My computer desktop is a bit like my handbag: it’s full of things I either don’t need or don’t use, it looks untidy, and I’m not quite sure where a lot of the stuff has come from. Looking at my desktop now, I can see, for example, a programme called ‘Easy Network Manager’ (no idea what that is), one called ‘DivX Movies’ (never used it), and a Microsoft Word document called ‘romeo_and_juliet’ (probably something I wrote at university and accidentally saved onto my desktop rather than somewhere more logical). Mixed up with all the rubbish, there are, however, one or two very important programmes – programmes which I feel even have a central role in my life. To go back to my handbag, these programmes would be the equivalent of my house keys and purse. They are the things which I use on a daily basis, and which I would be most upset about losing. One of the programmes I am talking about is Skype. The big, friendly ‘S’ has sat quietly at the bottom of my desktop since around 2009. And I am quite certain that it has changed my life.
I first realised the importance of Skype when I was in my third year of university. I had just moved to Germany for my ‘year abroad’, and it was my first long period of time outside the UK. About a week after I had arrived, I received a text message from one of my best friends saying that she was very upset and needed to talk to me. I remember rushing out of my flat with a 20 euro note trying to find a shop that would change it into coins so that I could call her from a payphone. When I finally had the coins, I still only managed to speak to her for around fifteen minutes. Payphones are expensive! Now that I have Skype, I no longer experience situations like that. I still live in Germany, and I know that I can talk to my family and friends whenever I need to, for as long as I want, for free. It’s extremely reassuring.
It seems to me that Skype is a bit of an underdog in the world of technology. It’s pretty normal to talk about Facebook, Twitter and Google, but you don’t tend to hear people on the bus talking about ‘that amazing conversation’ they had on Skype, or how Skype ‘affects the way we interact socially’ with our fellow humans. Probably this is because Skype is more of a private place than a public one: we don’t use it to show off or to follow celebrities, we use it to stay in touch with our loved ones.
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