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Not waving but drowning (again)

I should no doubt begin by apologising for returning to a subject that I have blogged about previously, but that done, I am going to proceed anyway.

One of the bug-bears of life for anyone of mature years is modern technology. I am perhaps not best placed to complain because technology and I have had a fraught relationship for as long as I can remember. I’d got so far as to state that I instinctively possess little self-confidence with any form of machinery or computer and I’m convinced that confidence is a key attribute in gaining any sort of technological proficiency.

The example that immediately springs to mind is the time I had to ask my twenty-year old son (this obviously took place a long time ago) to help me programme the radio in my brand new Porsche Boxster. We jumped into the cockpit together, I handed him the booklet of instructions, which he then immediately cast aside before saying “Let’s just start this baby up and see what happens …” and, in no time at all, he’d set me up with BBC Radio’s 1, 2, 3, 4 and 5, Capital Radio, Classic FM and about six more stations that I was never going to need.

This was in a situation in which I’d had three failed attempts to begin programming the car radio, with the help of the instructions manual, which probably had lasted at least a total of 75 minutes in duration.

What gets my goat generally is that – in my day, i.e. before computers and the invention of artificial intelligence – when it came to anything mechanical, not least typewriters and Roneo replicating machines, they always just did what you wanted. No more and no less.

identYou knew where you stood and everything automatically worked as you wished.

There was no waiting around to see if you could get the computer software to allow you to indent a paragraph, or choose to number it or ‘letter’ it, as you wanted to.

Or searching vainly in the various folder headings to see if you could find the one that would allow you to set your line spacing to how you wanted it.

(In the old days you simply pressed the ‘return’ button once, twice or even three times … and you then could type lines in one, two or three line spaces at will).

One thing that really irritates about computers is that you never quite feel you are in control.

How frustrating is it, when you’re surprising yourself by suddenly hitting a vein of rare lucidity and knocking out a brilliantly devastating letter to your local authority about your rates bill, or blogging, or having a stab at composing a poem … and out of the blue a box appears on the bottom right hand corner saying “Sorry – computer needs to restart. Do you want to restart now, or wait …” (whilst beside those words a clock begins counting down from 14 minutes by the second – tick, tick, tick)?

The answer, of course, is “No I effing well don’t want to restart my effing computer, you bastard – bugger off!” … but then, every so often afterwards, the offending box pops up again with the same message. Until at last you give in to the inevitable and either shut down your computer completely, or else click on the ‘Restart Now’ button and let the computer take over.

And – naturally – then lose your thread, the temporary and rare visitation of your muse or even the ‘joy of the moment’ relating to what you were working upon… never to get it back.

I mention all this because about half an hour ago – in the middle of the night – my excursion on the internet was suddenly and violently curtailed without any warning. Everything went temporarily black and then up came a message saying “Sorry – we had to shut your computer down and then restart it because of an error …”

And that was that. No word about what the error was, or indeed any other explanation. I’d just been ‘shut down’ because of an error.

It wasn’t because I’d been surfing the internet, visiting jihadi or paedophilic porn websites, or anything else that might have been of interest to MI5.

I’d simply been listening online – as is my wont – to Radio 5 Live’s Up All Night programme with Rhod Sharp whilst perusing the website of The Independent, my habitual first call as I tour the broadsheet websites both in order to bring myself up to date with what’s happening in the world and perhaps to find something about which to blog.

I was mightily miffed, I can tell you.

typewriterFurthermore, that “Sorry – we had to shut down your computer down and then restart it because of an error” has a distinctly edgy and disconcerting feel to it.

It almost feels like I’ve got a Big Brother figure watching over me, following my every move.

As I said – or ought to have – give me my old-fashioned ‘sit up and beg’ typewriter  any day …


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About Gerald Ingolby

Formerly a consumer journalist on radio and television, in 2002 Gerald published a thriller novel featuring a campaigning editor who was wrongly accused and jailed for fraud. He now runs a website devoted to consumer news. More Posts