Technology over substance

Airplay. Brilliant, but a techno-wow too far?

As Band Aid stuttered through the hifi and – after a valiant effort to make it to the first chorus – eventually disappeared entirely, I knew only one thing; my Airport Express had decided to cease working for the second time that day and at an equally inconvenient juncture.

We were hosting our first and only Christmas party of the festive season and, an hour before our guests were due to arrive, my rarely used AE had decided to remove itself entirely from my home network. There was no trace of it, it had indeed gone AWOL and hadn’t even bothered to say goodbye. The green ‘everything’s ok!’ light stayed steadfastly lit, grinning at me like an illegitimate, spoilt child.

After a tiny amount of non-festive swearing and a great deal of self-persuading that throwing it down the street would not a fix produce, a full reset to factory settings did the trick.

This lasted approximately three hours, by which time we were all sitting down to enjoy the hearty Christmas dinner my fiancé and I had slaved over. No sooner had I plunged my fork into a sizeable chunk of turkey had Boy George started doing an impromptu bit of beat boxing instead of his usual verse.

“Mark, for Christmas, I’m going to buy you a CD player and some CDs,” said my friend.

That struck a chord, if you’ll excuse the pun. As clever as the Airport Express/Airplay setup I’d been relying on was, it was proving to be, unfortunately, completely and utterly unreliable.

Yes, it looked cool. Swanning around the house with my iPad, showing anyone who cared (there weren’t many) that I could make music come out of my hifi via my oversized iPod Touch without wires made me feel like Steve Jobs, striding across the stage at an Apple event leading an expectant crown on to the next ‘wow’ moment.

That’s great, until the bloody thing stops working. And, then, yes, why not just go back to good old CDs? What was wrong with them?

It’s made me question the benefit of such technological wizardry.

Apple made a big thing about Airplay this year and rightly so. Being able to wirelessly stream audio and video around your house is convenient, enjoyable and, in this form, relatively inexpensive. But, then, where is Mr Jobs when it all goes wrong? Quite often, he’s standing there, pointing the finger, blaming us, the humble user. We’re holding it wrong. It wasn’t designed for that. It’s Thursday. You’ve got an uncle called Jim. It’s your fault.

As much as I felt like heading over to the Apple boss’ house to wrap my iPad around his neck and force-feed him the Airport Express, I couldn’t afford the time or air miles, therefore settled for good old MTV instead. That worked. Flawlessly.

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