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Digital 60

You are in: Manchester > Science > Digital 60 > 24 hours without chips

24 hours without chips

Are we too dependent on our mobiles and laptops? For the 60th anniversary of the world’s first modern computer, we set Manchester businessman Tim Panton a lo-tech challenge: to spend a whole day without using a single microchip. See how he got on:

Tim Panton at his desk

Lo-tech: Tim swaps laptop for pen and paper

7.30 - Bleep! Bleep! Digital alarm clock wakes me up and then I remember. Aaaarrgh!  I’m meant to be spending the day without using a single microchip and I've failed already. Must do better. Head to the bathroom and stop with hand on the hot tap: the boiler has a microchip so boil a kettle instead for a wash and shave. Momentary panic as I’m leaving the house without my mobile phone. Feels weird.

8.30 - take train to Oxford Road train station but thwarted by electronic barriers. Stand there looking confused until ticket official takes pity on me and lets me through.

8.45 - walk to work on Whitworth Street West but can’t get in the building. Normally buzz upstairs to open the door. More standing around waiting until someone lets me in and take the stairs.

9.15 - Get ready for trip to London. Collect papers I printed off yesterday along with tube map of how to get there. Spent ten minutes looking for my pencil! No mobile to check the time? What’s the time? I have to keep asking people.

11.30 - Conference call with Illona about strategy to take at next meeting. It goes well. I think I focus better away from a computer screen.

12:00 - Planning session with Georgia in the office – she thinks I make more sense unplugged. Spending more time on sofa in office, talking to people. Kind of like it.

13:30 - Help Birgit with technical problems. Have to resist using her computer – talk through the problem instead. Think we have it solved.

14:00 - Read call for papers for computer security summit in Malaysia. Start to plan conference but in an abstract way. Weird to be writing about internet telephony in longhand!

15:15 - Took train to London – paid cash which got me a strange look. Train stops for 5 mins a ‘reset’!! Bet the Flying Scotsman never did that. Read paper on train. Good thing I remembered to buy one. Normally read BBC News Online during the week.

17:20 – Arrived Euston. Occurs to me that I’m untraceable for the first time in years. No mobile switched on, paid for ticket in cash. But then I remember the CCTV. I’m still firmly on the grid.

17:30 – Down in the tube station, sorely tempted to use Oyster Card to avoid queues and pay less. Tsk! Bought ticket at desk then bottled out of asking harassed man to open gate so put it through the machine. Wimp. Another challenge failed.

18:00 – Went ot Seed Fund BBQ – felt very odd not having a laptop/ mobile.
Ate at BBQ – great that my bag was lighter than usual – plus no laptop to worry about. Had to ask several people the time; in the end, I left later than planned, panicked and hailed a cab. Would I have been cooler with a watch?

Talked to lots of people about but there weren’t nearly enough investors there for it to be worth the trip. Lots of people interested in the challenge though – but most looked blank about ‘Baby’ and the 60th anniversary.

21:00 – Watch the scramble on train to get seats near the plugs – Ha! Not my problem today. Feel strong urge to communicate with friends or family while waiting for train to leave. Normally I’d be texting or on Facebook. But not this evening. Back to my book – have to concentrate. No iPod to block out other people’s mobile phone conversations!


"Overall, I failed but I enjoyed the chance to talk more and type less. I’m a bit worried that I’ll have a backlog of texts and emails to deal with in the morning – and that’s without even thinking about having to type this lot up.

If I do it again, I’ll a buy a watch first!"

Tim Panton works for, a Manchester-based business promoting the integration of speech in internet communication. 

last updated: 20/06/2008 at 13:42
created: 20/06/2008

You are in: Manchester > Science > Digital 60 > 24 hours without chips

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