Monday, 16 September 2013

Rage against the machine. Or a new computer brings me fury and joy.

The computer stutters and quivers and goes strange colours (sometimes it is like a fog has descended.) A vast amount of the time it will not do anything. Every time I scan it, it finds thousands more errors. This morning, it ate half a chapter of book.

I think, plaintively: but I never, ever open those emails asking me if I would like a more erect erection. (I think the people who send these are a little muddled.)

Just at the moment of terror and despair, the door goes and Stanley the Dog barks his head off and I find a kind gentleman with a box. ‘Oh Stanley,’ I cry, gazing at the gentleman with pitiful delight. ‘Don’t bark. It’s the lovely man from John Lewis.’

(I needed some linen and a nice shampoo and various other things at the same time, so I got it all from John Lewis, which is never knowingly undersold, and delivers in about half an hour flat and does not discriminate against me because I live north of Watford.)

The man from John Lewis looked slightly surprised, but took it in his stride. Stanley gave up barking and went to inspect his van.

‘He thinks you’ve got Bonios,’ I say, conversationally. I am giddy with relief and so quite chatty.

‘Fish and chips,’ says the gentleman, not seeming to mind.

‘Oh careful,’ I say. ‘He’ll have that. He’s a lurcher.’

We part in mutual fondness. Or it may be that the happy look in his eye is simply because he is managing to escape before I start telling him about Red the Mare and how the great filly Treve danced all over her opponents at Longchamp yesterday, quckening miraculously off a slow pace and shooting courageously through gaps that were not there. I swear at one point she just shouldered her way past two other horses as if to say: out of the way ladies, girl’s coming through.

And so, the day is saved. I am passionately glad that I shall not lose everything. But the day is also lost, in the temporal sense, because of the endless, grinding, convoluted, sadistic process of setting up a new machine.

What about the old ladies? I find myself thinking. I’m not a techie, but I’m under fifty and reasonably well-educated. I got email half way through my twenties, although at the time I only knew one other person who had it, and we used to send merry exchanges across the Atlantic Ocean, in a slightly self-conscious early adopter kind of way. I admit I did have to type both my first books on a typewriter. But still. I am of the technology age. Yet it took six hours. SIX. What about those people who grew up with pens and paper and dial telephones? My mother actually spent her childhood driving around in a pony and trap because it was the war and there was no petrol. How would that generation manage?

It is the most lovely, sleek, beautiful machine. It is all shiny and fast and new. But it has Windows 8 on it. Windows 8 looks frantically sexy and is the work of Satan. Well, they always say the devil will have the best lines. It’s all touch-screen and trying to be Apple, and I don’t really like Apple. (That is a very subjective judgement. I realise it is brilliant. I just like typing and clicking.) It is filled with meretricious buttons which it calls Apps, in a dad-dancing kind of way, trying to get down with the kids.

What about the old gentlemen? I think. Do the silver surfers count for nothing? How shall they work all this out?

It has lots of commercial things stitched into it. I don’t want shopping applications and the ghastly Norton and an Ebay button and various things which insist I must scan my registry this very minute. I like choosing my own. Free market, I snort, the old lefty in me suddenly singing the Internationale. Not very free, if you ask me. I feel as if I am being press-ganged.

So I bash my way through my first world problems and think how absurd all this new technology is, and feel glad that I may get a lovely new machine but also furious that I have to, since obsolescence seems to be built in.

I’d like one good item onto which I could put all the nice software which I have chosen and which contains all my writing and all my photographs of Red the Mare and Stanley the Dog and all the old tunes I adore and for it to last for ten years. But that, apparently, would not please the grasping cabal of computer people, who clearly don’t give a bugger about landfill and just want me to have to replace the poor tottering creatures every two years. It has happened with every machine I’ve ever owned, no matter how much anti-virus I put in, or firewalls I erect. They just start to die. (Except, I do admit, there was one which I slaughtered myself, with Diet Coke.)

Still, I must count my blessings. The thing is very pretty and it works. I may write my book and do my work. I just need a little strong liquor for the regulation new computer rage.


No time for pictures. It’s after the Archers, even. I don’t know what I’m doing really, sitting here writing a blog at this time of night. But I do know that these three don’t give a bugger about technology, and I find that rather soothing:

16 Sept 1


  1. I took my laptop back to the work IT department last week. 'It still works,' I said. The man looked at me in disbelief. He looked at the screen hanging off at one corner, the housing flapping to reveal wires and a broken hinge. 'A screw came out,' I said. He regarded the devastation on the keyboard: dog hairs, bald patches were the A and E keys should be. 'The right click doesn't work,' I helpfully pointed out, 'and it freezes and gets awfully hot and now it won't shut down properly it crashes instead, but it still works and I'm in the middle of something...'

    The poor man looked like I had done something heinous to a kitten. He tapped a few keys and said, 'Why is program X missing?' 'Oh, I said, because I had a Trojan virus ages ago which hid everything but I got it working again.'

    'Have you backed up your 11,000 files?'

    'Just the ones I need,' say I blithely.

    I think at that moment, a little piece of him died. They offered me a new shiny one. I declined. What I need is the same old model you see. One that I can work to the point of extinction. They agreed and I am now the official employee where old laptops go to live out their days. Which is a long way of saying, new-fangled tech stuff is a very great nuisance and I seem to be turning into my Grandpa who had the same fridge for nearly fifty years. He said it was the Rolls Royce of fridges. Here's to things lasting!

  2. Trying to figure out a new computer would be my version of hell.

  3. Oh - I do know what you're going through! Just a week ago my old laptop bit the dust. You can read about it here -

    You'll master it soon, I know this! I'm 70, and though I'm not at all as busy as you are I've finally managed to get it fairly well understood in these last few days. There are still things that annoy me, so I do use Outlook on the Desktop and leave all those apps and tiles and whatnot mostly to themselves. I've switched as much as I can to look like the old windows, even setting up my own Word template and putting it in my Documents. If you can make it your own (once you've mastered those blasted screen edges and corners!) you'll do fine. I keep telling myself it is the way of the future, and that all the IPads and notebooks look like this now. But I must say that after 15 years or so with other Windows systems this one is a real beast, and that's putting it nicely.

    Look on it as a challenge. Just think of all the things you've mastered in the recent years - this one won't defeat you! (And I am unanimous in this!)

  4. Well, my husband's new computer has Windows 8 and he has spent the last two weeks informing me of all the instructions on how to use it, which is completely pointless because my old computer does not have Windows 8. He just likes teaching, is all.

    Anyway, the one helpful hint I have for you is this: If you're looking for your Start Menu, it's hidden way way down in the very bottom left corner of the screen. You have to stick the cursor way into the corner like you're going after a flea on the run, and click - it will pop up.

    As for the rest, I'm afraid you're on your own.

  5. Must say I get annoyed at the new interface. I'm a tech (servers, not pcs) and it took me a DAY to set the blasted thing up and get comfortable with it. You can do things like rearrange the app tiles so you only get the ones you use regularly, and uninstall all the stuff you don't want.

    Highly recommend getting an external hard drive. They're quite cheap these days for an awful lot of storage. And find a local geek who can set up a desktop icon for you to click on, that copies all your critical files to that external drive. I *think* that there's an inbuilt backup program that will do it under instruction, but haven't looked.

    Tech support for my 80 year old mother is done when I visit (not as often as I would like as she lives about 860km north) but I can generally manage her difficulties over the phone.

  6. I love getting new computers and have recently converted very enthusiastically to Apple, but I do quite like Windows 8 too. My father is 90 and has had computers for years. An external hard drive is a good idea and USB flash drives have a large capacity these days and are not expensive. Also, you have access to Sky Drive through Windows, so you could save files 'in the cloud'. I also highly recommend Dropbox for storage. You could then access your files on other computers, maybe if you are away from home. Oh and Evernote is excellent for notes/research for book-writing.
    (Better stop now before I really get carried away and bore you to tears. You probably know all this anyway.) ;)

  7. With you all the way (although pretty much one of your "old ladies" at 60!). I do toy with Apple in the form of my iPad, but generally choose the lower-price-pointed PC and could continue to be perfectly happy with it if only I could buy it UN-loaded (other than basic OS, which I'd like to choose for myself, ditto a Word/Office package) --

    I do appreciate many of the conveniences of "the cloud" but I wish I could more easily filter what goes there as my trust in the privacy/integrity of large corps is a bit sketchy. . .

    And I love your line about PCs that add Apps in an attempt to be cool, Dads getting down with the kids. . . brilliant!

    Good luck with the learning curve -- don't hesitate to use some trekking poles to help with the steep climb. . .


Your comments give me great delight, so please do leave one.


Blog Widget by LinkWithin