Tuesday, February 15, 2011


How do you listen to music? Watch TV? Dip your toe into the world of information that swarms around us? Odds-on, it's digital.
If you want music, off you go to ITunes, or wherever, and you can dump it onto your hard drive, MP3 player or phone, to caress your ears at your pleasure.
We have to find the music we want, say a particular track, on a CD. If no one has it, we can order a particular CD through the Library service for 25p a pop. A week, a month, and it arrives.
But without computers, MP3's are merely an interesting ornament, leaving us to try to nick music by copying it onto cassette tape. Remember them? And how long it takes to wind through to find the track you want to hear?
This is just an illustration of what it is like to live Unplugged, deliberately denied access to the digital world that society now lives in.
Your TV will have dozens of channels, both TV and radio. Ours is restricted to 9 mainstream TV channels. No hope of me watching a live Parliamentary debate. And no hope of finding out what's on, without buying a TV Guide, printed on paper no less. Remember them? Or are you addicted to your EPG?
Without access to the digital world, life is slow, cumbersome and frustrating. All the more so when I know just how much information lies just out of reach. Strangely, many of my peers have never even seen the Web, let alone been let lose to explore it.


  1. I definitely couldn't be without the net, like a lot of people. I don't watch any TV bar the news occasionally, and as for music, I mainly listen to CD's but have got an MP3 for when I go out, although I rarely update it.

    There are quite a few of my friends who still don't have the web, but gradually one by one with a little encouragement they are delving in and finding a whole new world.

    When I first got into the web, I thought it a good second for some real life socialising, but it seems to have encroached more and more into real life. Sometimes I wonder where its all heading.

    Whereas TV's used to be considered a luxury then later an essential item, the same is becoming true of the web, its the new TV, its becoming essential media for most people, and I do think that prisons ought to realise this and encourage and allow access to people, you might be in prison but you are still part of society, and are our family, our friends.

  2. I would be cut off from my friends without my internet but I do tire of it occasionally go 'off the radar' with a good book for days - often weeks - at a time.

    Could a tech-savvy visitor record the sound of programs that would interest you onto a CD for you?

  3. But Ben, what you don't know, how can you miss?

    A frined's daughter was showing me how to load my ipod. it still facinates me that i can have my whole music collection in something the size of the palm of my hand. She gave me a funny look when i told her in my day it was a walkman, and when it chewed up the tape, you would have to get a pencil and unwind it, then you would lend it to a mate at school, and the batteries would go.

    Couldn't be without my laptop, with everything i want to know at my finger tips. However, my tv is broken at the moment, and i don't miss it. (watch the odd thing on iplayer).

    My friend has everything, sky, digi box, freeview etc, but no life, as it is an endless diet of crap TV. Celeberty love island, big brother, deal or no deal etc, i'd rather read a book.

  4. Apparently average TV viewing hours have gone through the floor (although I'm afraid I'm too lazy to dig out evidence for that claim). It doesn't surprise me in the least, I spend as much as 12 hours a day online and watch TV once in a blue moon. When I do, it's usually streamed online anyway.

  5. After much peruading by my children, I finally gave in to the lure of 'The Net', thats when I realised how much I had been missing!! I wouldn't be without it now,it has opened up a whole new world, no part of society should be excluded from it.

  6. I may understand Ben's frustration, but on the other hand, do all these new technologies make us really happy?

  7. @Andromede, it does make you wonder how people ever survived without them! The flow of constant noise, information and images makes it difficult for us to find time to think or just 'be'. We should all carve out time for that though or it will be to our detriment.

    Also, concerning TV Ben, you will find out that quantity certainly doesn't equate with quality. I do sympathise about cassettes though - I still remember taping the new top ten from the radio each week and trying to play back my favourite! Music technology is a wonderful blessing!

  8. @Jules yes listening to the top twenty on Sunday nights.

    @Andromède Yes it makes me happy especially with regard the internet. The so called experts tell me it's virtual reality and bad for me when the truth is constant bombardment of one sided dribble from the mainstream media is the real problem.

  9. It is only constant bombardment if you let it be, there is a thing called choice. Personally I think it may be the one way which we can achieve a real understanding of what is going on out there, in the World, surely that must be a good thing.

  10. I think we are all missing the essential point in all of this... Dont do the crime if you cant do the time and live off-line. Seriously, I have no pitty. I work hard, pay my taxes and my internet bill.
    PS, you are welcome for the 9 channels I pay for you to watch.

  11. @ anon 6.50

    "There but for the grace of (whoever ur God is) go I".

    Think of just some of the issues which cause some prisoners to be "doing time". It isnt as simple as that.

  12. @anon 6.50 if thats the level of your comprehension, you might read bens post on the "idiot test".

  13. A question, Ben; I was unaware prisoners were allowed MP3 players (I think they should be) but it seems from what you're saying, they are. That being the case, are prisoner's relatives allowed to send in an MP3 player already loaded with tunes etc?

  14. MikeJB - no, sadly not. Prisoners have to buy these things from nominated companies (i.e. nominated by the prison service as being approved suppliers. Prisoners usually pay over the odds as they are not permitted to shop around. This is particularly harsh when using the prison phone to call home, as the cost is massively inflated. Ed.