How small can a world get?

One of the benefits of maturity is realising the world around you is ever changing. I’m not talking politics or economics, but simply the way we stay in touch with each other. Particularly, when travelling. Take a small trip on Memory Lane…

A couple of “incidents” I remember very clearly. We’re talking late 80’s early 90’s here. The internet was for geeks only, nobody had a “mobile phone” (or was very careful not to be caught seen with a hefty brick-sized refrigerator-model apparatus close to his ear) and you had to rely on the local telephone system and a handful of coins to get in touch with the home front. Or calling someone who was kind enough to accept a collected-call (that is: the receiver pays!). It was all a troublesome affair, but who knew better then?

One time when somewhere in the recently “liberated” Eastern Block I called home after a week or so, only to hear a family member had not only died but was also already buried. Oops. And what about the several occasions when travelling with two cars and these got separated? That happened a few times. One time in the south of France we caught up with each other again after two days, more luck than wisdom. Another time we didn’t see each other again until we finally got home. Such was the way of life, and the way of the frequent traveller.

Quite simply: the mobile phone changed and shrunk the world. Slowly at first, but unstoppable. Mobile phones didn’t always work abroad but when they did it was an awesome experience. I vividly remember calling home from somewhere in the Australian bush and hearing my then-wife as clear as if she was standing next to me. You decide if I was better off in the bush or at home. Mobile phones got better and so did the networks, try buying a phone nowadays that doesn’t support the regular network bands. Okay…I know…there are exceptions. Reception in the mid-US was not good with my European tri-band phone, and arriving in Libya not so long ago I was shocked to se my network provider hadn’t bothered to go into an agreement with the local Libyan provider. But…I regard these as exceptions, really.

So, now we can make calls from virtually everywhere, receive calls, and text message on the go. If we can find power to charge the battery, of course. And if we want to, but that’s a whole different discussion! That wasn’t enough, however. I now own a smartphone and the world has gotten even smaller. I carry my e-mail with me, twitter and facebook, I can chat with my friends if I want to, blog, and Google whatever I want. I can talk to my girlfriend and see her on camera. The list is almost endless. Also, I can navigate around the world without needing any paper maps, listen to my favourite music, watch television worldwide, play games…need I say more?

This week will be the first time in years I’m leaving home on a two week trip without my laptop PC. I reckon my smartphone can do the same as what I use a laptop PC for while away. At least it will save me a lot of hassle carrying a laptop around and checking in at airports. But maybe I’m overoptimistic now, and will the coming two weeks tell me I really can’t do without a laptop PC yet.

But…could I do without a mobile phone, and be thrown back technology-wise for a good 20 years? I would adapt, but no: I wouldn’t like that very much.