pub crawling into handbags

Felix and I met in the Lamb, and discovered how to beam numbers with IR to each others’ mobiles. Could anything be sillier, or more fun? The Lamb, in Lamb’s Conduit Street, is a wonderful pub, the closest thing in London to the Fulminating Fascist King’s Head of Saffron Walden. There is neither music, nor electronic noise, but there is quite a lot of Edwardian cut glass. Small square hinged mahogany windows are arragned above the bar counter, open or closed apparently at random. People sit at small tables and talk, or read in silence, though the readers all seem to smoke, another civilising touch.

There was a group of variously paunched and bearded men at the next table. Believing that the British Interplanetary Society had been started there — can this be true? — we decided that they were all science fiction writers. Certainly, they were talking about computers, though this, nowadays, proves nothing. In a spirit of tribute to those noble pioneers, I solemnly wrote “Can you hear me Mr Watson?” messages on the palm pilot and sent them via radio mast and satellite across the polished wooden table, with a brass rail around it, to Felix’s phone, which was almost two feet away.

The Palm pilot turns out to be a delightful widget. It took me some time, and a reboot, to get the bluetooth going, but now I have it all synching with Ecco Pro on the real computers, and then dialling any of Ecco’s 2,400 numbers from the new bluetooth phone even when this is in my pocket. This also means that there is at last a civilised way to text people, by writing the message with a stylus in my hand.

One thing I hadn’t foreseen, and perhaps none of the pioneers of spaceflight dared to dream about, was that this is a technology that lets you look into strangers’ handbags. Trying to get the thing working on the train, I found four other phones in the same compartment responded to the mating call of my bluetooth device. I understand that among young people these discoveries are followed by mating calls at a higher protocol level. In any case, it was very strange to look around the dusty WAGN compartment and wonder who was the Nokia and who the Sony cameraphone.

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3 Responses to pub crawling into handbags

  1. IMS, the Lamb used to also have a selection of reference books behind the bar for settling arguments. The sign of a civilized pub.

    An advertisement in the underground asked me to get in touch by infrared the other day, offering to provide me with some purported lucky number if I did so. I told it to fuck off back to the future where it belonged and leave me to mind the gap in piece.

  2. John M. Ford says:

    According to my copy of PRELUDE TO THE SPACE AGE (Frank Winter’s history of the Rocket Societies) the first “official” meeting of the BIS, with about fifteen people present, was at a Liverpool accountant’s office in October 1933 — on Friday the 13th, no less. There were some prior meetings, which seem to have mostly been at members’ homes, but no mention of pubs. The book was published fifty years after the fact, though, and it’s clear that some of the details are based on unreliable memoirs (imagine such a thing). I suspect that if any of the original members are still around (which seems unlikely), they would disagree, perhaps pointedly, on where and when the Society was founded.

  3. Rupert says:

    Not sure whether Arthur Clarke was a founder, but he was there early on and he’s still alive and lucid. Your best bet, if you want to pursue this line of enquiry, would be to drop Dave Langford – – a line and get him to active his transgalactic network of flamekeepers.


    (proudest moment: getting ACC into Thog’s Masterclass)

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