For a couple of years early in the present century I had a mobile phone. By current standards it was a clunky and primitive affair, on which I was able to make telephone calls (which I did), send text messages (which I rarely did) and play a few games (which I never did). One day the rental period expired and I did not immediately renew it, nor did I investigate any shorter-term or pay-as-you-go options. I put the phone in my desk drawer where it nestles still, gathering dust.
Owning a laptop and being a constant user of what our Belgian pals call Het Internet, it would be both preposterous and pretentious to call myself a latterday Luddite. But the laptop is, I think, the only thing I own which marks me as a citizen of the twenty-first century. Discounting the unused mobile (itself a 1990s model) which, it is true, could be juddered back to life (I assume), I have nothing else that I couldn’t have owned in, say, 1960. I have no television or microwave oven or digital camera or any other space age devices. This is not a conscious pose, a foolhardy attempt to be a living anachronism. I am, for example, perfectly happy to use teabags rather than leaf tea (though how I miss the tea strainer as a numinous everyday object!). It is simply that I find it possible to live a contented life without all this stuff. And whenever I sit on a bus and watch people jabbing at the tiny keyboards on their devices, or listen to them jabbering away on their phones, and when I can restrain myself from throwing a pocketful of pebbles at their heads, I am reminded that I am better off without these things, and that one day I am going to take that old mobile phone out of the desk drawer and throw it in the bin, or crush it underfoot, or donate it to a passing mendicant.
But as I say, the laptop is an essential part of my life, one I would miss much, much more than I miss tea strainers. And it is because I am an online kinda guy that I am aware of such things as apps, which as far as I can gather are the multitudinous wonders available – essential – for mobile phones and smart phones and iPads and tablet PCs and whatever else the digital person-about-town is jabbing and gazing at and jabbering into. So it seems to me only right that in this brave new world there really ought to be a Hooting Yard app, even though I wouldn’t use it myself. The question is, what in the name of all the saints in heaven would a Hooting Yard app actually do?
It has occurred to me, you see, to employ a gaggle of unpaid interns to work – tirelessly, chained in a cellar, fed on slops – on the development of the Hooting Yard app. The technology, of course, holds no terrors for these young persons. They might gawp uncomprehendingly at a tea strainer, but the creation of an app comes as naturally to them as breathing. Nevertheless, in their plaintive little voices, they pipe up “What is it you want the Hooting Yard app to do, Mr Key, innit?” And thus far I have no answer ready for them. (Though in a happy moment I did consider the possibility that my app might deliver a disabling electric shock to the user upon their each and every utterance of the barbarism “innit”.)
Having got this far, however, and recognising that a world without a Hooting Yard app is a world not worth living in, I feel I must plough on, indefatigably. But the interns will grow restive when they have completed the interim project with which I have fobbed them off, the development of the iTea Strainer. So I am appealing to the constituency of Hooting Yard readers and listeners to drum up ideas. You will, I am sure, have been sat there, jabbing and gazing at and jabbering into your device, always with that nagging thought at the back of your puny pea-sized brain that, however exciting and versatile and efficient and entertaining your pad or pod or digithingummyjig, its true potential has yet to be unleashed, because what it really needs, to justify its very existence, let alone its cost, is to have inserted into its electronic innards the app of apps, the Hooting Yard app.
When you have worked out what it will do, let me know, and I will tell the interns, by way of a note scribbled in pencil on a scrap of paper rolled up and sent through pneumatic tube down to the cellar.