1 This is the modern world - wireless or clueless?

1950sRadio2When I was growing up in the 1950s, a wireless sat in the corner of our living room as our only form of entertainment. It was the size of St Paul's Cathedral, and the transistors that powered it would whir and hum so loudly it was sometimes difficult to hear the broadcast. I never understood why it was so called as, clearly, it had a huge wire coming out of the back of it that plugged into a socket on the wall.

The Goon Show was my dad's favourite and, every Sunday lunchtime, he would snuggle up close to this monstrosity to hear the latest episode broadcast by the BBC 'Light' programme. If anything flew over the house, be it a blue tit or a Hawker Hunter, the signal would scramble. If the electric meter ran out, a furious search for a two shilling coin (aka florin) ensued, followed by an interminable wait whilst the 'wireless' warmed up again. There was no chance to hear the show again; there were no repeats back then.

Blueberries were an exotic fruit that those strange folk over the pond used to consume, whilst blackberries were picked in early autumn so mum could make a blackberry and apple crumble for a Sunday treat. The apples were picked from our garden, and I was charged with removing the creepy crawlies from them before they went in the pot.

1950sRadio3The telephone sat in the hallway by the front door, on some strange piece of furniture that would allow you to store the directory in a purpose built slot and be able to sit down whilst making a call; that's if the person you shared a party line with wasn't using their phone. Whilst it was possible to phone abroad, it really wasn't worth it as the echoes and delays made any conversation a Norman Collier experience.

In the late fifties, we were one of the first houses in our street to have a television. This dwarfed the wireless, by comparison, and the picture on the eight inch wide screen - black and white of course - was akin to a bad day in the Cairngorms. I swear I became a Spurs fan because their white kit was easier to pick out through the 'snow storm'.

Things improved in the sixties (didn't everything?), as the TVs got smaller and the screens bigger - although there were still only two channels to watch until BBC2 made an appearance in 1967 - transistor radios were all the rage, and it became possible to make a 'dial direct' phone call without having to speak to that nice lady at 100.

If I wanted anything from the town I had three options - walk, get on my bike or catch a bus. My first car - a Morris Minor 850cc split screen - was purchased for £30 in the early seventies, at about the same time as the nearby London to Basingstoke M3 motorway was completed. It was possible to drive along it at night and not see another vehicle. Back then, car ownership wasn't a 'given'.

1950sRadioOf course, progress is inevitable - the Bay City Rollers weren't, by the way! - and I have embraced as much of the new technology as is humanly possible for an old git!

I now sit in my office (aka iBedroom) surrounded by all manner of contraptions, not least my computer. When I first joined Pitchcare, seven years ago, I was contactable on my BT landline or via email. Now, our IT boys have set me up with something called Eyebeam, which provides me with a Telford, Shropshire telephone number whilst living on the south coast. I now also have Skype, which allows me to both hear and 'see' the person I am talking to. This latter in(ter)vention means that I now have to make myself presentable each morning! Gone are the days of dossing around, unshaven, in an old tee-shirt, it would seem.

So, it is quite possible, and has happened on the odd occasion, to be speaking to someone on my landline, when others are trying to contact me via Eyebeam and Skype whilst, all the while, emails are flooding into my inbox demanding my attention. I keep my mobile switched off, unless I am on the road and, thank god, I have, so far, steered clear of Twitter and Facebook.

Talking of roads. The M3 is now a car park during peak hours, and my 2.5 V6 'beast' offers me far better fuel consumption than my old 'moggy' ever did. It starts first time, every time (kiss of death), and the in-built satellite navigation means I never get lost or have to ask for directions (well, almost). I can also listen to a plethora of radio stations or plug in my MP3 player to access my complete music collection (no Rollers!). I'm not so fond of the tax band it attracts though.

Back to my iBedroom. As I look around I can see a spaghetti of wires that are plugged into two surge protected extension leads. There are eleven plugs in Cables2total. These provide power for telephones, the computer, a colour printer (hardly ever used), external hard drives, plus a few that I have completely forgotten what they are powering. Everything works, so they are best left alone! Oh, and there's a television, just so I can check that the various pitches or golf courses being played on look good, you understand!

And there's more wires. These connect, via USB sockets to the computer for other storage devices, camera, vinyl disc converter ... I'm still to learn what USB stands for!

I treat all the above like my car. I am not a mechanic. Once upon a time I could change a spark plug or adjust the points, but now I can't even see where they are under the bonnet - that's even if they exist anymore. So the local garage gets my business.

Similarly, if my bank of techno stuff goes wrong, I am straight on the phone to Pitchcare's nerd centre for advice. This is initially offered in such geek speak that I have to ask them to explain in layman's terms. You can hear their sighs over whatever 'phone' system I have contacted them on!

And then my computer will tell me that I don't have permission to perform such and such an operation. Why not? It's my computer!

But, perhaps the most staggering thing about all this technology is how it takes over your life. Where once I would wake up, have breakfast, perhaps watch a bit of news on the box and then walk to work for an 8.30am start, I now feel compelled to skip breakfast, grab a quick cup of tea and head off to my iBedroom. I am often (aka usually) sat in front of my computer at 7.00am. I'll check emails, compile a list of tasks that require my attention during the day, catch up on the Pitchcare message board and generally check that the site is up-to-date. I may even upload a few articles.

I usually wait until 9.00am before I use the phone - and now Eyebeam and Skype - because that's what I have always done throughout my career, e.g. waiting for people to arrive at their office. And I never used to phone after 5.00pm, but now these new fangled devices will actually tell me if someone is still working!

MovableTypeI regularly get calls and emails outside office hours - often mid-evening and weekends - and it's surprising how much meaningful work can actually be completed.

Do I mind? Well, this is the modern world, as Paul Weller once said, but I bet even he is surprised by just how 'modern' it has become.

When I began my journey into graphic design in 1968, hot metal was the name of the game. No, not a music genre, but a printing system that required metal printing plates and individual letters of type on metal blocks that had to be 'composed'. It was a time consuming but highly skilled profession.

I became a designer because I had a modicum of artistic ability. I stumbled into this industry when one of its stalwarts, Chris Biddle, walked into the design studio I was running, weighed down by a pile of paper and photographs which he dumped on my desk, requesting that they be "made into a magazine". It took Letrasetfive people over a week, using Letraset, cow gum, gallies of type and paste up, to compile the very first issue of Garden Machinery Retailer - and it was only twenty-four pages! It was later to become Lawn & Garden Equipment, before metamorphosing into two separate magazines; Turf Professional and Service Dealer.

I spent ten years working with Chris on his magazines and, in that time, the technology of design and layout advanced at such a pace that it soon became possible for one man to do the work of five. And that man was me.

Now, I am at Pitchcare, and the tome you are currently reading is produced solely by me! Just fifteen years ago, it would have required at least six people to complete it using the 'old methods'.

If you have read this far, you are probably wondering what an earth I am prattling on about, so I guess I had best come to the point! You see, it has taken me forty-four years to reach this stage in my career. Forty-four years of being trained, mentored and encouraged by some very talented people. It was Chris Biddle that encouraged me to write, for example.

Without that rounded experience, I doubt that I could sit in my iBedroom and produce the Pitchcare magazine. I still, for example, employ my hot metal skills, my geometry A Level and my 'parallel motion' to create the magazine; all, of course, in my head. Those skills will never leave me and, whilst younger and equally talented designers are learning their profession on a computer, maybe I just have the edge, for the moment, as I can combine the two.

PrintingPlatesYou see, technology has altered the way we spend our time, but it has not changed the way we construct our careers. The building blocks still have to be put in place, regardless of the methods now employed.

As an example, we all now have keyboard skills that were once the pure domain of girls taking secretarial courses at school - because that is what girls did, along with cooking, obviously! I doubt it will be too long before voice recognition replaces the keyboard and those hard learned skills will be resigned to 'experience'.

Women are now an important part of the structure and vibrancy of our industry. Everything moves on. Keep what you learn, even if it appears to be defunct, and learn all you can as you move through your career.

You can give a man a mower, but that does not make him a groundsman or greenkeeper. You can give him a mower, train and educate him in the correct procedures and, one day, he will become proficient at his job, he'll continue learning and, in time, pass on his experience to others.

As we get older, we don't just become the 'old git in the corner'. No, our corner is full of experience and working practices that can be tapped into. All you have to do is ask. Be gentle though, as we might be taking a nap!

There is a footnote to all this: I have recently moved house and my spaghetti of wires now only requires six plugs! I know where one of them went as I now have a wireless connection to my computer. The hub is downstairs - plugged into the wall via a wire! Where the other four went - apart from a carrier bag full of leads - I have no idea, but everything works, so it's best left well alone!

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