Granotechnology

In which The Author coins a new word
for an old phenomenon

We all know what nanotechnology is – the manipulation of matter at the molecular level. I’ve sure most of us are also familiar with GRANOTECHNOLOGY, even if we don’t know it yet. It’s the sort of technological advance which seems perfectly obvious to young people, but which your elderly relatives simply can’t get to grips with.
My late grandmother was a victim of Granotechnology for many years. Even as children, my brother and I could never figure out why the newsreaders on her old Sony Trinitron set had an unhealthy green tinge to their complexions.
On Saturday lunchtimes we’d go up to visit Mams’s flat. She’d make us lunch and we’d watch the wrestling on World of Sport. It was proper wrestling, with Big Daddy and Mick McManus and Giant Haystacks, and Kent Walton commentating – not the US-style Mr Gay Universe contest it’s become in recent years. But all the colours seemed to have run, and we found it a weird psychedelic experience. Maybe the pop man was spiking the cherryade before he delivered it around the village. You never know …
Several years ago, my mother, Mams and I set off for a drive on a weekday afternoon in summer. We had no particular place to go – we just pointed the car north and drove. We came to Brecon, but we were all fed up of Brecon, so we carried on the A470. At Erwood we stopped for a breather and cup of coffee. The former station building had been converted into a tea room and craft shop. We sat outside, on the disused line which is now a pleasant forest walk, drinking lovely filter coffee and munching home-made cakes. I wonder if it’s still open.
We stayed on the A470 until we got to Builth Wells. It’s nothing much, unless the Royal Welsh Show is on, but it was somewhere new. It seemed to be closed for a half-holiday. Maybe it’s always like that. We got back in the car and carried on driving.
Next stop was Llandrindod Wells. A pretty enough town, a Victorian spa resort doing its best to be a Welsh Cheltenham, which also seemed to be on a half-holiday. It might have been just a Powys thing. We spotted a road sign to Machynlleth. At the time, the town’s name was a bit of a running joke in the family, because it was always on the Welsh news and it always seemed to be unnecessarily unpronounceable.
I said, ‘We’re only so-and-so miles from Machynlleth.’
Mother looked at the sign as well and said, ‘We’re only {so-and-so + 10} miles from Aberystwyth.’ So off we went …
Considering that the A470 is the major link road between north and south Wales, it was little better than a farm track in places. We were stacked up for ages in Llangurig, while a lorry tried to negotiate the dog-leg junction in the centre of the village.
Eventually we were on our way, and we arrived in Aberystwyth mid-afternoon. We parked up quite near the station and decided we’d better phone home. Mother’s sister used to make tea for Mams every evening, so she’d be concerned if she couldn’t get an answer from the flat. We fed 10p after 10p into the payphone near the station, trying to convince Jean that we weren’t pulling her leg, and that we were actually a hundred miles away overlooking Cardigan Bay. Eventually, Mother hung up the phone and the coins dropped through the mechanism into the secure box beneath.
Mams’s eyes lit up as the money rattled into the safe.
‘Ooh, Steve, we’ve won the jackpot!’
In that moment, I realised with a cold shiver that GRANOTECHNOLOGY was going to threaten our civilisation!
On the way back, it struck again. I was in the passenger seat, with Mams sitting in the back. We were cruising fairly steadily on a straight stretch of the A470.
Mams leaned forward and whispered, ‘Is your mother asleep, bach?’
Mother burst out laughing. ‘I know it’s an automatic car, Mam, but it’s not that good!’
Granotechology again!
A few years later, I was visiting Mams when Mother phoned me. I took my mobile out and answered it (as you do) while Mams watched in amazement.
After I said I was in the flat, I said, ‘I’ll put Mams on for you.’
I held the phone out to Mams and she looked as though I was offering her a copy of her own death warrant to sign.
‘Just talk into it, Mams.’
She took the devil’s instrument from me and held it to her ear, while I tried my hardest not to laugh.
After a few querulous hellos, Mams gave it back to me with an apologetic expression.
‘I can’t hear anything, bach.’ She pointed to her house phone. ‘Put it through on there for me.’
GRANOTECHNOLOGY!
When my friends Dominic and Anita bought a new VHS, they offered me the old one. They explained that Dominic’s niece had managed to jam a tape inside it, but if I could get the tape out I was welcome to have it. I knew a few guys who work in electronics factories, so I figured one of them could probably come up with a solution. As it transpired, I didn’t need any help. I took it home, removed the cover, found the cause of the problem (Abbie had put the tape in upside-down!) and in a few minutes it was good to go. Now I had to explain its operation to Dad. I decided to Keep It Simple, Stupid. I showed him how to put the tape in and watch a film, and how to retrieve the tape at the end. That was it! I knew just how far to go …
My mother is now a grandmother in her own right, and has started turning into a victim of Granotechnology. Even using the cashpoint – all of which are variations on a basic theme – is a major task at times. Unless the options are in the same order, and in the same place on the screen, Mother will need Technical Support (i.e. me) to draw £10 out. Anything more advanced than that forty year old innovation will leave her floundering.
A few years ago Mother was going to Ireland with the choir, but she was understandably nervous about leaving the house empty for three days. I suggested that she bought one of those lampholders that switches a light on and off automatically – thus giving the appearance that the house is occupied. We duly bought a security light switch and took it back to Mother’s house. I set it up in one of the lamps in the living room, to activate at random (the best setting for an unoccupied house) and left her to it.
A couple of days later, Mother knocked my door.
‘I can’t make out what’s going on with that lamp,’ she said. ‘It’s got a mind of its own!’
‘That’s the whole point,’ I replied.
Once we stopped laughing, I realised in horror that my own mother – still physically active and mentally sound – had become a victim of Granotechnology.
One of my friends has a young granddaughter, and as such has been stricken with Early-Onset Granotechnology. She’s had a couple of computers over the years, but still manages to kill a printer within a matter of months. She has a DVD player, but rarely watches films as neither she nor her husband are sure how the player works. She recently acquired a new mobile phone – one with all the bells and whistles, which makes mine look every inch the Paper Age artefact it really is. The difference is, I know how mine works!
Owing to an unfortunate husband-related incident, the cable necessary to transfer photos between phone and PC is broken. Last week, glancing through the Argos catalogue, I spotted a USB Bluetooth adapter for less than a tenner. It was perfect for my friend’s requirements, so I asked her if her phone supported Bluetooth.
‘It must do,’ she said. ‘I’ve got some sort of cable with a box attached, maybe that’s something to do with it.’
I tried to explain that the whole point of Bluetooth is to do away with the wires, but she insisted it was something to do with the phone. Eventually, we went back to her place and she gave me the hands-free kit which had been in the box.
Granotechnology strikes again!
My cousin from London teaches in a school which has recently upgraded its IT systems. She’s offered my mother an old PC. I’ve got a horrible feeling I’ll be on Tech Support 24/7 for a while until she finds her way around it. Probably the first year or so should do it …
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