Photocopiers that get figures wrong? iPhones that rewrite texts? The machines are fighting back

The manufacturers blame it on “compression levels” and “resolution settings” but we know better, don’t we? The gloves have come off our supposedly benign electronica


The machines are fighting back. A new range of photocopiers from Xerox, the Mount Olympus of office machinery, turns out to have an occasional predeliction for screwing around with document numbers and deliberately getting them wrong. Try photocopying architecture plans, and the copier will sneakily alter the measurements. Try copying documents with numbers on, and the machine will randomly change 6 to 8 and so forth.

The manufacturers blame it on “compression levels” and “resolution settings” but we know better, don’t we? We know the gloves have come off our supposedly benign domestic electronica, and they really are out to get us. The evidence is all around.

The Laptop. It’s Monday evening. You were supposed to file an article this morning, and you’ll lose your tiny fee if you don’t file by tomorrow. Crack knuckles, Start work. You soon notice that, whenever you try to access the Internet, huge commercial adverts fill TV screen, offering Wi-Fi deals at £50 a month. You’ve already got bloody Wi-Fi, dammit. But you can’t convince the machine. You try to reason with them, to swear at them, but they are firm, implacable, Cerberean, and they won’t let you file a sentence online. Don’t tell me there isn’t a malevolent evil brain lurking in there, rubbing its antennae.

The iPhone. Oh look. I’ve just sent a text saying, “Want anything? Am shopping in Tesco” and it’s gone off as “Want anything? Am shoplifting in Tesco.” And why would it change “crossword” to “crossdressing”? Don’t tell me there isn’t etc etc.

The AV Receiver. It’s an invaluable adjunct to any Home Cinema system, they say. It routes signals to your TV from loads of sources, including DVD players and Play Station. So why, when I switch on the TV to watch the news, must I wait 15 minutes for the signal to arrive via Assassin’s Creed 4? Who’s running this show?

The Smoke Alarm. The beeping noise tells you it’s time to change the alarm’s battery. You are grateful for this life-preserving alert – but once you’re up the ladder, looking for a way into the device, all gratitude evaporates. A tiny sign tells you to insert a screwdriver in the hole and wiggle it about. Another suggests you unscrew the whole apparatus. A third directs you to slide the alarm sideways – but in which direction? After three days, the situation has gone critical; and you’d happily kill the little bleeper under whose tyrannical rule you’ve destroyed most of your ceiling.

The Cooker. Your state-of-the-art cooker is a wonderful device until the ignition gets stuck. Thereafter, the kitchen becomes a hysteria-inducing cacophony of clicking noises that gradually speed up. You suspect some ghastly little pal of the Smoke Alarm beeper is inside it, and they’re now calling to each other like dugongs or manatees. Be alarmed. Be very Alarmed.

Not exactly vintage

I’m frankly puzzled by Peter Dowling, the Australian MP and chair of the Queensland parliament’s ethics committee, who resigned after it emerged that he’d sexted a woman with pictures showing his penis in a glass of wine. (While it was still attached to him, obviously. Jeez. It wasn’t that weird.) I just wonder what she made of this approach. Did she wonder what vintage it was? And whether it was medium- or full-bodied? Did she fear it might be corked? Did she think, “If that’s Pouilly-Fume, it would go far better with a nice piece of skate…”? Or did she just think, “If I ever go near that guy’s place again, I’m sticking to Earl Gray”?

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