Keeping up with new technology

There will always be events in any life that seem so innocent at first sight, but lead on to interludes of fear, anger, frustration, and at times despair; let me tell you this and no more, starting off a new computer has all these features in great measure and should be avoided at all cost.

To be honest, expense had been the main reason for keeping my increasingly erratic old Packard Bell computer for so long.

In seven years it has done the needful for me in producing reams of written work, storing zillions of pictures and hosted my internet connection – demmit, I have almost grown to like the humming box on my desk, but have refused to admit that before now as anyone who has a love affair with a computer is a sad, sad person.

Thinking back, the Packard Bell computer now about to leave is the same one that featured in a previous Pilgrim when a certain worldwide company specialising in selling that sort of stuff on line sent me a box which purported to contain my new computer, but on opening, it I discovered the computer had been pinched while in transit and a junky looking coffee making machine substituted to make up the weight.

Fair enough, that crime was down to the carrier company, but in the prolonged fight to get my money back both outfits were completely unhelpful and were it not for the excellent advice from our local consumer protection folk, I would still be trying to get that mythical refund.

This time, however, I elected to look nearer to home for my new computer and on recommendation went to a local company in Tweedbank where a nice man called Sam sorted me out with a computer package, described as user friendly, that did not break my bank but had all the gizmos and tricks I need for this writing lark.

After I had carefully carted the new gear home, I realised I had acquired a big box of electronic kit, but I had only a sketchy idea of how I might set it all up without wrecking too much. After much head scratching I took the sensible move and sent for my clever son-in-law who soon had the situation under control.

I would like to tell you it was all plain sailing, but I omitted to consider one minor detail. In the time I had owned my previous computer the world of computing technology has taken a few rather large leaps forward and as ever, I was left well behind.

In basic terms, all I really wanted from my new computer was the same functions as the old one, but no way – everything is different in so many ways, so it’s back to school for me as I struggle to grasp the new ways.

After a certain amount of fiddling about I have got enough of the brute under control to be able to write this column without too many blunders.

For me, one of the worst mistakes I can make is forgetting to save my work as I go, which means that there are a number of simple errors I can commit which will see the words vanish from the screen into the ether, never to be seen again.

I have done this so many times in the past you might think I had learned my lesson several times over, but it still happens now and then, usually setting me off on a major strop followed by a good sulk.

There is still a large sector of the populace who do not join in the IT world, and apart from getting left behind because so much of life is now dealt with “online”, they are losing out big style.

I am somewhere in the middle as I won’t get involved with stuff like online banking etc, and refuse to commit my credit card details to any outfit that has a look about them which flashes dodgy crew warnings in my brain.

That part of computers can be taken or left according to the choice of users, but the really important issue of computers lies with the ability to express yourself without needing pen and paper.

I write all my letters on the computer and have a label writer which saves posties a lot of grief when it comes to reading addresses. As my fingers get stiffer it is increasingly difficult for me to deliver clear legible handwriting; I start off OK but as the letter I am trying to write goes on, my handwriting gets worse; if I were still at school it would surely earn me the belt every time.

The best part of modern computing is to be found in the way it has made writing so much easier. I can automatically check my spelling and grammar, take out the bits I don’t want and piece in more detail where I choose.

Old Wattie Scott would have been well pleased if he had been able to write his Waverley novels using Microsoft Word, although I fear his books would have been a whole lot longer and thus take longer to read, not an entertaining prospect as he did tend to go on a bit at times.

At my level of writing, I enjoy using a few hours of free time writing a short story or a word plan for books I would love to write but never do; maybe some day a book will be good enough to send to an agent, but for now, the products of my imagination are never going to get me star billing at the Borders Book Festival.

There is an old saying that there is a book or story in every one of us, just waiting to get out and be told. In effect, this means computers in the varied ways they are now presented might be the best way to get some into print, liberating personal or family histories, war memoirs, handed down stories, poems, maybe even a raunchy joke book into the public domain.

Buying that computer might well be the first step to the big money.