He could often be found in the garage with a soldering iron and circuit boards or with transistors, resistors and microchips spread out on the kitchen table. Mum loves telling me how even he built a device to listen to my heartbeat while I was in her tum. It didn’t quite look like this but it did the job apparently.
Now, 34 years after I was born and three years after he passed away following a long illness, I’m a dad.
As I’ve got older I have grown to appreciate his attempts to teach me about technology, despite the fact that no matter how much he tried, I wasn’t interested in Ohm’s law, C++ or why the printer was refusing to spit out my (late) English essay. That frustrated him immensely I’m sure, but he rarely showed it.
The funny thing is, if he were alive now, I’d be telling him that almost every day technology is making life as a dad easier, more interesting and infinitely more fun.
I’d tell him how, when Nicola and I were trying for a child, we downloaded an application for my phone that could help us conceive and, once we had, find out how our baby was developing at the various stages of gestation.
I’d tell him that before Daisy was born, I turned to a website where people I’d mostly never met gave me fantastic advice about what kind of pushchair to buy and how to get to the hospital if the snow kept falling.
He’d be amazed to hear that when I accompanied Nicola into surgery for a Caesarean, the only thing I was allowed to take into theatre after donning my scrubs was my phone. I’d enjoy telling him how the earliest moments of my new daughter’s life had been captured, edited, enhanced and published in all their glory from phone to my network of friends and family within half an hour of her arrival.
I’d show him Photogene (great for enhancing, framing and quirky stuff like adding speech bubbles), Hipstamatic (lots of advanced stylistic options if you pay), picplz (quite basic but solid with good sharing) and good old Flickr which, despite being owned by Yahoo, is still the best way to showcase your pics online.
I’m fairly sure he’d be blown away if I told him I could have broadcast the birth live from my phone to my Facebook friends if I’d been brave (or daft) enough!
And he’d love the fact that it was technology that came to the rescue this week when, at my wits end after after a few fitful nights trying and failing to get Daisy to sleep, I downloaded a free ‘white noise’ app full of soothingly repetitive sounds called Sleep Machine Lite. It took less than a minute to send her to the land of nod.
Not surprisingly, becoming a dad has also had an impact on my work – and not just because I’m knackered. The last few weeks have hit home the fact that despite all the hot air, BS and bravado, the new ways human beings are using technology and the communities that evolve with and around it are most thrilling when they solve our problems and leave us open jawed with wonder, rather than when they are fleeting gimmicks.
I’m sure that dad would agree, despite the fact that after all these years, the smart people doing this great stuff still haven’t made an app that helps geeky dads listen to their baby’s heartbeat on their phone.
Ben Ayers is a Group Associate Director at media agency Carat