My mum knows more about smartphones than I do | BBC Radio Solent's Alun Newman

I think it’s a mark of great respect that I don’t know the exact age of my parents.

By Alun Newman
Wednesday, 29th September 2021, 9:19 am
Updated Wednesday, 29th September 2021, 9:19 am
There was a time, not so long ago, when older people couldn't operate a remote, let alone a smartphone... Picture: Shutterstock
There was a time, not so long ago, when older people couldn't operate a remote, let alone a smartphone... Picture: Shutterstock

I get close every now and then but I can categorically say that they seem to have been the same age for most of my life.

This for me is a mark of quality.

They’ve been consistent and reliable. Imperfectly perfect and the older I get the more I simply can’t understand how they coped.

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They did and they don’t really understand why I can’t understand how they coped. If you get the picture.

I’ve lost count of the number of times they’ve said, ‘in those days you just got on with it.’

It’s a phrase that can suit all manner of questions and reflections.

However, things have changed during the past few years – perhaps the past decade – and a recent incident highlighted this point.

It’s the emergence of parents having better technology than their children.

There was a time when the programming of a video recorder seemed too much for my mum even after my dad bought that video recorder that came with a remote controller that could scan a code in the Radio Times or in the newspaper’s television listings section.

I think it used infra-red and the bar code information could then set the video.

However, it never worked because it either couldn’t read the code or it missed the beginning and end of everything you wanted to watch.

In those days, a programme could actually start ‘later than planned’. That was old tech. Tricky to use. A baffling amount of money could be wasted.

This all changed when my mum got a smartphone.

After some initial resistance, the rise to become a tech guru has been awe-inspiring.

Now she can play Scrabble with complete strangers around the world (she’s been cautioned about online safety).

She can easily Facetime friends who live miles away and she also runs multiple WhatsApp accounts that thankfully have end-to-end encryption.

Never has the knowledge that my mum has surpassed me in technology been so obvious than this week.

My folks came over for the night and we went to a local pub for a meal.

As we were leaving the house to jump into our cars to go to the pub, I couldn’t find my phone.

I decided that it wasn’t an issue as it must be in the house somewhere.

Then, in the car, it rings. It turns out my mum has picked up MY phone thinking it was hers and thrown it in the handbag of chaos.

She also had, in that handbag of chaos, her phone and my dad's.

As she fished around in an attempt to find the source of the noise, she pulled out my phone and declared: ‘This isn’t mine because this is a…’

She then listed the model number of the smartphone. ‘Mine’s a… ‘ (insert newer, fancier, far better model).

Just when did it get to the point where your own parents can not only list the different tech by its latest code name but distinguish the difference by appearance.

It’s by no means a grumble, more of a rude awakening.

I was rudely dragged from a commonly-held stereotype that age can be a barrier to new tech.

Sure, some of it is crazily complicated but the good stuff isn’t.

It’s a case of using it enough so eventually it becomes second nature.

Maybe you haven’t taken the plunge yet. You look at others and it looks too much. If nerves are the only reason, then fear not. I feel your pain and see your point.

However, these things are designed with you in mind and if you want to connect, then take a leap and go for it. You may get the added benefit of humbling your family by explaining how a Tracking App works.


When I first saw the pictures of Liam Gallagher after he’d fallen out of a helicopter at the Isle of Wight Festival I wasn’t, for some reason, surprised.

I have no knowledge of how or why it happened. He posted the photo on Twitter for all his fans to see.

When asked how far he fell he said ‘100,000ft mate!’ He had a fabric plaster on his nose and a bit of tissue on his lip. It’s easy to make assumptions about these kinds of incidents but it could be that these things just happen to some people.

I was in the process of judging when I asked myself whether I had ever hurt myself in a ridiculous way. Indeed, without more than a few seconds of mental rummaging, I remember when I shut my own head in my own car door.

It was windy and I was in a rush. Opening the driver’s door, I went for entry. The wind timed its gust perfectly and ‘bang’ I slammed my own head between the top of the doorway opening and the door.

I remember stumbling my way back up the drive. I met my wife by the front door. ‘I’ve shut my head in the car door.’ I definitely remember the caring questions about whether I was OK and those wondering why I did it. I also remember the laughter followed by the amusing ‘you know you’re supposed to get in the car before you close the door’.

Hilarious. I chose to not post my mishap on Twitter. It doesn't have the same showbiz ring as a helicopter. If Liam had hurt himself getting into a 12-year-old Citroen Picasso, he’d have kept it quiet too.

A message from the editor, Mark Waldron.

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