Episode 16 It's the first meeting of the Fellowship of Bastards in more than a year and there are stories to tell and people to meet. It's a real social occasion and we're seeing people we've not seen in many years.
"See that guy?" I say to the PFY, pointing out a bloke in the distance. "He's the one who designed the algorithm for mistyping on phone touch screens."
"The one …"
"Yeah, the one that chooses 'a' instead of 's' four times in a row before finally letting you touch 's'. It does some on-the-fly math to keep you precisely on the verge of a mental breakdown. Apparently later versions use the phone microphone to detect swearing and have some measurement from the screen to detect increasing sweat levels. Anyway, he's talking to the bloke that wrote the code to re-'predictive text' words after you press send."
"I think you mean chairperson."
"No, I mean shithead."
"I think you mean chairperson."
"NO, I MEA— oh, I see what you're doing."
"And him," I say, pointing to a figure in the distance.
"The bloke with the funny teeth?"
"Yes. He's the one who developed the Windows 10 update process timing to shut down your machine just when you're in the middle of something important."
"Oh, I'd like to …"
"Several people have, which is how his teeth got that way."
"So we're in a collection of the IT greats then?" the PFY asks.
"Not just IT greats. The weedy bloke over in the far corner …"
"He's in adhesives. His team developed the packing tape that won't stick to a parcel for more than 30 minutes but will stick to your shoe like it's been welded on. He also made that easy-release double-sided tape which will either fall off in ten minutes or take half the wall off when you come to try and remove it. He's got a linked patent on that."
"A linked patent?"
"Yeah, it's a patent tied to a proper patent which describes what the product will actually do, not what the patent says it will do. Like one on those touch-free bathroom hand dryers outlining how they ensure that the users HAVE to touch them multiple times just to get them to operate."
"So it's industry greats then?" the PFY asks.
"And cross-industry too. That bloke over there is a consultant who co-ordinates power adapter design so that no two adapters are ever the same size, ensuring that not even a Tetris master can plug them into a multi-box without clashes."
Our conversation is interrupted by the start of ceremonies.
After a light meal and some heavy lagers I'm invited up for the keynote address.
"Ladies and gentlemen," I say. "I'm here today to unveil a multi-layered technology that is already known to some, but has till now been mislabelled. I'd like to introduce you to The Internet of Useless Things."
There's a couple of murmurs from the audience, but most of the rest lean forward to hear more.
"Behold!" I say. "A device which will tell you whether you're running low on milk in your fridge! Now in the past we might have called this a door, but now we have a layered set of technologies which can do this for you and send the answer to your mobile phone."
"I know what you're thinking: 'But my phone is on the kitchen counter, right next to the fridge and my smartwatch is still on the shelf by the shower and here I am on the sofa – whatever am I to do?'
"And that's where we come in. We have a device which will pair with your phone and will send a message to an LCD panel in front of one of your security cameras outside which will then be visible when you flick your smart TV over to your security channel."
"And here is a mood lamp. This lamp will change colour to denote the secondary user's mood to the primary user. In the olden days you would need to establish this with long-winded and convoluted conversation involving problematic communication cues – however you can now tell at a glance how likely it is that you will be murdered in your sleep."
- BOFH: They say you either love it or you hate it. We can confirm you're going to hate it
- BOFH: But soft! What light through yonder filing cabinet breaks?
- BOFH: Rome, I have been thy soldier 40 years... give me a staff of honour for mine age
- BOFH: Here he comes, all wide-eyed with the boundless optimism of youth. He is me, 30 years ago... what to do?
"We also have a smart mirror which will tell you in real time, the time, weather and the outside air temperature. In the old days we'd call that a window with a thermometer outside but we've streamlined that with a device that uses 140 watts of power 24x7, even though you only look at it for about five seconds a day. It also comes with a device that periodically crashes, needs plugging into the wall somewhere, needs a debug port and occasionally changes your geographic location to Harare."
Louder confused murmurs.
"But not all our devices are totally useless. Our latest GPS implementation will eliminate the need for a travelling companion. It will shout at you as you approach an intersection if you don't look like you're taking the correct turnoff. It will repeatedly tell you you're going the wrong way until at some random point it will tell you that you can have it your own way, after which it will lapse into an uncomfortable silence and then – when you reach your destination two and a half hours late – it will look back through your partner's social media relationship history, and just as you turn your vehicle off, whisper, 'I knew I should have married Peter'."
Louder, less confused murmurs.
"And where can you lay your hands on this useless technology, I hear you ask? We're releasing a range of solution-looking-for-a-problem items to crowdfunding sites – although we appear to have some stiff competition there. Any questions?"
A hand goes up.
"Who'd be stupid enough to buy one of these gadgets?"
"I'm glad you asked," I say, opening a screen to show the view out of the Boss's smart mirror. "Let's meet the man himself …"