In the days before twenty-four hour telly we kids would have to find many ways to entertain ourselves through the long summer break between school years. Nostalgia tells me that the weather was better then but only just; let’s face it, it couldn’t have been much worse.

My parents had a stereo record player and a collection of vinyl discs that represented something of their youth. We would listen to singles and albums, giving scores to each track as if we were experts on a TV programme.

After we had travelled down Penny Lane and boarded the Chattanooga Choo Choo (they had eclectic tastes) we would turn to an odd collection of records that contained the spoken word.

One of my favourites on offer was a record containing the radio shows of Tony Hancock. Much of the material was a little too subtle for a young mind to conceive but I recall laughing at lines about a pint of blood being ‘very nearly an armful’.

On the edition entitled ‘The Radio Ham’, Hancock relishes in the benefits of the latest technology allowing ordinary folk the opportunity of speaking to others via short wave radio. After asking a few people from as far away as the east Asia ‘What is the weather like?’ he muses on how he has made connection with so many people that he has never met.

‘Marvellous!’ he exclaims ‘To think I have friends all around the world’ because of this communicative invention. After a short pause he says, ‘None round here mind, but hundreds around the world’.

Today our children have much more to occupy their waking hours and so it is not surprising that many will not even know what short wave radio is never mind be aware of the comedy of Tony Hancock.

My girls have all joined Face Book on the internet; think personal scrapbook that you can share with others in a micro second. They show their favourite photographs to each other, comment on their lives, and join groups of others wishing to save the rain forest or ban quiche from Britain’s dining tables (there really is such a group).

Encouraged by their excitement, and the fact that we have heard of other wrinklies who have ventured into this brave new world, my wife and I signed up.

The basic idea is that you enter details about yourself on what is effectively your personal page and then you invite others to agree to be your friends. All of those who respond to your request can then see your information and you in return can see theirs.

Once the connections are made you are then offered friendships with the friends of your friends resulting in a list of people on your page that grows by the day; should you wish to accept them. Added to this list you can search for other people that you may have known from school and invite them to be connected to you as well.

My daughters have hundreds of names on their lists and I have regularly seen people who have in excess of five hundred people connected to their page.

During the time that you are on-line a box will appear giving you a list of other associates who are connected at the same time as you. You can then have a conversation with them by typing messages and waiting for replies.

So if you have a friend in Japan and want to know what the weather is like you no longer need to resort to short wave radio.

My wife has already amassed over one hundred names on her list and, for the record, I am running at about thirty.

It is not that Mrs M is more popular it is just that I am more selective in how I let my group grow – at least that is what I tell myself.

So what of those who have in excess of five-hundred friends? You have to ask what quality of relationships they are agreeing too.

Perhaps the danger is the same as with short wave radio; Hundreds of friends around the world………….but none round here.

No comments: