particularly interested in cars. This may be, I admit , something to do with the fact that I'm not a terribly good driver.

I'm the man who reversed into a sports car so rare that there are only five in the world, that cost as much as a home with a duck house, or even a hot pasty, and that just happened to belong to Jeremy Clarkson (what it was doing in his driveway, I'll never know!).

Anyway, cars make me anxious. But I do like the gizmos. I can even remember that frisson of excitement when I found a cup holder on the dashboard.

Nevertheless, I have long since got over reeling with shock at electric windows, TV screens, heated seats and navigation systems that tell you how to avoid traffic jams. But there I was, driving through London, ignoring the angry reactions of other drivers, and the terrified squeals of my passengers, when I noticed, projected on the windscreen in front of me, the speed I was doing, the speed limit for the road I was on, and my navigational instructions.

I couldn't get over it: so clever, so ingenious, so brilliantly effective that I didn't have to take my eyes from the road in front of me, ensuring that the terror from the seats behind gradually abated. I have since learned that this device – I don't even know what it's called – is not quite as groundbreaking as I'd thought.

But isn't that the way with all technology? No sooner do you get to grips with something revolutionary that you'll discover everyone's on to the next thing. I am still enraptured by Skype – I know, so last century, but, in my book, a thing of wonder and joy – but now I have to learn FaceTime. And yesterday a friend of mine – let's call him Disco Dave – was telling me about how the Japanese are developing wi-fi electricity that enables cars to be charged as they go along. Very interesting, Dave, I said. Now, come and help me with this petrol cap...

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