New lifestyle has put us in a Jam

Peterborough Telegraph's Man behind the mic column by Paul Stainton, BBC Radio Cambridgeshire host - peterboroughtoday.co.uk
Peterborough Telegraph's Man behind the mic column by Paul Stainton, BBC Radio Cambridgeshire host - peterboroughtoday.co.uk
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Forty years ago this week The Jam released their debut album, ‘In The City’, to rave reviews and kids like me couldn’t wait to gorge on the sleeve notes and get the needle on the vinyl.

It’s difficult to remember just how good it sounded on my Mum’s old Decca turntable but it was all we had and we were too busy pretending to be Paul Weller to care.

You remember, it was a time when records had to be physically purchased, when people queued for the telephone on the corner of the street and waited a fortnight to get their photos developed by Bonusprint, only to find that when they dropped through the letterbox, all but one of the prints had a thumb on the lens.

Back then ‘abroad’ felt a very long way away and nobody in our village went there on holiday, but then most didn’t even have a car in 1977.

Over the last four decades, our lives have been completely transformed and my 70s self would struggle to comprehend some of the mind-boggling changes that have taken place.

We now have our own music collection in our pocket, with virtually any song ever written, available at the swipe of a screen. We think nothing of video calling family and friends in Australia, for free, and taking and sharing pictures instantaneously. We can even check on baby whilst we are at the pub and answer the front door from our deckchairs on Hunstanton beach, all thanks to the internet.

Personally, I love being so connected with the world but that digital bond comes with risks attached, as has been clearly highlighted by the cyber-attack on our National Health Service.

The very wires, cables and computers that allow us to expand our horizons and visit any corner of the world that we choose, without leaving our sofa, were used against us.

Somebody forgot to lock the digital back door and the crooks used their mouse to walk straight in and make themselves at home. How could this happen you ask?

Did Health Secretary, Jeremy Hunt press CTRL/ALT/DEL by mistake? Perhaps a desperate Health Trust chief executive thought he had found the answer to his mounting PFI debt and opened an email from a long, lost cousin in Nigeria, promising a large inheritance?

Or was it the fault of a Miss Abbott from Hackney, who kept dialling 3 for the 111 service, thinking it would be quicker?

In fact, it was none of the above, it was simply that many NHS trusts are using outdated software and hardware and can’t afford to upgrade it, in fact some hospitals are still running Windows XP on their computers!

Thankfully our local hospitals were not affected but some of our GP surgeries have suffered because of the attack and hundreds of routine operations and appointments were cancelled elsewhere across the country. It should serve as a wake-up call to government to better protect our sensitive information and ensure that it’s networks are secure and up to date.

We are constantly encouraged to do more and more things online, by everyone from the council to the bank, but we must have faith that our personal information is secure and that the ‘connected’ world within which we live today, is not going to do us more harm than good.

The internet has the capacity to be a huge positive force but it is also a place where demons can lurk under a cloak of anonymity. As it increasingly infiltrates our everyday lives many are more and more unnerved about what we might have unleashed. 

Life may not have been better in 1977, but boy was it a lot simpler. Wasn’t it?