Patrick Dixon explains why he won't be going out without paper and a printer
Some conference centres and hotels are still in the Dark Ages when it comes to computers - as I discovered when I tried to send an e- mail message recently.

For a start there was no phone in my room at the conference centre. A neat row of pay phones was no help. They offered to fax the article for free. But how do you produce a paper copy with no printer?

My Orange mobile phone has a fax and data socket, but they say it will only work later this year. Anyway, the reception was so poor that I would have had to fax outside in the rain, with the computer in one hand and the phone plus umbrella in the other.

So I bundled into the car and drove 12 miles to a large Forte Posthouse hotel. The receptionist was full of smiles but said it was impossible. It was a common problem, she said. Almost every week someone staying in the hotel tried and failed to connect a computer to their phones. There was no suitable socket anywhere in the hotel. She was so sorry.

I turned back with my hand on the door - what about your own fax machine, which must be on a direct line? Couldn't we unplug that? Just for five minutes? I'll pay whatever you want. I was getting desperate. Absolutely not, she told me. It was needed for bookings. Try the petrol station. I took one look at the line of cars and gave up that idea.

A shop? A small office? Excuse me, can I use your phone - unplug it and shove my fax modem into your socket? I passed an estate agent's, chemist, post office, supermarket, bicycle shop ...

Clutching all my electronic bits I pushed open the door. There was no sign of life apart from a tiny dog, which was pleased to see me. There was a room at the back and I heard a cistern flush. An old man wandered in. The only technology he seemed to have was a solitary light bulb. Was there even a phone? Could I fax from here?

He was puzzled but friendly and pointed to a phone socket on the ceiling. A stool would reach it. My next problem was power. The computer battery was fine but the modem needed a transformer. So we perched the modem on the stool, half suspended from the jack, then unplugged his kettle and trailed leads across the shop.

I knelt down on the carpet between inner tubes and powered up, watched by the dog and the old man. In my haste, I abandoned e-mail for a simple fax.

Next time I'm away from home for any length of time, in addition to the laptop, power supply, fax modem, connecting cables, mobile phone, phone charger and pager, I'll take a printer, headed paper, parallel port cable, mains extension lead, adaptor and phone chargecard. And they say teleworking is easy.

Comments