Sunday, 28 August 2011

Mobile Technology

Technology changes in leaps and bounds these days and especially with mobile telephony. How many people these days actually have a landline? As BT announces increases in call charges and line rental yet again this year I am sure that many people will consider whether  they still want a landland. Many mobile operators have inclusive packages of minutes and texts for a fix sum which in some cases works out cheaper than actuially having a landline.

A long time ago the General Post Office (GPO) as it was called then had a monopoly on fixed line communications although there was a separate entitity in Hull which was non GPO/BT then deregulation  and the likes of Mercury Communications came along and the start of choice began.
Similar things have happened with mobile communications as I believe Vodafone was the one of the first together with Cellnet (an arm of BT at the time). Landline telephones have evolved but more or less have stayed similar whereas mobile phones have shrunk from large brick type devices with heavy batteries to really small one now.

Im sure when Dr Martin Cooper,  the inventor of the cellular phone and worked for Motorola didn’t envisage when he made the first call in 1973 that there would be a massive explosion of devices. Dr Cooper got his inspiration from the handheld flip communicators used by Captain Kirk and others  in Star Trek.

And of course the original phones were analogue and could only make and receive calls. They were the forerunners of todays digital networks and now handsets can do all sorts of smart things. And they are now more secure as they have to operate with a SIM (subscriber  identity module) inserted which the mobile network provisions your services. 

Mobile phones can be so complicated  now with so many features but are a lifeline as well as able to deliver to you almost anywhere information  at the touch of a button. Much critism of late has been made of the Blackberry devices because of their secure messaging system but as the after-math of the riots proved also be used for the good.
SIM cards as mentioned earlier are used in todays smartphones but all sorts of devices from Apple Ipads and other lightweight tablet devices to TOMTOM Navigation systems brining you realtime traffic information as well as being in smartmetres forwarding your electricity and gas readings to your suppliers. The NHS are also using wireless communication health devices with SIM cards to send critical information back to them so that a patient isnt always stuck in a hospital and is being able to live a bit more of a normal life.

One mans vision of wireless communication between two people has developed into a worldwide success story having implications and positive benefits across a whole spectrum of uses. However we still get very annoyed by some peoples mobile phone ring tones. I know people tell me I have annoying ones to.

Still if we didn’t have people having unique visions we wouldn’t have the medium of the internet, the likes of Twitter and facebook, Apple devices (which I have started to love) or world wide mobile wireless communication .

We have a lot to thank one man for as has I have recently discovered he is on Twitter @MartyMobile so continues to move with the digital age and as part of a company called DYNallc.

Thursday, 4 August 2011

Railway Matters and London Midlands Lastest Investment

In May 1978 the Cross City Line opened with various new stations to form a through route between Lichfield in the North and Redditch and Longbridge in the South. I was one of the first to travel to both ends of the line.

In the Mid 1980’s I purchased a weeks rover ticket called the Midland Railtourer which is similar to the London Midland “Heart of England” Rover of today and visited many places including Matlock where you see I’ve taken this picture of sprinter 150 001. (This is significant).

When Snow Hill re-opened Southwards in 1987 I was one of the first passengers to leave Snow Hill as well as to arrive back by train. I did that by the grace of the timetable in getting out at the newly re-opened Moor Street, sprinting over the footbridge and getting on the first one into Snow Hill. BBC Radio WM’s own Ed Doolan was broadcasting his breakfast show from Snow Hill and we were given Bucks Fizz to celebrate. 

I with many hundreds of others as part of a charity walk, walked from Birmingham Moor Street station through the Snow Hill Tunnels to Handsworth Station prior to the tracks being laid which would see the through route again to Smethwick West station and on towards Stourbridge.

When the work was completed the services commenced again In September 1995 and formed a new cross city route between Leamington and Dorridge to Stourbridge and Worcester. Most Worcester services were then scheduled to depart from Snow Hill to ease the congestion at New Street and a new interchange was made at Smethwick Galton Bridge. Later of course the Midland Metro route was created from Snow Hill to Wolverhampton only deviating at Priestfield from the former GWR route. Again I managed to be both on the first train out of Snow Hill northwards but also on the first Metro Tram out.

A quarter of a century later, after having been a passenger on sprinter 150 001 which replaced the aged DMU slam door units, have had the honour of being an invited guest of London Midland to ride their brand new 172 unit which will replace the class 150 trains on the Snow Hills lines between Worcester and Leamington Spa.

Tuesday 2nd August saw the inaugural launch of the Class 172 and this was a circular journey starting at Stourbridge Junction (the farthest point of the original South Staff Railway line ( Birmingham Snow Hill to Leamington Spa and Stratford. The train called at Birmingham Snow Hill, Tyseley, Solihull and Leamington and returning via the same stations.

The first thing that hits you when you get on the train is the air-conditioning which was most welcome on what was the warmest day of the year. Then as you look around the interior, wide spacious doors which I’m sure will allow quick entrance and exit from the train. The toilet area is also much larger so wheel chair users will not have to struggle. 

London Midland have obviously been listening to the passengers as the seating has changed and the three by three seating arrangement has gone and been replaced by the two plus  two arrangement. Litter bins are more in your face as you walk through the train and having observed how many people just drop litter on the floor maybe this will give them encouragement to use them.

And for those who know me and technology you wont be surprised to learn they have the latest technical equipment not only for our safety but for information as well. With a forward facing camera on the outside of the train which to me is a long time coming so that any incidents can be picked up for future viewing by British Transport Police and other parties.

The ride was smooth and comfortable and when an announcement was made between Dorridge and Leamington that we had reached and were cruising at 100mph I was amazed. It didn’t feel like we were going that fast and for a commuter train at that speed the external noise was not at all intrusive.

Overall I’m impressed by this new vehicle and as it was so shiny and new I didn't feel that I should put my empty bottle of water kindly given out by London Midland in the litter bin but retained it till I got off the train.

I believe the London Midland £93 million investment is worthwhile and that passengers will love and  hopefully respect these new trains. I for one can’t wait for them to be in service, and who knows maybe I will be on the first revenue earning passenger service when they are launched next month.

Thank you London Midland, now lets hope Network Rail don’t have problems which delay them on the tracks

A publicity Video that London Midland have made can be seen below.