There was a time when all I needed to be sure of managing a day’s work were a spare typewriter ribbon, a bottle of Snopake and a pack of A4 paper. Oh, and running shoes, so I could make it to the post office before the final collection. That’s how I used to file copy in the 1980s: in an envelope, dropped into a postbox. How quaint.
Now, for better and for worse, it’s a whole other story. I mention this because I’ve just spent the morning uninstalling apps, reinstalling apps, updating drivers and doing a lot of other tech maintenance stuff that I don’t understand and don’t particularly want to learn.
My office set-up is modest: a laptop, a tablet for when I’m on the road, and a bog standard smartphone. I also have a printer, rarely used, which requires expensive ink cartridges. It eyes me nervously from the corner of the spare bedroom. One of these days I’m going to learn to live without it, and I think it knows.
I’m not a total techno-chump and I do acknowledge the ways the digital age has made my life easier. If I need information, I no longer have to hope that a) the library is open and b) that it will have the answers. When it’s time to submit a piece of journalism, all I have to do is hit SEND. And during the past year the Internet has kept me supplied with concerts and lectures and chats with friends. Without all of that I would undoubtedly have lost my mind.
So this morning, amid the cursing at failed downloads and head-scratching at impenetrable jargon, I was also thinking about the people I haven’t seen recently. Some don’t trust the Internet, some just don’t have the resources to buy a computer or upgrade their phone. They’re being left behind and that is a very sad state of affairs.
I’m delighted to manage without typewriter ribbons and Snopake, without smelly, vandalised telephone boxes and reference books that are years out of date, but still, let us not forget…