EXE Magazine, February 1998

This Christmas I rented a cottage on a snowy mountain in Norway. There was electricity (and heaters) but no telephone, no television... and, of course, no computer. I started to wonder if in these apparently remote conditions, I had managed to escape completely from computers and their associated software. Okay, I have to admit I did take with me a handheld computer. I read a few electronic books on it. With the screen not being ideal, it is harder to read than ‘old-fashioned’ books but it's much less bulky to carry (we had to bring some food and skis with us).

So, apart from the handheld, were there any other processors present? I'm afraid there were quite a few, (most, if not all of them, brought with us). First we had some family staying with us for a few days; they brought a GSM phone and a radio. The GSM phone probably has more electronics and software than even my handheld device. Then I had a radio scanner, so I could listen to the BBC, and an electronic beard trimmer. (I heard a story several years ago, that a company, I think it was Philips, built an ‘artificial intelligence’ razor which cut ‘intelligently’ – whatever that means). Last but not least, I was carrying a GPS receiver, another quite sophisticated piece of equipment.

In the cottage there was a quite basic fridge, I doubt that it had much that was electronic inside it but I didn't take it apart to check! The fire alarm most certainly had a small controller.

Processors and software really are ubiquitous today. You would have to be really determined to spend several days in a completely electronic-free environment. What is still missing is a link between most devices. The net and/or the web has not yet permeated through to these small appliances.

David Mery

(C)1998, Centaur Communications Ltd. Reproduced with the kind permission of EXE Magazine.