I arrived for a coffee with a friend, surprisingly precisely on time, an accident by the train people, no doubt. But where was the friend? Not in the coffee shop.
I was about to do what most might do in a case like this - look for his name on the mobile's WhatsApp list. Then I remembered: he doesn't have a mobile phone.
|Serious business ... Keeping up with the world and more captures concentration. Photo by Andrew Neel on Unsplash|
He doesn't have what? Yet, surprisingly my friend isn't alone. It's hard to find an exact figure, but it seems that at least ten per cent of the population doesn't. Nor are they internet familiars.
When the friend arrived, I wondered about life without a mobile phone.
'For one, the craze will never last,' he said emphatically enough to suggest that it wasn't exactly the first time he had heard the question. For two, no need to remember a long list of numbers, including my own.'
'But you do have broadband?'
'The internet! Instrument of the Devil. No need for it. Think of the money I've saved.'
Perhaps to prove how much better off that made him, he bought coffee. 'Honest, now, but what use was the internet to you yesterday?'
I began to mention the websites I work on. He didn't want to know about that. He wanted to know how the internet might have helped my day.
'I wanted the times of trains today,' I said. 'I saw the choice, the price, and I booked a ticket.'
'You had to go to the station to catch the train. You could have done that there. What else?'
'I'm practising sextant work for a voyage in the planning. I do noon sights via a bucket of water.'
|The world in her hands ... The modern just about essential accessory. Photo by Tinh Khuong on Unsplash|
'The time and date website tells me the time of noon, the angle, even how far away the sun is.'
Easier and quicker
'I'd have looked it up in my current Nautical Almanac. But much easier and quicker from the web. The same site is precise about moonshots, too.'
Naturally, you can't preach to the converted and to a dyed-in-the-wool landlubber at that. The talk moved onto politics and brexit, as I suppose it does at the moment all over the UK.
However, his question did get me thinking of the extraordinary and increasing value of the web. It was wonderful back in the early days, back when I 'built' my first website, thanks to the early AOL Netscape browser in the nineties. But now! What information can't we find.
I cycle. I want to know about the weather. It's on-screen, just about instantly. Another non-web friend phones. I offer the weather for that location instantly.
What planets will I see tonight, should a miracle change the weather? EarthSky dot org not only tells me, but offers a diagram for where I'll find the Moon, Mars, and Pleiades, for instance.
I want to get a Big Button mobile phone for a new recruit to the world of communications. At eBay, I find one that's not too pricey and make an offer. A couple of hours later, the offer is accepted.
A sailing friend phones. He's thinking of going out in the Solent tomorrow. It takes perhaps ten seconds to know the state of the tides for his outing, a click to learn the likely weather, and another to the Cowes webcam to see how the sea looks at this moment.
And all this information found from one room in my tiny flat, and loads of information and knowledge found in small breaks in the plotting of the new story I'm about to begin.
A last word from the Totally Converted, if you'll let me. The website, er, chain, Tides for Fishing offers up-to-the-minute knowledge of everything a fisherman could wish to know wherever in the world he might be near the sea.
The information is truly astonishing. Yes, for fisherman and I don't fish. But it is great for sailors, too. All about the moon, the sun, the sea, the weather, where it's night in the world, the tides, of course, and the chances if you do fish.
I'm planning a long voyage and one of the first questions I wonder about out there is this: out on the great oceans, can a singlehander have access to the internet? So much, I suppose, for the notion of going to sea to get away from it all, from the worldly familiar.
Thanks very much for visiting the blogs for my adventure book, Sailing to Purgatory.