Opinion: When a laptop eats your work, it's time for Dark Age oaths

Here is a picture. A man is sitting in a room, surrounded by other people, all of them stabbing at small pieces of plastic, while televisions blare and smoke hangs in the air. (The press room at any political party conference, deadline approaching .) Suddenly the man changes colour.

A line of crimson washes up over his shirt collar, lunges across his face and disappears into his hairline. The man leaps up, back arched. He starts to dance around the room. Foul words pour from his mouth, profane plosivesthought up in some Anglian bog during one of the less pleasant bits of the Dark Ages and rarely heard since. The man's colleagues stab on, for they have become used to this behaviour.

The man, O Reader, is myself, and I have been using a Dell Latitude notebook computer, lent to me by the Network Page. This, I have been assured, is an object of desire, the hottest little laptop in the West, the sort of kit that will get its owner admiring stares. If I saunter round the political conferences carrying this, I will be an object of attention. Well, they were right about that, at least.

Apparently the point of the Dell is that it has a battery that lasts for eight hours, so you can do things such as use it on the train. On the way to Blackpool, I couldn't. The in-built mouse jerked and leapt across the screen to the rhythm of the British Rail rumba; the keyboard design, with a fat slice of plastic between you and the keys, makes typing harder than on simpler, cheaper machines; and my eyes ached.

None of that, however, matters so much. What caused the real spasms of anger was that my machine suddenly closed itself down without warning. When I restarted it, the copy had gone. If one has just spent three hours honing and polishing a thousand words,this can seem a less-than-endearing trait. If there are only minutes left to deadline, then a fellow, however naturally amiable, might feel a trifle narky. If it happens three or four times, then only the thought of how much the thing costs prevents a chap from flinging it through the nearest plate-glass window.

A final irritating problem was the unreliability of the communications system, which seemed to connect to the office less often than the allegedly plain and unglamorous Tandy laptops that I had used in the past. Again, if one is short of time, and requires a measure of predictability, this failed my road test.

No doubt this machine can do lots of brilliant things I do not know about. No doubt it can play games involving mentally deficient barbarians, nuclear-tipped dragons and hooligan hedgehogs, while reconstructing the tax exposure of Mitsubishi Electric on a spreadsheet across which pink and avocado-coloured toasters are flying to the strains of Handel's Samson. But all I wanted to do was write sentences and send them through a telephone line, and I wasn't impressed.

Next time, I'll indent for a Biro, a notepad and a pocketful of 50p pieces.

Andrew Marr is Chief Political Commentator of the `Independent'.

Voices
Lucerne’s Hotel Château Gütsch, one of the lots in our Homeless Veterans appeal charity auction
charity appeal
Arts and Entertainment
Tony Hughes (James Nesbitt) after his son Olly disappeared on a family holiday in France
tv
News
people

Jo from Northern Ireland was less than impressed by Russell Brand's attempt to stage a publicity stunt

Sport
Scunthorpe goalkeeper Sam Slocombe (left) is congratulated by winning penalty taker Miguel Llera (right)
football
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
ebookNow available in paperback
Life and Style
ebooksA superb mix of recipes serving up the freshest of local produce in a delicious range of styles
Arts and Entertainment
The Apprentice candidates Roisin Hogan, Solomon Akhtar, Mark Wright, Bianca Miller, Daniel Lassman
tvReview: But which contestants got the boot?
Life and Style
A woman walks by a pandal art installation entitled 'Mars Mission' with the figure of an astronaut during the Durga Puja festival in Calcutta, India
techHow we’ll investigate the existence of, and maybe move in with, our alien neighbours
Arts and Entertainment
Jim Carrey and Jeff Daniels ride again in Dumb and Dumber To
filmReview: Dumb And Dumber To was a really stupid idea
Arts and Entertainment
Sir Ian McKellen tempts the Cookie Monster
tvSir Ian McKellen joins the Cookie Monster for a lesson on temptation
News
i100
Travel
Tourists bask in the sun beneath the skyscrapers of Dubai
travelBritish embassy uses social media campaign to issue travel advice for festive holiday-makers in UAE
Arts and Entertainment
Jennifer Saunders stars as Miss Windsor, Dennis's hysterical French teacher
filmJennifer Saunders and Kate Moss join David Walliams on set for TV adaptation of The Boy in the Dress
Life and Style
tech
Sport
Nabil Bentaleb (centre) celebrates putting Tottenham ahead
footballTottenham 4 Newcastle 0: Spurs fans dreaming of Wembley final after dominant win
Voices
Jimmy Mubenga died after being restrained on an aircraft by G4S escorts
voicesJonathan Cox: Tragedy of Jimmy Mubenga highlights lack of dignity shown to migrants
Life and Style
Sebastian Siemiatkowski is the 33-year-old co-founder and CEO of Klarna, which provides a simple way for people to buy things online
tech
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    Ashdown Group: Helpdesk Analyst

    £25000 per annum: Ashdown Group: An established media firm based in Surrey is ...

    Ashdown Group: Java Developer - Hertfordshire - £47,000 + bonus + benefits

    £40000 - £470000 per annum + bonus: Ashdown Group: Java Developer / J2EE Devel...

    Ashdown Group: Head of Finance - Financial Director - London - £70,000

    £70000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Head of Finance - Financial Controller - Fina...

    Recruitment Genius: Business Development Executive - Nationwide - OTE £65,000

    £30000 - £65000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This small technology business ...

    Day In a Page

    Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton: The power dynamics of the two first families

    Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton

    Karen Tumulty explores the power dynamics of the two first families
    Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley with a hotbed of technology start-ups

    Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley

    The Swedish capital is home to two of the most popular video games in the world, as well as thousands of technology start-ups worth hundreds of millions of pounds – and it's all happened since 2009
    Did Japanese workers really get their symbols mixed up and display Santa on a crucifix?

    Crucified Santa: Urban myth refuses to die

    The story goes that Japanese store workers created a life-size effigy of a smiling "Father Kurisumasu" attached to a facsimile of Our Lord's final instrument of torture
    Jennifer Saunders and Kate Moss join David Walliams on set for TV adaptation of The Boy in the Dress

    The Boy in the Dress: On set with the stars

    Walliams' story about a boy who goes to school in a dress will be shown this Christmas
    La Famille Bélier is being touted as this year's Amelie - so why are many in the deaf community outraged by it?

    Deaf community outraged by La Famille Bélier

    The new film tells the story of a deaf-mute farming family and is being touted as this year's Amelie
    10 best high-end laptops

    10 best high-end laptops

    From lightweight and zippy devices to gaming beasts, we test the latest in top-spec portable computers
    Michael Carberry: ‘After such a tough time, I’m not sure I will stay in the game’

    Michael Carberry: ‘After such a tough time, I’m not sure I will stay in the game’

    The batsman has grown disillusioned after England’s Ashes debacle and allegations linking him to the Pietersen affair
    Susie Wolff: A driving force in battle for equality behind the wheel

    Susie Wolff: A driving force in battle for equality behind the wheel

    The Williams driver has had plenty of doubters, but hopes she will be judged by her ability in the cockpit
    Adam Gemili interview: 'No abs Adam' plans to muscle in on Usain Bolt's turf

    'No abs Adam' plans to muscle in on Usain Bolt's turf

    After a year touched by tragedy, Adam Gemili wants to become the sixth Briton to run a sub-10sec 100m
    Calls for a military mental health 'quality mark'

    Homeless Veterans campaign

    Expert calls for military mental health 'quality mark'
    Racton Man: Analysis shows famous skeleton was a 6ft Bronze Age superman

    Meet Racton Man

    Analysis shows famous skeleton was a 6ft Bronze Age superman
    Garden Bridge: St Paul’s adds to £175m project’s troubled waters

    Garden Bridge

    St Paul’s adds to £175m project’s troubled waters
    Stuff your own Christmas mouse ornament: An evening class in taxidermy with a festive feel

    Stuff your own Christmas mouse ornament

    An evening class in taxidermy with a festive feel
    Joint Enterprise: The legal doctrine which critics say has caused hundreds of miscarriages of justice

    Joint Enterprise

    The legal doctrine which critics say has caused hundreds of miscarriages of justice
    Freud and Eros: Love, Lust and Longing at the Freud Museum: Objects of Desire

    Freud and Eros

    Love, Lust and Longing at the Freud Museum