The Sunday Mail
IN 1996 we were conned — bigly, as Mr Trump would say.
With the benefit of hindsight, those brick-sized wheezing electronic contraptions that we were told were cellphones could not have conceivably be called such.
Haaaa! Those were not cellphones, but walkie-talkies.
What is the difference anyway?
In fact, I lie, those were hybridised mobile iterations of stereos, walkie-talkies and telephones, and the only ingenuity was that they were wireless.
Folks, you might probably know that at the time, the novel thrill of talking over wireless phones tempered the awkwardness of having to press the unwieldly “brick” against one’s ear.
However, there was absolutely no need to eavesdrop on conversations.
As long as you had an ear, you could hear these gadgets blurt out crystally audible decibels from a mile away.
Probably this is why these phones were not the communication tool of choice for philanderers back then.
Even if you tried to muffle the conversation by whispering into the mouthpiece, the boisterously ungovernable sound issuing from the earpiece would ordinarily serve the conversation to a discreetly eavesdropping audience.
But thank God for those brainy scientists who made advances in nanotechnology in the late 20th century, which made it possible to miniaturise electronic gadgets, like the smartphones that we know and use today.
Today’s smartphones — combining a bouquet of previously unfathomable utilitarian functions such as a camera, watch, compass, radio, voice recorder, television, computer, et cetera —are now surreally chic gadgets.
The world has surely changed.
But, as human beings, we will always romanticise the past as nostalgia is always irresistibly savoury.
The good old ways/days
Often, when Bishop Lazi thinks of the good old days and ways, he cannot help but think of the way we used to tame young oxen in the village, back in the day.
The trick was to yoke the young oxen with the experienced ones so that the former could be put on the straight and narrow, literally.
But, it was not as simple as it sounds, for it took time for the young oxen to get used to the taxing physical exertion of drawing a plough.
Oft-times, whenever the going got tough for the inexperienced, stubborn ox, it would invariably collapse into an unmovable beefy heap.
Nothing could stir it.
You could kick it, shove it and whip it mightily, but it never moved an inch.
However, do not be fooled, nothing cannot be solved in the village.
We soon learnt how to jolt the recalcitrant beasts into motoring urgency.
All you needed to do was to bend the slumped animal’s tail into a tensioned coil into which you heftily sunk your teeth.
It worked like magic, all the time.
It was similar to inducing a jumping reflex in a dead frog by using an electric pulse. Kikiki.
Well, those were the old ways of getting things done.
It is particularly difficult to convince the Bishop that today’s world is trendier and funkier than the good old days.
For example, it is difficult to accept that the austere, body-hugging skin jeans that we see today are more fashionable than those trousers we used to wear back in the day — the vala-vula —that progressively flourished outward as they approached the heels.
It is also difficult, too, to accept that the mohawk haircut could have actually been funkier than the sparkling greasy perm.
But it must be accepted that the world is changing and we need to change with it.
Romans 12:2 is quite instructive: “Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is — his good, pleasing and perfect will.”
Obsessively reminiscing and holding on to the past has the potential of imprisoning us in a time capsule.
The past should only be considered as a springboard to the future and not a debilitating tether that continues to retrogressively hold us back.
Why do we continue to have a paper-shuffling bureaucracy 150 years after Englishman Charles Babbage invented the Analytical Engine, which became the prototype of the computer?
Why do we continue to have a banking system which operates within the darkest recesses of the financial markets in the 21st century, where manual systems are so pervasive that the unscrupulous can unprocedurally access wads of scarce bank notes without being flagged by the system and brought to swift and deterrent justice?
Why do we continue to rely on conjecture, particularly in determining what games fuel retailers are playing with imported fuel, 51 years after humanity sent men to the moon?
Dear reader, do you actually understand how complex it is to launch a manned rocket into orbit and precisely navigate it to the intended destination using mathematically determined coordinates and algorithms?
Well, it actually takes awesome brain power.
Over the past three years, the new political administration has shown an incredible appetite to modernise by leveraging on information communication technology to leapfrog the country’s development.
On February 4 this year, Cabinet adopted a paperless e-Cabinet system to improve the internal functions and efficiency of Government systems.
Six innovation hubs have also since been constructed at the country’s six institutions — University of Zimbabwe (UZ), Midlands State University (MSU), Harare Institute of Technology (HIT), Chinhoyi University of Technology (CUT) and Zimbabwe National Defence University — in order to breed and harvest progressive innovations.
Clearly, we do not have a shortage of brain power.
Do you still remember 20-year-old Tatenda Christopher Chinyamakobvu, a CUT student who successfully hacked into the university’s computer and started altering failed students’ grades — for a fee of course?
He accomplished this seemingly impossible feat with an ordinary cellphone and a laptop operated from the humble neighbourhood of New Canaan, Highfield, Harare.
It was later revealed that the geek had previously won the inaugural Postal and Telecommunications Regulatory Authority of Zimbabwe (Potraz) hackathon competition. Kikikiki.
He was, however, hauled before the courts for his mischief.
And then there was Velaphi Hlabangani, who was arrested in 2014 for operating a self-assembled, fully equipped mobile phone “call centre” that had 164 SIM cards.
The “call centre”, which was operated in his house, could make international calls free of charge.
He was fined $400 for operating an IP-PBX system without a licence in violation of the Postal and Telecommunications Act as a result.
A lot has also been done by Harare Institute of Technology (HIT) nerds, who invented the tap-and-go card system that is being used in Zupco buses today.
But there has also been suspicious foot-dragging when it comes to one of their major innovations — the electronic fuel monitoring devices.
Ordinarily, these gadgets, which are able to automatically gauge and monitor fuels stocks and relay the information to multiple Government agencies, would have ensured transparency in the fuel industry, where hoarding and black-marketeering are alarmingly prevalent.
But more than six months after we were told of this ingenious technology, there is frustratingly little progress to date.
There is a reason why there is dogged resistance against reform and the attendant technology it comes with.