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Valley Voice

Don't blame your watch

VonBritta Weddeling

Universities in UK and Belgium started prohibiting all watches during exams, because they can’t tell whether students have a smart watch with mini-computers on their wrist. What nonsense! 

Britta Weddeling, Korrespondentin des Handelsblatts im Silicon Valley, berichtet über neue Trends und den digitalen Zeitgeist im Tal der Nerds.

Die Stimme aus dem Valley

Britta Weddeling, Korrespondentin des Handelsblatts im Silicon Valley, berichtet über neue Trends und den digitalen Zeitgeist im Tal der Nerds.

Even Silicon Valley wants to switch off sometimes. During dinner it is considered rude to chat, text or post. You better set the volume of your smartphone to mute and put it on the table screen down before food arrives. A café-bar in trendy Lower Haight turns off Wifi at 6pm. My coffee place “Sightglass” doesn’t even have  cell reception now and then. “The Battery”, a five-level, high-end club and restaurant, actually prohibited the use of phones completely. 

Well, not anymore, I figured out one of these evenings when I sat down with my new San Francisco pal. He loves unicorns, black shirts and leather jackets. We first met at a GIF party, an event for small funny clips and atonal dance music. He called me “dude” that day and we see each other regularly now. I’m proud to say he’s still talking to me although I don’t know how to code in C++. 

Last time we were having sushi I couldn’t help but staring at his wrist. It was a smartwatch, a Moto 360 by Motorola. The display flashed continuously. I detected a Pac-man on the clock’s dial design. Pac-man was busy. Somebody called my friend. “I’m so sorry”, he said and moved his wrist away. He didn’t want to be impolite. But how do you put a smartwatch on the table screen down, like Silicon Valley is used to do it? 

Innovation has side-effects. They will magnify when Apple Watch is released in April. Universities in UK and Belgium now try to fight back the future. Colleges started banning all students wearing watches during exam. They couldn’t decide anymore if a student wears a smartwatch or not. And they assumed if a student has a mini-computer on the wrist he or she could easily look up the right answers on the web.  

I was always certain, if the smart watch should really fail, it would fail due to a low battery life, poor design or its simple unhandiness. I hope that a student learns more during college than everything you can google on a 38-millimeter-display. 

This column is also published in German.

Britta Weddeling is Handelsblatt's correspondent in Silicon Valley covering the internet economy, latest trends and small curiosities in the valley of the nerds.

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