Tuesday 13 April 2010


Most of us have caught up with the digital revolution. But some people have kicked and screamed and held onto the door frame as we tried to drag them into the 21st century - or the 20th – or even the 19th.

Twenty or thirty years ago, they were very disturbed by FELT-TIP PENS, treating them like biros and refusing to put the tops back on, so the ink dried up. They then carried on writing with the pens. If you offered them a new one they said “No, no, this is fine, look!” and wrote something faint and illegible, pressing very hard and destroying the tip.

They carried on typing with faint, ghostly TYPING RIBBONS because they didn’t know how to put in a new one. Typewriters had a few mechanical features (like a switch that made the ribbon run back the other way). They found these too complicated and carried on typing on the same spot on the ribbon (now stuck at the end of its cycle) until it wore through.

They wrote humorous articles complaining TYPEWRITERS had too many gizmos (tab keys!) and if you pressed the wrong one everything ended up in capITALS.

They didn’t screw back the top on the TIPPEX tightly enough, or even at all. They either used it when it had dried up and gone lumpy, or spent hours adding thinner and leaving the bottle upside down. (And if you said “It says ‘Screw top on tightly’ - if you don’t it dries up” they’d say “No, no, it’s all right, you can add thinner and leave the bottle upside down!”)

When TVs were black and white, and you tuned in to the (four) channels with a knob at the back, they watched through hissing and snow, and wouldn't let you wiggle the knob to get a better picture.

When they finally got around to getting COLOUR TELLY, they didn’t adjust the colour, so everyone’s face was salmon pink and all football fields were vivid viridian. If you tried to adjust it they screamed: “No, no, stop! You’ll make it worse! I like it like that!”

They said they weren't going to use a computer unless they understood how they WORKED. (It didn't bother them that they didn't know how a telly worked.)

They couldn’t understand why anyone would want a COMPUTER – the only language they spoke was a lot of 0000s and 11111s.

Then they said: “But I don’t need a COMPUTER, all I want is a WORD PROCESSOR.”

They pretended to think that a WORD PROCESSOR would massage your prose and write your article for you. They said “I’ve heard Wordstar is the best,” meaning that it was the only WP programme they’d heard of.

They didn’t want to get a COMPUTER because they were afraid of hackers and viruses. When they finally got one they lost all the text out of their document and then saved it, overwriting the backup version. They swore they'd never buy anything online because hackers would steal their bank details as they wafted through the ether.

They liked to tell cautionary tales about search and replace ("and they ended up with African Americanboard!"). If you asked them for some amended sentences, they'd update the article and send you the whole thing again - without marking the changes.

They got RSI from refusing to buy a proper adjustable CHAIR, and putting the screen and keyboard very close to the edge of the desk so there was nowhere to rest their forearms and they had to hunch over the equipment, looking stressed and breathing heavily. (Why do office workers get a desk but home offices get “workstations” with a little tiny shelf for the keyboard?)

They used MOUSE MATS that stuck to the mouse, not the desk, and never increased their mouse speed.

They refused to buy FLOPPY DISCS when these were the only way of passing electronic text around. They'd just spent several hundred pounds on a GADGET, and weren't willing to splash out any more. If you told them that floppy discs were 30p each in Rymans, they put their fingers in their ears and went "La la la!"

If they ran an office, they continued to perform operations in ancient, labour intensive and time consuming ways (“We don’t need a PHOTOCOPIER - we have ten typists!”)

They dictated EMAILS to their secretary.

They whinged about terrible computer JARGON and wouldn’t learn the right name for anything. (“Why do I have to download or access? Why can’t I just get it?”)

They’re always going on about how they hate HELP WIZARDS, but refuse to listen when you explain how to turn them off.

They even refuse to use PRINTERS’ MARKS for correcting text (“My own are just as good!”).

They’re quite sure that what they’re doing is TOUCH TYPING (“My way!”)

They used to say “I don’t want to become a SLAVE to technology!”

And they thought that MOBILE PHONES might be quite useful for builders and plumbers but it was ridiculous for anyone else to get one.

And they swore they’d never use these newfangled POSTCODES, and refused to leave messages on ANSWERING MACHINES. When they finally got an answering machine, they got their child to record the “please leave a message” message. They call their remote control by a cute name ("the Herbert").

They can't understand why their old keyboard SHORTCUTS don't work - after several software upgrades and a machine replacement.

Now they’re afraid they’ll become ADDICTED to the Internet.

They like to moan that FACEBOOK friendships aren’t real, and don’t see the point of TWITTER and blogging – who wants to read about total strangers having cups of coffee?

They think that Facebook and Twitter give you instant access to information about all other members at once. When you say "You choose who to follow, and you can block or hide people", they look blank and change the subject.

When they join Facebook, they don't want to hear about earlier forms of social media (which have been around since the mid-80s, no, really). "Yes, but they were for GEEKS!"

Everybody has ONE piece of technology they’re loathsomely smug about NOT using. "Youtube! Oh, I have no use for Youtube! I just don’t need it!"

They save everything to their DESKTOP, cluttering it up and slowing down the machine. They don't want to hear about folders (and nested folders) - "Too complicated!"

They're convinced that wikipedia gets everything wrong.

What will they do when we all travel by jetpack, live on compressed food pills and live in geodesic domes?

If you liked that, you may like this from Successful Software.

Here's Part Two.