Written on the Milton Keynes to London train with power for my laptop, free wi-fi, free coffee, and a comfortable seat. Dispatched to silicon.com via 3G from a different service to Ipswich.

People have always tinkered with technology in one form or another – from cuckoo clocks to cars. But now mobile phones are firmly in their sights.

I started tinkering at a young age. Anything vaguely mechanical or technological was a legitimate target. Clocks, cameras, radios, TVs, bicycles and later motorbikes and cars all passed through my hands. Some even benefited.

Today tinkering has changed. It is hard to dismantle, modify, or repair artefacts constructed from hermetic components packed with items you can’t even see with the naked eye. Many devices are complete systems that combine precision mechanics and other components beyond the visual acuity or manual dexterity of a human to produce or assemble.

So systems and software are the new targets for those with itchy fingers, and the latest of these seem to be mobile phones. Google’s Android OS is now running on the iPhone, and there are many more combinations even before we get to all the OS and application opportunities.

Why do people do this stuff? Because they can. It is what people do – just like climbing a mountain, hiking to the North Pole, or sailing round the world single-handed.

Like a lot of people, I purchase software, install and run it, and then find myself making adjustments. I just can’t help tinkering. Let’s see if I can make it run faster, cease crashing, stop it locking up, and let’s make it neater and cleaner, and so on.


Android on the iPhone – companies shouldn’t be afraid of modification
(Photo credit: James Martin/CNET)

Everything from apps to the OS is fair game, just like my bicycle and everything else I own. If I can customise it, then modification is almost inevitable.

People in the IT industry seem a bit upset about tinkering, and the Apple-Android news may be a high point as I understand steps are being taken to stop it. Why? I can’t imagine.

Many years ago I can remember seeing a Jaguar engine installed in a Ford Capri, and then of course there was the old boy down the road with a Spitfire Rolls Royce Merlin engine squeezed into the rear of his car. It was brilliantly fast driving on a straight, but cornering was another matter entirely.

In those days no one seemed upset, but a lot of people smiled at the very idea, not to mention the engineering involved. Today I’m still smiling at the ideas and the ingenuity of individuals and what they do, and long may it continue no matter what industry thinks. It beats watching TV.