I suspect there comes a time in every adult’s life when the brutal realisation dawns that the language of technology is leaving them behind.
I remember clearly when it happened to my mother, it was 1980 and she had decided to buy a new colour television. We went along to Manweb, the local state-owned electrical retailer. (The fact that the state owned an electrical retailer and no one questioned why is surely an example of the state of Britain’s centralised corporatist economy in the 1970s). The salesman persuaded my mother of the advantages of a new-fangled ‘remote control’ and after reassuring her that
(a) The rays wouldn’t cause cancer, and
(b) Changing channels wouldn’t also change the neighbour’s TV sets
she signed on the dotted line.
At that time, my mother was around 50, the age I am now.
Yesterday I ventured into the land of horror, where all of Dante‘s Layers of Hell meet. Currys PC World.
I had researched what I wanted so I could confidently walk up to ‘Darren’ and say “one of these please, no I don’t want an extended warranty, no I done want insurance, no I don’t need a mega doodlebyte upgrade, here is my card, please take your money and let me escape to the Marks and Spencer Food Hall next door where people speak a language I understand.”
I actually managed to say most of the above and was about to pay when I made a fatal error. I asked a question. Why I allowed myself such an indulgence is a mystery. Questions require answers, and it’s the answers I fail to understand. I therefore need to ask further questions to help me understand the first answer, and it’s then downhill all the way, back to a place where an awkward and sullen 14 year old cringed with embarrassment on hearing his mother ask if the TV remote control would cause the neighbour’s sets to also change channel.
“Is Microsoft office pre-loaded?” I enquired.
You can buy it in a bundle.
“Sorry, I just want to know if Microsoft office is pre-loaded?”
No, but you can get it in a bundle.
“A bundle of what?”
Depends what else you put into it.
At this point, there was a standoff as ‘Darren’ tried to hide his contempt and I tried to hide my irritation.
“What might I need to put into ‘it’ which I don’t already have?”
Whatever you need.
“How do I know what I might need if I don’t know what you have available?”
How about McAfee – you could include 12 months McAfee.
McAfee sounded good – I knew I needed anti-virus software, so that was worth having. But little did I know that installing said McAfee would result in three hours connected to Amnul at “McAfee Remote Assistance”, 7 reboots and bed at 1am.
“OK, how much is that, then?”
That’s only two things; you need at least three things in a bundle. We’re doing a promotion on the cloud.
You can have two tetra-bytes in the cloud.
‘That’s super’, said Steve – who after 13 years knows when I am about to reach breaking point.
I feebly and pathetically handed-over my card – having not only bought my new tablet but also something in a cloud, which I neither wanted nor understood.
As we left a smiley woman with a clipboard approached, “would you participate in a customer satisfaction survey?”
Probably best you leave him alone, said Steve – guiding me out of the door and towards M&S Food Hall.