Computers: okay if you’ve got the patience

I HAVE seen the future!

And it’s not pretty. Actually, it’s boring. The future is people sitting hunched over mobile phones, palm pilots and laptops.

What’s wrong with that? I hear you say. Very useful things.

But there’s more. I have seen what they are doing with these useful things. I have done my research. I have shoved my head in their field of vision on buses and trains and in cafes and caught them at it.

The might be useful things, these mobile phone, palm pilots and laptops, but what they are being used for is – playing games!

Is this the vision of the future the technological geniuses saw when they invented the binary system and the silicon chip?

Did they clutch each other’s arms in the tense excitement of discovery? Did they weep tears of fulfilment and sob to one another: “You know what this means? You know where all this will lead 50 years from now? It means the human race, from Townsville to Tennessee, can play games!”

There was a time, I admit, when the prospects looked hopeful. Children everywhere might have become chess geniuses, schooling their minds to the discipline of logical thought in competition with the supreme logic of the electronic board.

But they’re not playing chess. They’re playing patience. I’ve seen them.

And battleships, and other games, involving insubstantial little figures marching across a screen and being vapourised on the way.

Oh dear; what have we done?

I mean… patience?

Even in the days when we used real cards patience was a pathetic waste of time. At least you could win by cheating with real cards. Not on a laptop, you can’t.

And how does one feel after a few games of patience? Fulfilled? Contented? Improved?


It was bound to happen, I suppose. Karl Marx said religion was the opium of the people, but that was before we invented computers.

And, of course, computers do a lot of good. They…er… they enable us to er… know stuff, and er… talk to people a long way away, and… er…that…

They are essential to modern society.


I know – I’m talking like an old person. That’s because I am an old person. But contrary to popular belief that doesn’t make me a stupid person. Not automatically, anyway.

And there is just the vestige of a possibility that I am resistant to change because the particular change I am resistant to is bloody silly.

I asked one of them last week. On the bus. I shoved my head between him and his laptop and sure enough – patience.

“Why do you bother?” I said. “Doesn’t it feel like a waste of time? Haven’t you got better things to do?”

He told me to eff off before he shoved the whole machine in my mouth where, he assured me, it would have room to spare.

And that’s another reason why computer games should be banned by Act of parliament – they make people irritable and encourage violence.

Another reason? I hear you ask. So what’s the first reason?

The first reason is that patience is a pathetic, trivial nonsense requiring no science and absurd amounts of good luck and no matter how hard I try I never manage to bloody win!