The night my computer crashed - literally

Friday 23 September 2011, 12:04PM

By Greentree International


Mike Hutcheson - Greentree GAME ON judge
Mike Hutcheson - Greentree GAME ON judge Credit: Greentree International

Mike Hutcheson, one of the judges of Greentree GAME ON, remembers a night when rebooting simply wasn’t enough.

I once threw a computer out of my office window. It had crashed on me for the fourth time in one day. When I rebooted, the document I had lovingly crafted was irretrievably lost. It was late at night, I was tired, so out it went. A laptop isn’t designed to withstand a fall onto a concrete carpark from four floors up.

It was an expensive, but very satisfying, moment.

Interestingly, I’ve never been tempted to throw a writing pad or a pen out the window.

Propeller heads tell us that electronic means will replace paper in conveying and storing information. Nicholas Negroponte was quoted as saying: ‘…we seldom carve words in rock these days…. The art of bookmaking …will probably be as relevant in 2020 as blacksmithing is today’.

Long, long ago in a galaxy far, far away, in the time of typewriters and carbon paper, when the inconvenience of getting it wrong was too great to risk making mistakes, accuracy and neatness counted. Now we tend to print off draft after draft and make corrections on the printed page rather than on the screen.

It ain’t easy necessarily so, says Professor Nicholas Wiseman of Manchester University, an expert on production and uses of paper. He makes the point that there are various forms of reading:

“Reading to do” …in which certain facts are sought from a mass of words, a task for which computers are clearly well suited.

“Reading to learn”…which concludes that it is no easier to learn ideas from hypertext than from a book.

“Reading to relax”…The kind of reading carried by most newspapers, popular magazines, popular novels and popular non-fiction.’

In a nutshell, he says books are simply friendlier than computers.

He concludes by saying: ‘Printing papers will not be supplanted by computer screens, in the way that candles have been supplanted by electric lights. Rather, printing papers will share with computer screens the business of displaying information, much as ground transport shares [the transport industry] with aircraft, and in concert they will increase the volume of traffic.’

I’m with Professor Wiseman: I’m happy to tap this out on my PC, but I’m sure as hell not going to take it to bed with me to read War and Peace. Although I have been known to take my iPad overseas to save lugging 5 kilos of books in my case, I still prefer paper to read from. And when you fall asleep reading a paperback it doesn’t hurt your nose as much as does an iPad when gravity takes over.