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Newsletter March 28 - 2006FREE email English course
A very common expression when you want someone to send you news and tell you what they're doing is to say: "keep in touch" and if you want this to continue, you say "stay in touch". If you don't, then you "lose touch" with someone. Worst of all if you don't know what's happening in the world around you, you find "you're out of touch".

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Of course in the old days keeping in touch was done by letter or the telephone. In extreme cases you had to be inventive. Take the case of the mother who wanted her son to come home straightaway for his tea. She's at home and he's at the cinema. She phones up the cinema and soon across the screen showing Tarzan swinging from tree to tree, there appears a handwritten note: "Johnnie come home immediately. Tea's ready. Mum."

Nowadays of course it's all electronic communication. Mum would have texted little Johnnie on his mobile. Mobiles those tiny, shiny silver gadgets (devices) that no one can be seen without. So much smaller than they used to be that to be honest they're more really of a fashion accessory. Just fancy walking down the street in the past carrying something the size of a shoebox. Well, people used to. How about this then:
"RFID allows data to be transmitted by a product containing an RFID tag microchip, which is read by an RFID reader. The data transmitted can provide identification or location information about the product, or specifics such as date of purchase or price."

Impressed or what? Or again: "A new mobile phone with built-in television receiver for DVB-T." Don't panic. I'm referring to a recent Electronics Fair in Hanover, Germany where these two items among many others were demonstrated. And I'm sure you're bursting to know that RFID refers to radio frequency identification and DVB-T stands for "digital video broadcasting" - terrestrial. So when you're walking about you can not only talk to your friends but if you get bored, you can always see what's on television.

The other day I turned on the radio and heard some very earnest minded people talking about "VoIP". To be honest, I wasn't sure if this was a new disease spreading across the world, some kind of rare bird or someone speaking with a clogged up nose. I was wrong on all counts because this was an acronym and in the end some kind soul spelled it out for me: "voice over Internet protocol". Put another way it's apparently a cheaper way of telephoning someone via your computer. Skype is a form of VoIP, if you know what I mean. Sorry can't explain Skype because it's a brand name. The experts tell me that this sort of communication can be vulnerable to "Spit" (spam over internet telephony) and there's also of course the risk of a bit of "phishing" going on - sounds nasty, doesn't it? (collecting personal information to commit fraudulent use). Talking of cheaper communication how about "wifi" and "hotspots"? In simple terms WiFi means "wireless fidelity" so that you can, with the right equipment, open up your laptop and connect to the Internet without any wires! And the "hotspots"? Not I'm afraid exciting exotic nightclubs but access points in a public location such as a café or hotel where you can connect to the Internet at broadband speed using a "wifi" enabled laptop for free.

In case you feel this all getting a bit colourless, let me introduce you to "Bluetooth" technology. I'm using it myself although I've only recently discovered I am. It's the technology that helps computers keep in touch with each other. My main computer talks to my laptop thanks to Bluetooth. It's good to know that the two keep in touch. I wouldn't want any domestic violence. And the name? Now that's interesting. In the 10th century there was a Danish King called Harold Bluetooth. Well, maybe he had dental problems. Anyhow he was a "dab hand" (highly skilled in) bringing together different sections of the community who were always "knocking the living daylights out of each other" (trying to kill each other) and he always succeeded in making the different sections negotiate and thus make peace... And so the inventors of Bluetooth technology thought it might be a nice gesture to use his name for their technology. Thanks, Harold.

Of course I've only been talking about communication on Planet Earth. It's perhaps only in fiction that we have stories about our communication with other planets. Like the Martians who landed in London in War of the Worlds by H G Wells (1866-1946). They died off because of a virus or was it the weather? More recently there is the story of that strange little creature created by Steven Spielberg in the film (1982) of the same name "ET", who got left behind on earth when the rest of the party went home in their spaceship.

I have this picture in my mind (reminiscent of little Johnnie) of ET sitting in the cinema with his pal, Elliott munching their way through a bucket of popcorn. And then all of a sudden across the car chase scene in a James Bond film little ET with a tear in his eye reads on the screen a message: "Phone home ET". And you all go Aaaaaaaaaaaah.

Alan Townend

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