FeaturesSize Matters: newer is smaller (expect when it's bigger)

Size Matters: newer is smaller (expect when it’s bigger)

If you ever want to feel like you’re living in the future, root around in your cupboards for an hour and see what it’s like to spend 24 hours relying on technology you thought was impossibly cutting-edge when you were about ten.  I did, so I’m composing this on a steam-powered typewriter, and will transmit the finished product to Gallery Towers by means of semaphore and carrier pigeon.  I hope to see it published on Ceefax as soon as possible.

Just one day spent using an early mobile phone, analogue camera or ‘vintage’ CRT television will produce both massive irritation and an eerie sense of everything being slightly out of scale.  Phones, cameras and computers have become miniscule, lightweight things that are faster and quieter than ever before – whereas cars, televisions and Super Soaker water pistols have swollen to a scale better suited to Andre the Giant.


Have you seen a Mini recently? It’s more or less the same shape, and seats the same number of people, but the designers have seen fit to inflate it til it has assumed the proportions of a steel midget on anabolic steroids.  There’s a lot of them in town, and every time I see one I expect circus music to start playing and a parade of chromed clowns to start pouring out the side door.
I’d generally assumed that the future would contain cars that were smaller, safer and lighter, but then I remind myself that I don’t live in Tokyo but in Jersey, where we are steadily working towards total gridlock in the mornings so that stressed executives and their trophy wives can spend quality time with the kids amidst the roiling fug of carbon monoxide belched out by their inappropriate offroad vehicles.

If only the same principles behind mobile phone design could be applied to cars.  They’d be about as wide as a supermarket trolley and constructed entirely from carbon fibre, although it’s also true that they’d probably stop working as soon as you drive through a valley, and you’d need to turn your diesel roaming off every time you went to the UK unless you wanted to arrive home to a bill the size of the UK’s budget deficit.


I held off from buying a smartphone for so long that I’ve turned into one of those idiots who coos over my iPhone like it’s an especially clever baby, but I expect the next model will leave my current phone looking so fat, inadequate and outdated that I will be crippled with shame until I sell one of my kidneys and trade it in for another dose of Apple’s shiny crack.  Electronic technology is like a supermodel – it has to become lighter and thinner just to prove itself, whereas vehicles are more like Jordan – the more cartoonishly pumped-up, stupid and poisonous they become the more profitable they are.

For my money, the new average size of televisions and computers is the real proof that I live in Tomorrow’s World.  More sensible futurists might put forward ‘vastly increased life expectancy’ and ‘human understanding of quantum physics’, but I doubt those people grew up fantasising about a Nintendo that could do more than 64 colours or owning their own Laserdisc machine.

My current television is so large that I can see right up Jeremy Kyle’s nose and into his tiny, hate-filled brain, and comes with the ability to stream at least a million channels across the internet in a resolution that makes my eyes throw up.  It’s lucky that most of them are religious channels from Mozambique or repeats of Babestation, as the TV uses enough power over the weekend to light up an African hospital for a month.

My computer, on the other hand, is like a sleek silver robot that has sex with my brain, guiding me across the internet in my ceaseless search for news, music and videos of The Crystal Maze.  It is quiet, slim and beautiful, awash with vivid colours and so precisely engineered that it feels like it was dug up by explorers on the planet Mars.  My first computer looked like it was constructed from ugly Soviet Lego and smelled of burning wires, whereas this manages to be larger and more powerful whilst feeling unobtrusive, calming and even kind.  Reading that last sentence back, and can see clearly that this machine is so enhanced that it’s stealthily reprogramming my suggestible mind, but I don’t care, because it’s so efficient I can author six spreadsheets just by stroking a bit of metal and winking suggestively at the webcam.


So what’s next for technology? How can things possibly get any larger or indeed smaller unless they start moving backwards? Despite the best efforts of ridiculous hipsters to pretend they live two decades in the past, I don’t expect there’s much market for tiny televisions or chunky mobiles that make the hairs on your testes fall off.  Instead, I expect to be the proud owner of a television so stupidly gigantic that it wraps round most of my living room and into the toilet, pumping enough BBC iPlayer into my tired brain that solid lumps of coagulated panel show start dripping from my nose whilst I’m asleep at my desk.

I expect an iPhone so tiny that I have to swallow it each day like a birth control pill, or jam it into my eyeball like a disposable contact lens so it can beam Twitter straight onto my brain and block out sensory input from all non-Apple brands and any humans whose DNA is copyrighted by Microsoft.  That will probably mean I can’t even see the massive TV any more, causing Sony to dispatch PS5 robot death squads to Applestan, whilst the Googleplex simultaneously becomes self-aware and decides that Youtube comments are conclusive proof that humanity must be cleansed with thermonuclear fire.

Our tombstone will be a line of cars from Wellington Hill to the bottom of Mont Millais, each one the size of a monster truck and containing a family of atrophied pod-people who’ve been queuing to enter Bagatelle Lane since the great ice age of 2112.  Future civilisations of mutant seagulls will dig them up and wonder, although the subtle mysteries of human art, love and the location of all the secret eggs in Angry Birds will be lost in time, like tears in rain.

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