Emma Samms: Technology is a mystery to me

Emma Samms

I concede that sometimes the reason why my laptop isn't working is because I have done something wrong - Credit: Emma Samms

Who needs LA when your heart is in the Cotswolds?

It used to be that for many us, the most commonplace form of struggling with technology meant the actual pulling and tugging of a piece of paper stuck in a printer. The all too common ‘paper jam’ was infuriating, but at least we could see what the problem was and physically remedy it.

Nowadays, especially to those of us of a certain age, technology is a mystery. If your laptop isn’t working properly, you can’t take the back of it off and have a look inside to see what’s wrong. You used to be able to mend anything with a roll of gaffer tape or a can of WD40 but now, even if you had the specially-shaped screwdriver, built-in obsolescence ensures that any meddling with the innards of a machine will probably make things worse and will definitely invalidate the warranty.

I concede, with reluctance, that sometimes, just sometimes, the problem is not with the machine but with my lack of technical knowledge. The appearance of the rainbow circle of doom may not be because the computer is broken. It could be because I have done something wrong. 

I also concede that the chances of my having done something wrong are exceptionally high, and this is based on the fact that I have never actually been taught how to use a computer. I’ve just muddled along, using trial and error to accomplish the limited things I need it to do and no more. As I sit at my laptop answering emails or editing photos, I’m sure I’m doing the equivalent of sitting in a fighter jet but taxying it down the street to the corner shop to buy a newspaper.

When some mysterious abomination stops me from proceeding I am very fortunate to be able to call ‘Tech Support’. This is my daughter Micha, and she is both highly computer-literate and really good at explaining. On many occasions she has talked me down from a deadline-induced panic and solved all sorts of my usually self-induced, computer problems.

There are some modern technologies that I have embraced and now depend on. It would be hard to argue that road atlases are better than a sat nav, especially one that can warn you about traffic issues up ahead. And, once mastered, online banking is both easier and faster than paying bills by cheque. I’ve learned to very much rely on the way my car beeps at me when I’m reversing. So much so in fact, that recently, when I drove a car without parking sensors, I was really worried that I’d just forget about their absence and blithely drive into a wall or another car.

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Whilst I do, sort of, understand the technology behind parking sensors (I’m thinking bats and radar…?) it did make me think about the trust we place in so many things that we don’t understand. I’ve had ground-source heating explained to me dozens of times and I still can’t get my head around it, yet our radiators are hot and the water coming out of our taps is steaming, so that’s good enough for me. 

Perhaps we don’t always need to be able to ‘lift the hood’ as it were. Perhaps we have to accept the fact that if our lives are going to be enhanced to the extent that they are by modern technology, we shouldn’t even try. 

The days of fixing a printer by pulling out a jammed piece of paper are long gone.

Follow Emma on Twitter: @EmmaSamms1