Friday, January 02, 2009

Digtal dyslexia - it's so difficult to talk about

My New Year’s resolution, apart from all the usual ones that get broken in the first week, is to stop feeling bad about new technology and about my digital dyslexia. Computers don’t actually work very well, but everyone has to pretend that they do work for fear of being accused of being technophobes or in the early stages of senile dementia.

It’s the little things that really drive me mad. Like when the text disappears from the screen because you’ve inadvertently hit an f button. Or iTunes loses all those songs you expensively downloaded. Recently my printer stopped recognising commands to print emails - it’ll print everything else. There is a malign intelligence at work here.

Infuriating incompatibilities remain year after year. PCs still don't accept attachments on emails sent from my Mac, which is like the Royal Mail refusing to deliver letters unless they are written on their own typewriters. I have a clever handheld computer which allows me to write on the move. It runs Windows, but the Herald’s Windows-based computers can’t open its Zip files. How insane is that?

Apple is little better than Microsoft. Last year they introduced a thing called Mobile Me which is supposed to allow you to access your email more easily from the web when you are abroad. It doesn’t. In fact, I can’t access my webmail at all now. There are hundreds of furious complaints about “Immobilised Me” on the Mac discussion sites, but Apple doesn’t seem to care. This is because they know, and Windows knows, that 90% of us will think it is our own fault that we can’t get the system to work.

We have been conditioned to believe that we are the problem. The conspiracy of silence is bad and not only because it makes everyone dependent on sneering nerds in IT departments. In the recession, people are even more reluctant to admit to digital dyslexia in case it's used as a reason for making them redundant.

But imagine if your washing machine were to stop working because it had been hit by a virus, or you were told that you had to buy a new one because Hotpoint had changed the configuration of the washing cycle. Or imagine pressing the half load button and being told that you had committed an illegal act and would be shut down. This is madness.

I don’t care if there are solutions to these problems if onlyI understood how the thing worked. I don’t have the time or inclination to find out how my computer works any more than I want to know how my TV works. So, I have resolved to stop feeling bad and instead get mad. We must fight back against the machine. We have nothing to lose but our domains.

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