Tag Archives: Gadgets & Toys

Mid-life Covid crisis?

I’m a middle-aged computer geek, but my iPhone is too old to run the NHS Track & Trace app. I think this is a limitation of the Bluetooth hardware, but my phone also can’t run a recent-enough version of the operating system.

This isn’t a criticism of the app; you need the right hardware to do something like this. But it makes me wonder about the proportion of the population that will actually be able to run it. Perhaps middle-aged computer geeks like me are actually the most likely to have elderly phones? I wonder whether anyone has done a graphic, plotting the age of users against the age of their smartphones? Probably a kind of 3D histogram?

On the one hand, younger users are probably more likely to be swayed by a desire for the latest gadget and by competition with their peers. But older users are, I guess, more likely to have the disposable income to upgrade. Mmm.

And now, of course, we have some interesting extra dimensions. The effectiveness of the app is highly dependent on its market penetration, and that penetration in different age-groups is going to be constrained by this distribution.

Is it particularly important that older people, who are more vulnerable to Covid, have this app? Well, probably not directly, because the app doesn’t protect you; it protects those who may come into contact with you in the future. On the other hand, perhaps older people are more likely to be in contact with other older people in the future, so it is important that they know when they shouldn’t be socialising.

There are lots of lovely opportunities for research, here, and for inventive data visualisation. Anyone got any funding available?

One thing is clear, though. The more of a social animal you are, of whatever age group, the more important it is that you run this. (That’s a serious point, so no snarky comments, please, about whether middle-aged computer geeks often fall into that category.)

Now, here’s a last thought. I have been considering that it may finally be approaching the time when I do upgrade my phone. But I’m likely to wait until Apple announces their next models, presumably sometime between now and Christmas. (This isn’t because I want the latest one, necessarily, but because the current top model will probably be demoted to a cheaper price bracket when its position is usurped.) I imagine many others may be in the same position, and large numbers of us will become track-and-traceable only after that point.


Given that this same technology is being used around the world, how many lives might be dependent on the timing of the next Apple and Samsung product announcements?

Chronological Conundrum

Alarm clockTonight, in the UK at least, we perform that ridiculous ritual of ‘putting the clocks back’. How much longer must we put up with this, for heaven’s sake? For once, though, I’m grateful, since Rose is catching a distressingly early flight in the morning, and the hour of our rising will at least feel less abominable than it would otherwise.

It leaves me with a problem, though: what to use as an alarm clock?

Some of my gadgets are clever enough to take note of the time change automatically, others aren’t, and some (like my RDS clock radio) will pick up the change once they’re turned on. I’m really not sure whether they’ll do the right thing if I set an alarm tonight for a time in a different timezone tomorrow. So which of these should I take to whichever faceless Heathrow hotel is to be blessed with our patronage tonight?

I certainly don’t want to have any fewer hours of sleep than I’ll be getting already, but I also don’t want to gamble with getting to a transatlantic flight on time. So, ironically, I may take the most basic, least high-tech alarm clock which I know won’t try to do anything clever and I can then work out the time changes myself…

© Copyright Quentin Stafford-Fraser