Device and Desires

All the big guns want an iPhone killer. Even I, mad for all things Apple as I am, want an iPhone killer. I want smart digital devices to be as good as mankind’s ingenuity can make them. I want us eternally to strive to improve and surprise. Bring on the iPhone killers. Bring them on.

YOU might, somewhere along the way, have picked up the impression that I am a passionate Mac advocate: I bought my first 128K machine in 1984, the second Macintosh to be sold in the UK – at least so I’ve always maintained and believed (the first went to the still desperately missed Douglas Adams) and I have never had fewer than ten working Macs on the go since the late 80s. It is true that I value both the platform and the hardware, that I admire the imagination, flair, elegance, quality and pioneering spirit of the Apple corporation. All quite true.


I have, over the past twenty years been passionately addicted to all manner of digital devices, Mac-friendly or not; I have gorged myself on electronic gismos, computer accessories, toys, gadgets and what-have-yous of all descriptions, but most especially what are now known as SmartPhones. PDAs, Wireless PIMs, call them what you will. My motto is:

I have never seen a SmartPhone I haven’t bought

After all, the Mac itself was founded on a notional smart device, the Dynabook, fruit of the many brains of the legendary Xerox Palo Alto Research Centre (PARC). The Dynabook concept gave us the WIMP user interface, (Windows, Icons, Mice, Pull down menus) and thence the Apple Lisa and its successor, the Macintosh. The Dynabook was a posited form, a notional device that would deliver information to its user with the greatest ease and intuitive functionality. As a result of this mission statement, the command code line found in all standard computing of the time was made to yield to a Graphical User Interface (GUI). Apple took up the call (poached some PARC staff) and produced the Mac OS; IBM and latterly MS took years and years to get the message. But that is how the GUI was born, out of a quest for a better relationship between man and machine, individual and digital device.

Whether you talked into it, stroked it, operated a stylus or pointing device the essence of the Dynabook was not that it might actually be built (technology in the 1970s couldn’t begin to provide such an object, nor indeed can it now) but to predicate a useful Platonic Ideal. The Device. The Chosen One. One Electronic Object To Rule Them All. Like any Platonic ideal, it cannot ever exist: to postulate its existence is enough to set clever people on the right path to creating remarkable technologies that contribute to the digital world and our interactions with it. It is in this sense the computer designer’s Holy Grail – the adventures, romances and interior quests along the way are what counts – the Grail itself will always be out of reach. We are getting closer however. A single handheld device that can summon up a vast repository of human knowledge, communicate with anyone, tell you to within five meters where on the planet you are, take and show photographs, record and play music, send and receive vox or data communications; a device you can speak into and that can speak to you, a device that you can manipulate without fiddly controls or technical knowledge, a juke-box, a cinema, a radio, a library, a community centre, a parish pump, the school gates and the city university. Not considered to be computers, although computers is most assuredly what they are, these devices are for the moment designated SmartPhones, and it is on them that I wish to discourse and expatiate in an entirely disinterested (if you think I mean uninterested, think again and look up the difference) and mostly non-technical way.

Of course, this essay, if it can be described as such, is a response to the rise and rise of the SmartPhone, as most publicly trumpeted a few weeks ago with the arrival of Apple’s iPhone. I am not here to laud or review that device however, it has had enough publicity and I really want you to believe that, Apple addict as I am, my eyes have always been open to the virtues of anything good, exciting, functional, elegant, pleasing to use. In fact the real precipitating reason for writing this is the fact that within three weeks I have bought/been sent, aside from my iPhone (which, yes, I dearly love), three soi-disant ‘iPhone killers’ – the HTC Touch, the Nokia E90 and the Sony Ericsson P1i. While I don’t intend fully to review, road-test or benchmark each device (as if I could, anyway), I do want to share my thoughts about where these devices appear to be going. (I’m not even going to mention outside these parentheses the LG Prada phone, that’s an iPhone beater in the same way Tim Henman is a Federer beater).

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This blog was posted in Blessays and Techblog

223 comments on “Device and Desires”

  1. raid517 says:

    # raid517 Says:
    September 25th, 2007 at 11:22 am

    Dear Stephen,

    you are among one of my most admired Englishmen (perhaps it may seem unjust for me to say this, as actors and comedians are not quite of perhaps the same degree of importance to our society as say a doctor, or a nurse, or someone of a similar background – or at least without wishing to be mean I am sometimes led to wonder about this). However you encapsulate everything that is quietesentally English for me – and your wit, charm, good humour and your endurance through what sometimes seem to have been very difficult and dark times for you have been quite inspirational to me.

    But my God Stephen, what a geek you are! I am utterly shocked at the sheer range and extent of your knowledge of the entire geek universe. Your knowledge (and certainly your passion) in many ways surpasses even my own – and have been working within the industry for the last 20 years.

    Certainly if you ever decided to give up your acting career there is likely to be a post beaconing for you among many of the larger technology and gadget sites on the net. Perhaps it might not seem as glamorous as acting – but it might at least serve to satiate your addiction (and ease your bank balance) by ensuring that you have all of the latest gadgets for free – and what’s more you will have them before anyone else.

    As for blogging, I am embarrassed perhaps for both myself and for some of the others here who have displayed a less than commanding mastery of the English language than your own (I am certain I am no exception in this regard and that I have already committed several unforgivable grammatical crimes that will hold my own comments an equally poor light), but I do hope that this does not dissuade you from blogging on other technology related matters in the future – as your command of this subject is both as entertaining and insightful (if not more so) than any subject I have heard you speak of in the past.

    Thank you for such an entertaining review – and I am pleased that you did not give my own mobile powerhouse of choice (Nokia N95) such a terrible rating – although I agree that for such a powerful device the non QWERTY keyboard was a bizarre design decision.

    Perhaps one day we will have the perfect all-in-one hand-held device that does everything that we as humans desire to manage our increasingly busy and frenetic lives – but I do think that powerful and influential voices like yours are needed in order to guide those in a position to take us to that point in the appropriate direction.

  2. jonmul says:

    Thanks Stephen for your thoughts, very much enjoyed the read.

    Some S60 related links you may be interested in if you haven’t already come across them;

    Jaiku – very impressive micro blogging / lifestreaming service ran via web and a really cool s60 mobile client. Jaiku (including the free mobile app) is here – and a good review / interview with the founders here –

    S60 threaded SMS – Nokia Beta Labs released a pretty good app this week called ‘Conversation’. Available to download here –


    Jon (

  3. Phil M says:

    Thanks for the informative overview. Not much of a one for all-singing, all-dancing devices myself, but agree that the iPhone is the one that stands the best chance of getting it right at the mo.

    Glad to see a blast of the trumpet for the much-lamented Psion family of devices, by the way.

    Thanks for all that you do, Stephen (if I may?) to make life interesting – looking forward to future posts.

    All good wishes…

  4. mikeguru says:

    Brilliant, Stephen!

    As a long time Mac user and technology “geek”, I was not only impressed with your long litany of owned devices, but also your familiarity with their underlying technologies and inherent weaknesses. Although I found your blog by accident, (linked from AppleInsider), I’m feeling privileged to have found you. I must confess I’m unfamiliar with your films, but I will now seek out your work in other areas outside this blog. As one of the few “Yanks” to post here, I wanted to comment on yours and the other Brits’ superb use of language here – so much of what we here in the U.S. are forced to endure daily sounds mostly like “Valley Girls” at work – embarrasing! Your eloquence, intelligence and wit is refreshing – it reminds me of that TV show on BBC “Top Gear”. Those chaps not only know cars, but more importantly, they know how to make them interesting – even the putrid ones! You guys always make me laugh.

    A few observations (IMHO) about cell phones and so-called “SmartPhones”. The best cell phone design I’ve ever used was the Nokia 6310i. We have long lamented their decision to not make a color version of this excellent handset. It was the right size, right shape, right weight, had no annoying antenna “stub”, and its keys’ tactile feel and spacing were perhaps the best ever on a cell phone. It was ideally suited for rapid text messaging. Accessing the contacts was easy and intelligently designed (the word “intuitive” best describes the experience). Battery life was outstanding. The sound was loud and clear. Of course, it was not a “SmartPhone” by any estimation, and it had storage limitations that were a product of the time. I still have mine (an unlocked GSM model), and will never get rid of it. I also owned a Sony/Ericsson T68i. Small, cute, and capable, but also limited in its capabilities. Possibly one of the first color, Tri-Band GSM, Bluetooth equipped phones.

    Like you, I’ve also used a variety of PDAs over the years, and longed for the merging of the two technologies into one device. Imagine my joy upon learning of the Treo 650’s release 2 years ago – it should have been the “match made in heaven”. Well, most Treo 650 owners will tell you this is definitely NOT the case. As a replacement for my Nokia 3660 and Palm Tungsten C, it has failed miserably. To say the device is “flakey” is an understatement! Random resets, often in the middle of calls, touchiness with third-party apps, lousy sound on the phone, and unreliable synching (with a MacBook Pro) have forced me to seek a replacement once the current contract with Verizon (via a stinking third-party reseller) has expired.

    My ecstasy should have been guaranteed with the announcement of the iPhone – an Apple product, VISUAL VOICE MAIL(!), and all the rest. Well, “the blush is off the rose” now, only this time (fortunately) I HAD to wait to buy (aforementioned contract). Glad I did. Will “version 2″ have the main features everyone acknowledges are conspicuously absent in the first one? Only time will tell . . .


  5. robjbrad says:

    Thank you for your honest admission of smartphone addiction, I feel like less of a social pariah knowing I’m not alone…

  6. zenbubblegum says:

    Those “short bursts of time between filming” must have got longer. Maybe it was more like short bursts of filming between time.

  7. chrisntr says:

    Hi Stephen, to make the background of your website background more appealing, if you change line 24 in your style.css page from:
    background:#FFFFFF url(images/kubrickbgcolor.jpg) repeat scroll 0%;
    background:#FFFFFF url(images/kubrickbgcolor.jpg) repeat fixed 0%;
    it will keep the background the same down the page rather than it repeating itself. Just a suggestion.
    Very nice blog post though :)


  8. boyo69 says:

    Mr Fry, you are so extremely right !!!!!!!

    as a confirmed gadget nut, i cannot agree with you more that the Utopia of Smartphone needs to arrive………..yet cynically, i believe this is what the manufacturers desire, every customer to eagerly wait (and subsequently buy!) the next model in the vain hope it is one more micro-step advanced than the model before!!!

    currently i have the Tytn II (HTC Kaiser) – mainly as it has crammed every known method of comms into one unit (GPS, HSDPA/3G/GPRS, WLAN, BT blah blah blah) and it looks great with its slidy keyboard and tilt………….but you know what? i have had it for 2 weeks so maybe it is time to start looking around………..AAAAAARRRGGHHHH….. its happening again !!

    great blog, glad i have found it, looking forward to reading more of your intelligent thoughts!!

    stay healthy, lucky and technical !


    ps loved that Norfolk series you did !!!

  9. timbowes says:

    I have a mobile phone and a house full of gadgets. My phone isn’t very cutting-edge—while colleagues boast of integrated MP3 players, digital cameras, Bluetooth, colour screens and whatever else, the only novel feature I can discern on mine is an LED torch—but still, I have a mobile phone and numerous gadgets like it.

    Thus when I speak of my concern about the cost of our wants, I do not do so as an untainted Luddite living the purist lifestyle—but as a rather uncomfortable technophile instead. Still, it is true to say that the realisation of the cost of our wants pains me. If only I could sustain that concern.

    It has been said that the new iPhone contains three times the quantity of tantalum than the next leading brand—it is used to manufacture capacitors which maintain the flow of current in electronic devices.

    Tantalum is refined from colombo-tantalite, which is mined from three billion-year-old soils such as those found in the “Democractic Republic of the Congo” which holds 80% of the world’s deposits.

    In the mid-1990s, Ugandan and Rwandan forces moved into the Congolese regions that have the highest mining yields, took control of them and continue to maintain a monopoly there, making them in excess of $20 million dollars a month from colombo-tantalite mining.

    No, your memory is not failing you. There has indeed been a bloody war in the region involving nine African nations and directly affecting the lives of 50 million people. Between August 1998 and April 2004 when most of the fighting occurred it is estimated that 3.8 million people died. Given the extent of its mineral exports you would think the Democratic Republic of the Congo would be one of the wealthiest countries on the earth, but instead it is one of the most impoverished.

    Our desire, our want for the latest gadget—even when the latest gadget does not add any value over the models it replaced—is fuelling this conflict, even if we hate to acknowledge it. Even if the tantalum in the iPhone were derived from Columbia, the demand for coltan naturally maintains the mining frenzy in Congo.

    So you need a new mobile phone because your old phone is broken? Buy a second-hand replacement; it will probably still be next-to-new given that some of my colleagues get a new phone every three months.

    You own an MP3 player, you own a mobile phone, you own a PDA. So why do you need an iPhone? Why are we so sold on the perpetual upgrade? Why? Not everyone knows about iBlood, but we all know that resources are limited. Even if we can’t envisage a link between the gadget in our pocket and the blood on our hands, we can clearly appreciate the link to the squander of resources.

    Think Different.

  10. taffysaint says:

    Firstly, apologies if a lot of what i have to say is already covered – there are well in excess of 200 comments and I kind of lost the will to read them all! (which probably means you won’t get this far either! lol!).

    Anyway, thanks for making an attempt at objectivity – I know that sounds quite insulting but I find dealing with the Cult of Mac quite difficult – it is the closest thing to religious fanaticism the tech world has! But equally, until yesterday I would have disagreed on many of your comments on the HTC SmartPhones.

    I’ve been patiently waiting for the new HTC TyTN II for a good while now, not being very interested in the iPhone. (I’ll be as brief as I can here). It kept getting delayed on my network, so I waited with anticipation for Apple’s iPhone announcement -only to discover that they are treatingt he European market as an afterthought.

    Apple are very good at marketing, particularly they are good at marketing a mentality amongst their fanbase – the mentality being ‘if Apple don’t offer it, I can’t possibly need it’. This is a massive achievement for a technology firm. An Example – the iPhone is clearly just a US port – in the US they have an extensive EDGE network – essentially a spit and string solution to mobile broadband. in Europe, most major networks dropped 2.5G as a viable future some years ago in favout of 3 and 3.5G networks. Apple’s response? ‘We have EDGE (30% coverage in the UK) and Wi-Fi’. So to be clear – they want me to take my mobile communications device to a specific area where can connect to a local network in order for me to connect to the web? riiiiiiiiggghht!

    Camera – 2MP, no lighting adjustment and, amazingly, no MMS! – Apple? ‘You can email it, you don’t need MMS’…….or video apparently.

    The list goes on, it is essentially a 2-3 year old phone with a very sophisticated and prettty interface and look.

    I decided against HTC for a couple of reasons, one was because I had clearly gotten used to windows mobiles and that perhaps was not a good thing and secondly I was getting impatient. I ended up getting an N95 – more out of frustration than anything else! But I have to say i don’t think you’ve done it justice – after 24 hours I am increasingly impressed with a device I thought would be ‘OK’. It has an amazing camera which will upload direct to blogs/email/flickr/vox. I can subscribe to podcasts and download to the phone directly, thanks to 3G. It syncs wirelessly with my PC, it has GPS – it is in short probably the best phone I’ve had since the original Nokia bricks all those years ago.

    Interface wise – as always Apple win hands down, I’m not an idiot! It just surprises me that a company like Apple, which is always about the shiniest newest tech, is palming this decidedly not very smart device off as something new because it really isn’t. The N95 is quite pretty I think, the buttons are a little fiddly and the interface is little more than OK – but I’d rather have an OK interface connected to lots of cool stuff I can do in lots different ways than an amazing interface on a beautiful device that only does a few things – all of them in a ‘Mother knows best’ way.

  11. Hallainzil says:

    222 comments… Are you still reading them? Very possibly not – you are, after all, a busy man.

    However, whether or not you ever read this is beside the point, the sentiments which I am about to express still hold:

    Thank you! Thank you for posting a fun, well written, insightful, balance, rational critique on:
    a) anything at all – to read what you write is a joy that reminds of reading Douglas Adams articles – RIP Douglas.
    b) an industry (if it can be called that) that has had no rationalisation of its action, much to its detriment. If I were a half decent manager at SE, Nokia etc I’d be making this my business plan.

    Thanks again, and I’m delighted to see a second post – keep them coming, and the longer the better!

  12. gusto says:

    Fabulous analysis of the iPhone and other PDA things. The over-riding REALLY USEFUL thing for me, however, is completely reliable push email – which means, somewhat against my better judgement, that I’m stuck with a Crackberry. You don’t mention this. If the iPhone had this I could cope with other shortcomings…is there a good reason why it can’t do this?
    (I know you have a day job, but, now, suddenly, you’re everyone’s tech advisor too…

  13. jasonkneen says:


    Thank you for the mention of (my site) although I have to say I now feel completely ashamed that it’s gone for so long without an update.

    Revoworld came out of my passion for Psion organisers back in the days when I believed Psion had the PDA market sewn up. The Series 3 was almost perfect – a combination of a unique design and simple, usable software. The 3a built on that as did the 3c (when the UK eventually got the backlit edition).

    I agree that the Series 5 was a bit of a let down although I have to say that the S5 did launch my shareware career with apps like Backlite+ and Extrabars which helped me fund many gadgets for years to come ;)

    The Revo I thought was a pretty cool device. It had aspects of the Series 5 but without the tarnish of the poor display quality. This of course was down to the lack of backlight on the Revo which enhanced the screen ten-fold over the series 5.

    (Ironically I actually got my hands on the prototype Revo that was backlit and had bluetooth but was scrapped just prior to Psion UK going the way of the Dodo)

    For me, Psion *had* the right concept – a base platform that worked and a 3rd party developer network that delivered high quality applications. The real trick for me was the fact that one could develop, test AND deploy applications on the devices themselves. No desktop development tools were necessary (although with EPOC32 you could develop on the PC using an emulator).

    I could develop applications like Extrabars on the Series 5 itself whilst I was commuting into London. I could write the code, test it, compile it, built it into SIS install files, ZIP it into a deployment file with a readme.txt and then upload it to a web server (using a dogdy lead and phone connection).

    This is what is lacking now with Windows Mobile devices and the definately the iPhone. With WM devices you have to use the development kits on the PCs and with the iPhone you either have to develop Safari based applications or produce non approved 3rd party applications that can be wiped/disabled with the next firmware update – not good.

    Apple for me have made a classic mistake with the iPhone in not opening it up to 3rd party developers. I believe the success of platforms is the 3rd party developers producing high quality applications. Ultimately the Psion organisers failed because they didn’t go for the “bling” of the Windows CE devices of the time. Potter in his infinite wisdom decided that colour screens were not good due to battery consumption (much like Apple is doing with 3G and battery life) and so didn’t put colour screens in Psion organisers.

    The iPhone is a great device but in the UK it’s severly lacking. It needs MMS, 3G and other features we’re used to seeing. It’s also aimed at the wrong people over here. Who wants to spend 250 quid and 35 quid per month for 18 months?
    Imagine buying a MacBook and only having Apple software on it. No 3rd party applications whatsoever. That’s what the iPhone is – a closed system and as a result you WILL get people trying to hack it. Apple will spend time and money trying to stop this and yet all of this could be solved by just releasing a controlled and managed API to allow developers to produce approved applications. Crazy.

    Until recently I was still pretty much an EPOC (Symbian) man using the SE P800 and P900 but recently I’ve switched to Windows Mobile and lately the HTC TYTN II. With that I can sync with Exchange and use 3G to surf the web and check email.

    The iPhone does have some appeal but I think I’d like the one from about a year or two down the line that has MMS, 3G/HSDPA and the other features we are so used to.

    Best wishes


  14. matthew says:

    Good job, Stephen. This is one of the most comprehensive looks at smart phones I’ve ever read and could only come out of pure love for all things geeky. I too have been hopelessly following Palm for more about 9 years, although my first phone was not the Treo 180 but the last Handpring model with the phone module plugged in which I actually used as my primary phone for about a year. Anyway, you gave me a happy boost that perhaps, if anyone at Palm is listening, there might be another new Treo model we can actually look forward to.

  15. StarkeHandgelenke says:

    Hello Mr. Fry,

    Being a devout sufferer of Dyslexia (perhaps the most cruelly/amusingly named impairment in all time ever, especially if you do a lot of writing, as I try to), it took me several hours to get through half of your blog/blessay. I look forward to getting through the other half when time permits. Hopefully, for my sake, you will not have expanded upon it by then. Hopefully, for others’ sake, you will have.

    I was directed to your blessay while – unplanned, your understand – (1) Looking on the Internet for information about old Psion machines, (2) Watching television through my left ear (you were making noises on Room 101 and QI), (3) Typing Windows Messenger messages to a friend, informing them of (1) and (2), then (4) Being alerted to (/warned about?) the presence of your website by the person indicated in (3).

    I got through the stuff you wrote about fame, and I thought it was very honest and very engaging – even though I can’t really judge the honesty, because I am not in any way famous. Instinct is a strange thing, isn’t it?

    As a result of reading half (at the time of writing) of your Blog, I have two things to say, so that is what I will do now, or if not now, then in the course of the following words:

    First, I don’t watch much of QI but I have seen some outtakes on YouTube, in which you seem to enjoy twatting on about the English language, and the correct use of same. Quite right, too. Why, then, do you foul your blessay with the use of the term “try and…”? If my language-fascist sources are correct, one does not try “and” do anything. One tries “to” do something. Please attend.

    Unfortunately the second thing I want to say is also an attempt at correcting you – unwise, I know. And to be fair it’s not really a correction. But I skim-read (not easy for a Dyslexic) the second half of your blessay and was disappointed to discover that you wrote less of existential matters (which I think is your forte) and more of techno-twattery (which I think you are nothing more than good at). On one hand you give the impression that Psion’s Series 3 machine was a wonderful thing, and that their series 5 machines were inferior. But then you go on to extol the virtues of the “Epoc” operating system. This belies the fact that the Series 3 operating system was in fact called “SIBO” and the series 5 (which you state was inferior) operating system was called “Epoc”. There, you see? What you wrote is probably correct, but perhaps a little misleading, especially to people that don’t care about such things, which is undoubtedly the majority.

    I would like to conclude with the third and final of the two comments that (the first half of) your blessay inspired in me: I, too, would like to have General Melchett noises on my mobile phone. But my mobile phone doesn’t do customisable noises. Please attend.

    Thank you.

  16. davidmounce says:

    A truly delightful pair of postings, raising the bar very high. Thank you for the entertainment, information and distraction.

  17. ex4thhussar says:

    Dear Stephen
    Forgive me posting on this thread but I merely wished to contact you with regards to your excellent “Who do you think you are?”
    Last night I watched the re-run and spotted something of which you may not have been aware.
    When you are studying the records of the two daughters and one son who perished in the Shoah, did you notice or were you told that in the extreme left hand column of the boy’s entry was the Hebrew name “Pincus” ?
    Best wishes on your excellent Blog.

  18. ex4thhussar says:

    Dear Stephen
    Apologies if I am well “off thread” with this comment but I thought you might like the following piece of info.
    Whilst watching a re-run of your excellent “Who do you think you are?” I spotted something that was not commented on.
    It was during the scene where you were examining old records concerning you mothers family and in particular the two daughters and son that perished in the Shoah.
    In the ledger that you were being shown, did you spot the Hebrew name “Pinkus” written in the extreme left hand column which related to “Paul”?
    With all good wishes and thanks for some compulsive viewing

  19. bjorkiii says:

    Stephen pet could you put a picture of your moustache hairnet on your blog please much appreeshehated garry love ya x x x

  20. Tony says:

    This entry was a revelation to me: I didn’t think you could ever be boring, but, my God, you can. Unspeakably.
    I spend my life at a keyboard and love it but have no interest at all in devices to carry around; my mobile phone is only for occasions when I have broken my leg just below the South Col.

  21. paulfo says:

    Mr Fry – such an perfect evaluation of the past and the present. I really enjoyed reading it, I do hope you’ll start vloging – there is a a huge world out here that would enjoy seeing you apply your talents to real world tech review.
    PS. Orange does give me a delightful EDGE service in Norfolk. Probably because I’m the only one using it.

  22. martin says:

    What a lovely blog. Well done you.

  23. nimbupani says:

    I love what you have written and what people are writing here as comments (some of them at least!). I love the “you” and “me” banter – reminded me of P G Wodehouse’s introductions to his Jeeves books!

  24. bogandken says:

    Hey Mike….(27th September) Liked your speech about your dog….Is it an Irish wolfhound perhaps???? We had one up until a month ago when we lost him to Osteosarcoma.We miss him dreadfully. Sorry for the digression.

  25. Thanks for your blessay (ouch!) on PDAs/phones etc. I remember the Newton with more fondness than you should have for a brick.

    I was moved to do a doodle about you and your smart phones…


  26. conkeringheroine says:

    Mr. Fry, I wonder if you have tried any of the “e-books” and other electronic readers on the market. I presume you have. I have not yet found one which I am happy with as a substitute for a book. Reading is such a sensual pleasure (feel of paper, binding, smell of ink, glue,
    look of typeface, jacket) that I find it hard to convert from an article I clutch to my bosom with passion and comfort to one I recharge from time to time. Your thoughts?

  27. I think the correct term is “Harro-gits”

  28. moomoo123 says:

    hello, this is nothing about mobile phones or gadgets im afraid, all i have is an old razr which is good for what i use it for games and texts lol
    id love to say how wonderful i think stephen is, i dont mean that in an airy fairy way i mean deeply he is as i mentioned today in my own blog
    the bravest man in television and i have an imense amount of respect for him. the new program on bbc 2 ” hiv & me” brought me to tears to think after what we know of the virus and the devestating effects it has on the people who live with it and those that care and love tem. that there are still people out there taking awful risks. i really did cry and my heart goes out to all who are touched buy this and manic depression which i know is a subect also close to mr fry’s heart. as my own husband and a dear friend live with this condition.
    but on tuesdays program there was a girl who was born with hiv contracted from her mother whoalso carries the virus, she was so brave and was doing what i could only dream of if i was ill with it. education i feel is key to preventing and helping those undestand and not ostrisizing those who suffer with such things as hiv/aids or manic depression. so stephen i aplaude your efforts in helping us see that these things are real and we have to take action and love those who live with these disorders. keep up the good work and i hope your having a wondeful day today. lots of love x caz

  29. Ralph Corderoy says:

    Dear Stephen,

    It’s great to see you’re already aware of Ubuntu’s Mobile and Embedded plan. I echo others in suggesting you keep an eye on the OpenMoko spec. and see what hardware comes out of it. The two combined could be quite formidable.

    As for your “Qinky”, I think that must have been your pet name for the Quinkey which connected to the BBC B’s analogue (joystick) port rather than the Centronics (Amphenol really) parallel port which was an upgrade IIRC. It was like the Microwriter except it was designed to interface with the Beeb instead of being standalone. Here’s some pictures to set the memory cells alight.

    I recall you once filmed a bit of Jeeves and Wooster at Computer Concepts’ Gaddesden Place near Hemel Hempstead. Was it their Wordwise+ you used on the Beeb? Fond memories of its 1KiB MODE 7 40×25 Teletext display.

    Back to Ubuntu, their 7.10 release is due out soon. I suspect it’s worth taking another look at it and see what you think. Wouldn’t it make a good base for a modern equivalent of the BBC’s old _Micro Live_ programmes with Fred Harris? Why is there nothing explaining the modern computer to interested people at home, e.g. how DNS works. The home user’s confusion is understandable given Microsoft’s buggered up OS. BTW, you could do worse than chew the cud about your opinion of Ubuntu with Mark Shuttleworth, Ubuntu’s founder. He’s based in London a lot of the time and seems to be someone who gets things done. (The code name for the next Ubuntu release, 8.04 (April 2008) is Hardy Heron, an inspired choice given the Hairy Hard-on Spoonerism!)


    Ralph Corderoy.

  30. dduane says:

    Hi, Stephen! Greetings from another airt of the auctorial blogosphere.

    I was a longtime Nokia Communicator user myself, but got tired of dealing with the poor thing’s Achilles heel — the fact that its antenna ran through the hinge, and when pinched by the hinge in just the wrong way, the Communicator was reduced to the status of the world’s smallest typewriter. My husband gave me a Nokia 6600 a couple/few Christmases ago, but I’m now looking with much geeklust at the iPhone and trying to work out whether I really want it or prefer the Pod, as I have something else for PDA functions that is working happily at the moment….

    …This being the last of the Sony Clie’s. (I leave the “rogue apostrophe” in place because I can’t find the damn e-with-acute-accent at the moment.) They have all the advantages of the Palm OS, God bless it, in a handsome package with a dark/mirrory cover: but are now hard to find as it seems Sony has stopped marketing them to the West. The Clie’ has both WiFi and Bluetooth, a goodish camera — which is sometimes useful as people don’t always expect a PDA to have one, and therefore may not catch you taking piccies you really shouldn’t be taking for one reason or another. Via third-party Palm OS apps, you can also take video with it. And the NetFront browser it comes with is OK (though I tend to use the one that comes with the AvantGo app more myself). Pictures here and here. (This now gets routinely mistaken by some people, at first glance, as an iPhone.)

    Finally, for your possible amusement: a link to a variety of iPod touch that I suspect might appeal to your Inner Geek,. though I’m not sure you could qualify for ownership. :)

    Regards — Diane

    (Afterthought — OMG, what a great title “Devices and Desires” would be for a short story collection… Someone’s used it, surely?)

  31. alansimmo says:

    Dear Stephen,

    As a fellow devotee of ‘Faffing-About ‘with Palm OS, I thought I’d drop you a line to let you and your adoring fans know about Test Match Cricket for Palm, a cricket game-cum-simulator.

    The game lets you captain classic test sides from history against the fiendishly advanced Palm Captain. Or have a go with making up custom teams, say based on your show-biz chums. All endless fun especially on long tedious flights.

    Here’s the link:

    Anyhoo, loved ‘Moab’ and got a big hoot out of your “Short Circuit” story with the electric fence.


    Alan Simpson

  32. demonessinthedark says:

    Dear Stephen,
    I’m not terribly technical minded and when it comes to i-macs and computers and gadgets altogether i get abit lost (which is surprising since im a teenager, were all supposed to know how these things work as soon as we hear about them) but i do love the new i-phone! i think its a great little gadget and i also like the i-phone killer aswell. Its taken me awhile to read this blog since it is incredibly long and not the length of blog im used to reading or writing for that fact, but it is full of useful information and it was a great read on a rainy day which is usually is up here in Scotland.
    This has nothing to do with the blog you have written, but i would like to take this chance to thank you very much. I may only be 16 but you Mr Fry have been an inspiration to me for the past 4 to 5 years of my life. I adore your comedy sketches with Hugh Laurie and also your book writing but the programme you did discovering Bi-polar disorder really changed my life so i thank you greatly.

    I look forward to more wonderful blessays in the near future.

    Take care
    Lauren x

  33. DerekK19 says:

    Thanks Stephen (or since I don’t know you, maybe I should say Mr Fry). I’ve just finished the QI book of general ignorance and my wife gave me printouts (prints out?) of your blog to rip into next. A wonderful read and quite made me forget that the reason I have time to do all this reading is that I’m off work with flu.

    Like many of your respondents, I agree that if you wrote anything that took us less than 30 minute to read, you would be doing us a great disservice.

    Thank you again

  34. Johnny Norfolk says:

    Fucking hell Stephen you dont half go on a bit. buit very interesting. keep it up.

  35. Roger Thornhill says:

    Design is so important, which is why i have loved Apple since ][, bought the first iPod when everyone thought it was just another MP3 player, not getting the entire seamlessness of it all.

    I have a Sony P800 and bought it to programme it in Java and Bluetooth to use my GPS thingy. Bastards at SE had not “finished” the system and chunks of it just did not work. Awful. Nokia S40 has been easier, though – I still have my classic 6610 from 1998, my 6310i from 2002, 6340 and now 6230. I might get a 6500 Classic, but not sure yet.

    p.s. nice to see long, in-depth posts on a blog. Shame TV, even the Beeb is becoming all “preview, snippet, review, preview next snippet, ad, review, preview etc etc” with 5 mins of info in every 20. AAARRRGH!

    p.p.s. is it me or is QI scaling back on the truly trivial factoids? Maybe the demands to entertain!

    Roger Thornhill, Libertarian.

  36. chatty_j says:


    I have nominated this site in the “Best New Blog” category of the 2007 Weblog awards

    Then I thought oops should I have asked first? I am not sure of the netiquette of this.

    As you can infer, I quite like the blog *grin*

  37. paulwalteruk says:

    Tolstoy eat your heart out!

  38. abitoffryandlaurie_hugefan says:

    Silly that Apple would play the iTunes ring-tone game, however, I wanted to point out that a “hack” has been found for that:


  39. merlot50 says:

    Dear Stephen,
    May I say how wonderful and informative I found your website and how enjoyable I found your own blog. It was a pleasue to read. Your recent entry on devices reminded me of a story I heard some time back that I would like to share with you and your readers. It concerns a man walking through the town with two quite heavy plastic bags. A fellow perambeler stopped him to ask if he had the time on his person. “The time”, he said, after raising his left wrist to his eye line “is exactly 16:31 and 17 seconds BST or 17:31 and 19 seconds in Paris, 19:31 and 22 seconds in Moscow and even 11:31 and 25 seconds in New York. I can even tell you that the temperature in London is + 16C, in Bonn it is +18C, in Tokyo it is +24C with a slight north easterly wind, snow is falling in Santiago Chile and there is the begining of a hurricane off the south west area of the Caribbean. ” “That seems to be a wonderful piece of cronomaty that you have there. Are they readily available?”, the enquirer asked. “Yes indeed, said the owner of the fount of all knowledge but the only draw back is the batteries, they are so big I have to carry them around in these two plastic bags”!
    I suppose all types of devices and helpful gadgets have a downside but I suppose our lives would be much more tiresome and dreary without them. For me I think the greatest invention was the remote control for the television. What I have saved in carpet I have gained in waist! Ah well as I said these devices have their good and bad side!
    Again Stephen thanks for your blog and I know you worry about your fluctuating weight from time to time but to me you are just a lovely fluffy man who has a heart as big as you are. Never change my dear cuddly boy. I wish you as many more “180’s”you can achieve in your field as the tungston throwers do in theirs. Now to the ochey and ‘Game On’.!

  40. Craig Murray says:

    Hi Stephen,

    I think it’s fantastic that you have started a blog and I look forward to many future posts. I don’t know if you’ve ever heard of Maddox. He’s probably teh opposite of you. He’s crude and objectionable but to me, and many others, he is the Bill Hicks of the internet. He’s on a mission to alienate everyone but, occasionally, deals with political issues, putting forward very funny and unarguable cases for, for example, paying illegal immigrants in the US the same wage as legal workers. Oh, and he thinks that “Bill O’Reilly is a big blubbering vag1na”. Also pretty unarguable, if not pretty.

    Anyway, he’s also a bit of a technology geek, so I thought you might like to know that he has also blogged on the iPhone, comparing it to his Nokia E70. And while he may not be as erudite or mellifluous as you, he makes some cogent and very funny points. You may like it, you may hate it, but I thought that I’d should let you know it was out there.

  41. EccentRick says:


    I got flustered when you typed inexcusably prolix’ because I thought you were ill. However, I might be thinking of ‘prolapse’. I don’t know what Prolix is, is it a type of cough medicine?

    Oh, and what did Fatty Arbuckle do?

    I’ve got to go, no, really I do.

    Take care, if you can’t take care, take a dose of carbolic a day till it clears up.


  42. Andrew Lim says:

    Hi Stephen,

    I really enjoyed reading your blog post/review on mobile phones. I’m the mobile phones editor at and would love to speak to you at some point about your passion for mobiles.

    I’m sure you’re very busy but if you could ever find time to do a quick telephone interview, it would be very interesting to hear what you have to say.

    Andrew Lim
    TEL: 0207 021 1027

  43. Ralph Corderoy says:

    Dear merlot50,

    “For me I think the greatest invention was the remote control for the television.”

    Isn’t it the devil’s spawn? Closely followed by button-press channel changing. Before them, you had to move to the TV and twiddle a dial, and the aerial, until you obtained a sufficiently good tuning of the newly desired programme. With practice, one acquired the adeptness of a safe cracker, but channel hopping was a boring task, little done.

    With the increase in speed of channel tuning thanks to push buttons, followed by the carpet-saving remote control, programme makers fear us leaving them at every second. Instead of enjoying a nice theme tune and observing who that guy with the funny nose was in the credits, the voice-over informs us of what’s coming up next on the three other channels, and we’re shown all the highlights of next week’s programme. And after ad breaks, a programme resumes with a three minute summary of the 15 minutes seen so far, just in case we hopped over during the ads and hung around to see what the programme’s like.

    Isn’t it time for intelligent programme makers and broadcasters to fight back! Can’t they have written into the broadcast agreement for their programmes that the credits may not be trampled? And don’t patronise the viewer by having 25% of a programme be highlights of what’s after the break followed by a summary of what was before.

    They’re all at it. Even _The Archers_ is at it. “After the News it’s the
    Archers where Alice drops a bombshell at the birthday party”. The party was only in the last few minutes and the joining-the-RAF bombshell came at the end of that. It was the programme’s cliff-hanger but delivered before the News! Baah!

    Cheers, Ralph Corderoy.

  44. mikesmartt says:

    Agreed the HTC Touch kills nothing and no-one. But the HTC TYTNII is a different matter. Every goody under the sun and GPS. Bulky though.

  45. Ralph Corderoy says:

    Hi EccentRick,

    Fatty Arbuckle didn’t do anything, but the mud was slung for a very long time and the slung mud stuck.

    Wasn’t that Stephen’s blessay on Fame? We’re Devices over here. :-)

    Cheers, Ralph Corderoy.

  46. chrisswainston says:

    all i want to say and please excuse my ignorance of stephen fry perfection in writing is that i love stephen fry sooo much.everything he does and is yet to do is priority in my life as i grew up watching him from germany in munster.i first discovered this genius whilst watching the blackadder series(we only had one channel in munster called BFBS)and instantly loved the characters he played.i am constantly annoyed with myself when i hear he was in doncaster and i must have been the only person that had no knowledge of it untill i read of others experiences,i am excited to think that mr fry might one day read probably someone who would in all my nervous approach would say something silly that would annoy stephen(god im writing like im his friend now)il correct it,that mr fry would find annoying,i secretly hope not.i dream of the day i can shake his hand and not wash it for the rest of my life haha,no im not that dillusioned but i would do anything just to hear one word from his mouth that would reach my ears without the aid of tv,radio,talking books or my own imagination.i love to see pics of him too,the one where he is gleaming to the fact he is holding the new i phone is quite quite a personal one and just wish(again)that i was there to say something,i would even take great pleasure frrom making him laugh or just smile towards me,im sorry for going on a bit but i just love love love him and find him sexy in all his entirity.dear stephen fry,thankyou for a life of pleasure you give and if one day i become famous for something myself and have the gall to do so i would contact you and invite you to anything my life is involved in,if i became rich i would contact your agent and pay the highest price just to sit with you for three minutes…however stephen fry i know this wont happen so have a hole in my soul that will guarantee never to be filled,i love you stephen fry!!! sincerely,chris swainston,number 1 fan and stalker that never got round to stalk xxxxx

  47. 14414414 says:

    stephen, have you heard about the laser keyboard?
    perhaps an inbuilt projector would be a way to keep qwerty keyboards on shrinking phones.

  48. stiffrook says:


    You post on handheld devices is the most interesting tech review / wisdom I have ever read Engadget and Tuaw have a lot to learn.

    It looks like Steve listened to you thank god! now my Uk iphone can be free to grow.

    p.s Thanks for making me smile over the years.

  49. senry says:

    brillant as always cant wait for the gadrian Colum will make me all happy inside because i loved all the geekieness of the frist post! (and understude it all)

  50. Fi says:

    I’m an avid Mac person too. I have been wearing out my primary digits on this blissful master of digital usage since the late 80’s. I LONG for a whizzy Mac laptop but plonk away on a trusty eMac. I use it for work too – web design and publication design. I’ve been doing more with a WordPress online diary as well: An iPod is a companion and a dinky little Shuffle.

    A thunk – will Mac ever produce other household gadgets? Discuss…..

    By the way – LOVE QI, Wilde is in my top 5 favourite films and my current bedtime reading is your MOAB. I’ve grown fond of you through its pages.

    PS. I reach the f-f-f-f-ifty thing in 3 weeks. Hows it been for you so far?

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