Yesterday, en route back from the Alps, approaching Dover on Seafrance, I saw something that made me go, “Gggrrrrr!”
On deck, as the white cliffs loomed closer, a family was enjoying the view. The mother was pointing to the horizon behind the vessel, right to left, saying, “It goes Holland, Germany, Denmark,” – she paused, and gesticulated further north-west, “then Norway is over there.” She had clearly paid attention in Geography and her young children were satisfied with the correct explanation of what lay where. Her husband, though, looked doubtful.
Out came the iPhone, and he began squinting at it through his spectacles and fiddling with it, calling up an appropriate app to prove his wife – who looked rather Norwegian or Danish herself – wrong. Ten minutes later, their children bored with his gadget-gazing and his wife increasingly irritated, he was still peering at the wretched thing and muttering that he was going to find out. By the time they filed down to the car deck, his wife was fuming.
Oh no, I thought, this sort of thing has probably been happening on the slopes. Resorts and organisations have been falling over themselves to produce clever apps to track speed and altitude, check snow reports and see where you are on the lift map, but have they thought properly about how maddening these things will be for people like this sensible woman on the ferry?
I’ve had just one brush with an app on the slopes. A Swiss friend told me about one called Ski Tracks (here’s a useful discussion about it http://tinyurl.com/5wqyncs), which tells you things like maximum speed and gradient, and I decided to try it out in the Inferno (http://tinyurl.com/3m5xjxs).
I borrowed an iPhone, turned on the app and wedged it down the front of my catsuit – then couldn’t resist getting it out to take a photo near the start. As my turn approached I struggled to re-find the app, then couldn’t work out if it was still running. Off I went, and at the finish, the gadget revealed that my top speed had been 509kph.
No doubt a user error. Still, I can’t help thinking it’ll be a shame if, every time people stop for a breather, they whip out the gadget – possibly also taking time to check texts and emails as well as route and location.
At least technophobes can take comfort in the possibility that multiple blasts of winter air might drain the batteries and allow everyone a few carefree hours of exploring by using a few pairs of eyes and that nifty pocket-filler, the traditional fluttering paper map…
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