■ The Horrible Histories author, 72, talks to us about Archimedes and holograms
An ‘infinity phone’ is at the centre of your new book. What does it do?
It’s a conventional phone on the outside but, instead of having a processor, it’s linked remotely to a human brain so it can react differently to a machine. It can break rules.
Is this good news for the characters?
It’s good news for the boy who owns the phone, bad news for the person whose brain it is. They’re kept comatose and are aware they should be in the fresh air and not being used as a processor.
This sounds quite dark — it’s a kids’ book, right?
It is but it’s a black comedy. Roald Dahl wrote black comedies for kids and I couldn’t have written Horrible Histories if he hadn’t done his books first.
Is there any retro tech you’d want to come back?
Cameras with film. I loathe digital cameras. In the old days if I was doing a photo shoot the photographer would take 12 or 24 pictures and then go home. Now they take a million. Last year I did a photo shoot that took two-and-a-half hours.
Were you a fan of any gadgets that became obsolete?
I used to think the Sinclair ZX81 computer would be the future. They were supposed to teach you how to program computers but I quickly became bored with it. Then the Amstrad came along and I thought ‘this is it’. I’d write a book and instead of sending a big manuscript through the post I could send the publishers a floppy disk. They’d reply saying, ‘Thank you very much but we don’t have anything to read the floppy disc on.’
Do you like e-readers?
I use a Kindle Fire. I haven’t read a paper book for five years. I think books are clumsy and they don’t have a back light.
Do you use any wearables?
I use a Garmin, which is a watch that connects to GPS. It calculates my average speed when I’m running, the elevation I’ve been running on, does a map of the route and tells me the wind speed direction.
Any favourite bits of horrible tech from bygone centuries?
The death ray Archimedes invented and the big claw he created that would pick up enemy ships if they came into harbour and drop them back out to sea.
If you could invent any gadget what would it do?
Holograms with a brain. I saw Roy Orbison in concert even though he passed away 30 years ago. That will become more sophisticated. One day you’ll be able to talk to Archimedes.
Deary’s new book Wiggott’s Wonderful Waxworld: Terror Train (Scholastic) is out now