I, too, know the hot anger of technology rage

Share

"When we found out the reason behind this on the internet, we laughed," said one of the office workers temporarily besieged by a Dutch gunman yesterday. And he wasn't alone in smirking, either.

"When we found out the reason behind this on the internet, we laughed," said one of the office workers temporarily besieged by a Dutch gunman yesterday. And he wasn't alone in smirking, either.

Most of the newspaper reports kept a pretty straight face in describing the hostage crisis in Amsterdam – it did end with the man's suicide, after all. But, like that office worker, they couldn't entirely suppress an air of amusement at what had brought the unfortunate man to this pass.

It wasn't bankruptcy or heartbreak, apparently, but discontent with his widescreen television. I didn't laugh, though. Having just passed through a week of technology-induced depression, all I could think was that it's little short of a miracle this sort of thing doesn't happen every day.

The general assumption seemed to be that the psychosis existed first and the disappointing widescreen television simply provided a seed around which it could crystallise. And perhaps this was the case. Maybe the poor man had been deranged enough to take the commercial promises of Philips too literally.

He'd looked at the website and seen the intriguing illustration of a well-to-do couple sitting on a sofa while a herd of wild mustangs thundered past, inches from their toes. That looks fantastic, he thought, and then his eyes shifted to a synthetic affidavit: "Philips Widescreen TVs put me right in the heart of the picture."

Who wouldn't want such a miraculous instrument? Then, after shelling out the necessary euros, he got the box back home and discovered it was just a telly. No wild horses, no total immersion – just another telly. Disappointment curdles into revenge fantasy.

Maybe that's how it happened. But I wouldn't want to rule out the possibility that it was the widescreen telly that drove him mad in the first place – particularly if all that technological foreplay was followed by no climax.

I've been wanting to kill my computer for the past five days – since an attempt to attach a digital camera cast it into a state of twitching shell-shock. I've been wanting to kill the digital camera too, for that matter – since it appeared to induce this nervous crisis in an otherwise stable machine. And I sense that the barely controllable desire to hit both objects with a mallet could quite easily snap outwards.

In fact, just like this unfortunate man – who believed he was besieging the corporate headquarters of Philips – I've actually tried to visit my impotent rage on those I hold responsible – only to find myself trapped in the cruellest of all modern oxymorons, the telephone help-line. What followed was an excruciating game of pass-the-buck, since the hardware supplier knows full well that you have no way of proving that the fault doesn't lie in the software and ditto everyone else involved.

The fury this induces has a peculiarly modern texture that would have been quite unfamiliar to our predecessors. No doubt our forefathers occasionally cursed the suppliers of defective spades or shoddily made fountain pens. But they would at least have known what had gone wrong and whether it was mendable. Not so the contemporary consumer – who is utterly dependent on the opaque, magical efficacy of machines.

And it doesn't help that the more advanced the technology the greater the mendacity about its magical ease of use, a rhetoric of anxiety-free performance that only makes your plunge into despair more vertiginous.

It's a bit like skating – wonderfully exhilarating until the ice breaks and you realise, with mounting panic, that you have no idea how to find the hole again, let alone how to haul yourself out if you do. So far, I've managed to cling on to my sanity – but if I go down shooting don't laugh when they explain that it was a camera that did it.

t.sutcliffe@independent.co.uk

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Web Developer - Junior / Middleweight

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: One of the South East's fastest growing full s...

Guru Careers: Marketing Manager / Marketing Communications Manager

£35-40k (DOE) + Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Marketing Communicati...

Recruitment Genius: Commercial Engineer

£30000 - £32000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Estimating, preparation of tech...

Recruitment Genius: IT Support Technician

£14000 - £17000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: You will work as part of a smal...

Day In a Page

Read Next
David Cameron has reiterated his pre-election promise to radically improve the NHS  

How can we save the NHS? Rediscover the stiff upper lip

Jeremy Laurance
 

Thanks to Harriet Harman, Labour is holding its own against the Tory legislative assault

Isabel Hardman
Blundering Tony Blair quits as Middle East peace envoy – only Israel will miss him

Blundering Blair quits as Middle East peace envoy – only Israel will miss him

For Arabs – and for Britons who lost their loved ones in his shambolic war in Iraq – his appointment was an insult, says Robert Fisk
Fifa corruption arrests: All hail the Feds for riding to football's rescue

Fifa corruption arrests

All hail the Feds for riding to football's rescue, says Ian Herbert
Isis in Syria: The Kurdish enclave still resisting the tyranny of President Assad and militant fighters

The Kurdish enclave still resisting the tyranny of Assad and Isis

In Syrian Kurdish cantons along the Turkish border, the progressive aims of the 2011 uprising are being enacted despite the war. Patrick Cockburn returns to Amuda
How I survived Cambodia's Killing Fields: Acclaimed surgeon SreyRam Kuy celebrates her mother's determination to escape the US

How I survived Cambodia's Killing Fields

Acclaimed surgeon SreyRam Kuy celebrates her mother's determination to escape to the US
Stephen Mangan interview: From posh buffoon to pregnant dad, the actor has quite a range

How Stephen Mangan got his range

Posh buffoon, hapless writer, pregnant dad - Mangan is certainly a versatile actor
The ZX Spectrum has been crowd-funded back into play - with some 21st-century tweaks

The ZX Spectrum is back

The ZX Spectrum was the original - and for some players, still the best. David Crookes meets the fans who've kept the games' flames lit
Grace of Monaco film panned: even the screenwriter pours scorn on biopic starring Nicole Kidman

Even the screenwriter pours scorn on Grace of Monaco biopic

The critics had a field day after last year's premiere, but the savaging goes on
Menstrual Hygiene Day: The strange ideas people used to believe about periods

Menstrual Hygiene Day: The strange ideas people once had about periods

If one was missed, vomiting blood was seen as a viable alternative
The best work perks: From free travel cards to making dreams come true (really)

The quirks of work perks

From free travel cards to making dreams come true (really)
Is bridge the latest twee pastime to get hip?

Is bridge becoming hip?

The number of young players has trebled in the past year. Gillian Orr discovers if this old game has new tricks
Long author-lists on research papers are threatening the academic work system

The rise of 'hyperauthorship'

Now that academic papers are written by thousands (yes, thousands) of contributors, it's getting hard to tell workers from shirkers
The rise of Lego Clubs: How toys are helping children struggling with social interaction to build better relationships

The rise of Lego Clubs

How toys are helping children struggling with social interaction to build better relationships
5 best running glasses

On your marks: 5 best running glasses

Whether you’re pounding pavements, parks or hill passes, keep your eyes protected in all weathers
Joe Root: 'Ben Stokes gives everything – he’s rubbing off on us all'

'Ben Stokes gives everything – he’s rubbing off on us all'

Joe Root says the England dressing room is a happy place again – and Stokes is the catalyst
Raif Badawi: Wife pleads for fresh EU help as Saudi blogger's health worsens

Please save my husband

As the health of blogger Raif Badawi worsens in prison, his wife urges EU governments to put pressure on the Saudi Arabian royal family to allow her husband to join his family in Canada