Wednesday, 1 September 2010


Is it just me, or have you also noticed how mobile phone (and other gadget) manufacturers seem to have conspired against time travellers?

Playing with the clocks on my phones (and a few other gadgets) I have recently realised that it is no longer possible to set the date to the one before the device's (notional) release date. Case in point: my Motorola Droid (Milestone for us Brits) will not allow dates before 1 January 1900. My Nokia N900 allows only dates from 1 January 2009. I'm even being shortchanged on my future! Motorola is generous with 31 December 2100, while Nokia will let me use my phone only up to 31 December 2036. Come on, Nokia! I plan to live longer than that - time travel or no time travel! What's going on?! I think I have a theory. Well, if I think I have one than I do...

This is all a cunning ploy to introduce a stealth tax on time travel!

Imagine I had a time machine, and wanted to use it (well, who wouldn't - being careful about grandfathers an all that, of course). I travel back in time and want to use my phone. Of course, in case of Motorola, before the 1900 I obviously couldn't use it to make calls, let a lone update my Facebook account ("Just landed in a medieval peat bog! Yucky... LOLZ"). But I might want to manually update my currency converter app so I can see how many silver sovereigns I can get for a pair of leather boots. Or, to make the lack of date & time more obvious, I may want to enter a calendar reminder so I don't miss that all-important ball. I heard those medieval ladies were H-O-T!

Similarly, if I travelled forward, I could surely have use of my phone(s), their apps, and especially the calendar. I believe in punctuality as an eternal quality. And in the future, surely I could find isolated pockets of 3G connectivity. Probably if I land smack in the middle of the preserved/restored (delete as appropriate) Amazon rainforest (yes, you read it right - rainforest, not the on-line shop). Yet, with either of my current phones I wouldn't be able to do any of this!

So, you may ask, where's the conspiracy (you theorists!)...

In case of Nokia, it should really be obvious. Already using their phone, and being used to them, if you find yourself in the time before 2009 or after 2036, what would be more logical than look for a replacement available at the time? Especially with Nokia's long history stretching all the way back to the 19th century, pretty much, you'll probably even be able to find one of their products. Admittedly, in its early days, you may have to settle for timber, a mattress, a tyre, or a pair of rubber boots - but all these would be familiar, and admit it: useful, too. Well, maybe not a tyre, unless you brought your car, too, but still...

For Motorola it is a bit more convoluted, but I suspect if time travel became possible they'd make sure to know about is before you do (they are richer than you, after all), and will then sprinkle the whole of history with their devices, or at least something you'd want to reach for - having been indoctrinated already by your current device. This way, and especially in the past, they'd be able to fatten up their bottom... lines, making it even more likely to be able to meddle in both future and the past, and so on, and so on, ad infitintum (and quite possibly ad nauseam).

So, there you have it!

You may have thought limiting date choices on current devices is just sloppy and/or lazy programming. Well, it most probably is - as well. But the real truth seems to be that there may be a whiff of time travel in the air, and savvy companies are making sure they maximise the impact once time machines are available.

How about that for a theory!