About 18 months ago, we got a new franking machine in the office Post Room. Apparently the old one was so outdated it was no longer supported, so we were given a new one. An all singing, all dancing one, that is much more high tech than the old one.
With the old franking machine, we all understood how it worked. You weighed your piece of post, told the machine where the item was going, and the machine came back with a sum. You input the sum into the franking machine, ran the piece of post through it and it came out with the right postage printed on it. Easy.
The new machine does all this for you. All you have to do – allegedly – is put the post on the scales, the machine will calibrate the weight and size of the item, and then you run the item through the machine and it prints the right amount of postage on it.
Or this is the theory. In practice, it’s a bit more complicated than that, and you have to know which buttons to push. Push the wrong ones, or in the wrong order, and it doesn’t work. And sometimes the scales decide to not talk to the machine and you can get nothing out of it. Generally whenever I go to the post room to mail something, there are at least two people huddled over the franking machine, trying to figure out how to get it to do what they want it to do.
I think what this reflects is that the cleverer technology gets, the more complicated it gets, and the more we rely on it. This is a consequence of modern life. When the power goes out in the office – and it occasionally does – no one can do anything. All work is on the computer, and even the phones go down because they are computerised. We can’t even do any filing, because we’re working towards all electronic storage these days.
I’m not necessarily saying this is a bad thing. I’m addicted to the Internet and for the weeks I was without it, after moving, I was completely lost. But the more complicated our technology gets, the more often it goes wrong and the more stressful our lives get.
I’m not criticising the technology. I couldn’t be without my mobile phone, my e-reader and especially my NetBook. But they all need charging on a regular basis, and they can all go wrong. And when they do, my life is thrown into disarray.
In the 1950s, the future was portrayed as being a utopia with so many wonderful time-saving gadgets, we’d all have a lot more leisure time. How different the reality. The more time saving gadgets we have, the busier our lives become.
I couldn’t live my life without electricity. And I think that’s probably not a good thing. But that’s the way it is. When the apocalypse comes, I don’t think I want to be one of the survivors. Let someone else be responsible for the survival of the human race. Given the choice, I think I’d rather die with the power supply.