PC 97 Southern Technology



I am not a techie in any sense but am certainly not one of those 65-74 year olds who, according to a survey in today’s paper, have never used the internet; that much is obvious. However, when it comes to a technological problem, I only have a few responses in my kit bag.

The first is a general one, of which most of my readers will be familiar. It goes something like: “Aaggggggghhhhhhhh!” and maybe coloured a little by the addition of ‘f**k’. And when reading this you need to be reminded that this is effortlessly produced far back in the throat and announced into the open void at full volume. Not that technology normally responds to this; after a few minutes you try and rationalise it ……… and find a solution.

The other morning my iPad refused to stay ‘on’. That is, I switched it on and waited for the ‘screen saver’ to appear. As soon as it does, you can normally simply swipe the screen and enter your passcode. Nothing; wouldn’t swipe, simply went out. Blank! No problem, the old ‘soft reset’! Nothing! Maybe shaking it would help? Leave it 3 minutes ….. try again! Nothing! Throw it through the window?

“Why not try and Google it?”

The sage says do the soft reset for 45 seconds. Sure enough, back to normal. Why? No idea? Technology huh!

I am collating all my PCs on my Toshiba laptop, prior to possible publication of the first one hundred. I had about 30 minutes spare on Friday morning so I thought I could add to my collation. Turn on my laptop. Up comes the reassuring stuff then the “Don’t Turn off your computer, Windows Updating ….. 0%” You know these updates are necessary and didn’t need last weekend’s cyber hack to remind you, although they do have a very irritating habit of starting just when you want to do something for 5 minutes, now! So you watch the little figure progress …. 5% … 10% … 15% … 20% …21% …22% … 23% ….. the wretched worm endlessly circling like some demented hampster on its wheel. I went off for a pee, came back and it was still at 23%, the ‘don’t turn off, updating’ continuing to taunt me. And it stuck at 23%. So I unplugged it, knowing I could not turn it off any other way; let the battery run down. Sure enough, after a while, the 23% faded and the screen went blank. Leave for 5 minutes (Not sure why? Cool down? Seemed the right think to do but not being a techie ……! Oh! And I prayed as well. Even smiled at it, as in ‘I love you really!’) Switched back on ……. and after a few flashes of stuff, we got back to the ‘Windows updating …..’ ‘Aaaaggghhhhh’.

 I had used a local computer company before when I had a problem and phoned them.

“Bring it in.” I had some ridiculous notion that if I took it around then and there, they would drop everything else they were working on and fix it before the evening was over. It was raining, a somewhat rare event in the South East this year, so I put my laptop and charging cables into a bag and off I went. Southern Technology is up on Blatchington Road which runs at right angles to George Street; a mere 10 minute walk.

When someone has a first name which don’t translate well across cultures, you tend to remember it, especially as it  makes you laugh; that that is clearly understood and made the most of by its owner is a bonus! “Hi! Fattey” I called as I opened the shop door. Fattey is a lovely 30s something Iranian with a good sense of humour; he would need it I hear you think! He manages the business with Hassan, bearded and more hipster by appearance. The shop has a counter, situated as near to the door as possible so that there is maximum room for the computer peripherals (This generic word covers the chargers, storage devices, cables, bags, add-ons, plugs, boosters, dongles, software patches etc etc) that are for sale. Behind the counter are steps leading up to a sort of mezzanine floor where the repair work is carried out. You see piles of laptops, desk tops, data storage devices, soldering irons, cables and electrical sockets everywhere; in amongst these, reminders of human need, the odd coffee cup and discarded sandwich wrapper, its contents consumed long ago.

Hassan fills out the little work docket, Fattey shouts from the workshop it’s probably a software or hard disc problem, and I hand over my laptop. Hassan says they hope to be able to recover all the data and get it working well. “Is there anything really really important?” “Well. I don’t ‘game’ (Is that a way of saying I don’t play Auto Theft 6 or some such?) and I don’t use it for music or watching videos (I get a funny look from both of them, almost a ‘Well, what do you use it for?’ sort-of look) but all my digital photos are on it, and my Word files are very precious.”

I depart in the rain, praying that it is fixable and soon.

My little brain manages to produce some scribbles about once a fortnight and I was due to post my next postcard this weekend. It’s 90% written ……… but it’s stored on my laptop …… which remains in the workshop of Southern Technology. Unless I get a telephone call in the next hour, they will close for the weekend and I will be unable to post PC 97 as I had planned. So this little tale could well become PC 97 and the other one renumbered. I hope it doesn’t disappoint?

Richard 20th May 2017

PS So there you have it; no telephone call, no laptop! Fortunately I have a little Notebook.


PC 96 A Short Conversation with my Step Father

My step father, known by me throughout our thirty eight year relationship as Uncle Philip, died in November 1993. He came from a traditional Scottish family and his values were very much shaped by a strict upbringing, typical of the age, and coloured by wartime experience. Indeed the family motto was ‘Cura et Industria’ (Care and industry) and their crest showed a cornucopia of goodies – suggesting that through hard work comes abundance. He was careful with money and generous of spirit. Above all he was a skilled engineer, a mechanical one at that. He loved technology and things mechanical, always wanting to understand how something worked.

Cura et

The other evening I imagined having a conversation with him, about life in May 2017! The thought came to my head as I used some grease from a green Duckham’s tin to ease the hinge of a metal gate to stop it squeaking. Uncle Philip had had this very tin ….. using the contents to fill a grease gun for the nipples on his car. I am not a mechanical engineer so I can’t tell you where exactly these said nipples were but ……! He had only two cars in the time I knew him, an old black Riley Pathfinder and then a Rover 3500. Both he cherished and serviced himself.


Duckhams 2

“You wouldn’t know how to service a car today, Uncle Philip” I said rather confrontationally.

Oh! Why’s that?” he said, immediately bristling with indignation!

“You raise the bonnet and there’s a large cover – and very little else. All computer-controlled and very efficient. Not sure there is even a distributor or carburettor!! Do you remember how you used to check the spark gaps with a feeler gauge …… pick all the gravel out of the tread of the ‘Crossply’ tyres, to ensure they lasted longer?”

So you’re saying I would not recognise how cars have developed in the last 30 years or so? What else would I be surprised at?”

(Ed: What follows are some of the things that pop in to my head. It’s only a start!)

“First and foremost, the development of the ‘internet’ – the world wide web (www)”

“And what, pray, is the Internet?”

“The Internet was originally a military back-up plan linking super computers across the United States in the 1960s. In the early 1990s CERN proposed a global web concept and by the middle of that decade the public began to grasp its potential. Today its tentacles reach into every aspect of human activity.”

“Such as?”

Communications! There has been such an exponential growth in their development that it’s hard to keep up, unless you’re under 25 and working for a technology company.”

“A what? A ‘technology’ company?”

“They are the new Masters of the Universe! In the latter years of your life you remember the development of the mobile telephone? Looked like a brick which you charged with a bigger brick.”

“Yes! You had a ‘Rabbit’ that only worked if you were within 100m of a rebroadcast mast.”

“Yep. Well remembered! That didn’t last long (20 months). But look at this, my ‘smart’ phone through which I can make telephone calls, either through a local mast or through the internet, and that’s free (!), ……. take photographs as it has a camera…

“Hang on! You have a camera in your phone? That sounds amazing? But how do you see the photographs. It was always so expensive to print them.”

“It’s all in the digital revolution. You can define anything with a series of ones and zeros as in ‘100110111100001001’ – and this has simply turned life upside down. So I can see them on my personal computer, which incidentally is smaller but more powerful than ever. If I want to I can load them onto a web-based site and print them off in an album, individually, however I want them.”

“A ‘web-based’ site? One of those thingamajigs on the internet?”

“Absolutely! I can use my smart phone as a clock/alarm/stopwatch …. I can use it to text people.”

“This phraseology is all so alien to me. Text?” he said, peering over his half-moon glasses.

“Instead of talking to people, I can write to them electronically, either in the form of ‘electronic mail’, shortened to email, which started becoming popular about 2 years after you left us, or, if it’s a short message, by typing it out on my ‘phone’ in the form of a text. The wide availability of hand-held devices, be they a telephone or small lightweight ‘Lap Top’ computer, has ensured the success of this new medium. This is all part of Social Media, a completely new industry with odd names like Face Book, Instagram, Snapchat, WhatsApp, that ensures no one talks face-to-face and encourages the rise of self-obsession. I joke!”


Digital Devices 2

Digital Devices

“You’d also be surprised at the development of the devices for seeing video. You will remember how TV size was defined by the Cathode Ray Tube; they got so big the set was almost as deep as it was wide. Now an extremely slim TV monitor can be made with solid- state electronics and the development of pixel technology. A pixel is the smallest element of an image that can be individually processed in a digital display – be it a photograph or video system.” (see below for greater information!)

“You remember that drawer in the hall table where you kept your Ordinance Survey Maps? Actually these days you can get any map on your phone and the Global Positioning System GPS will even tell you exactly where you are, to an accuracy of 5 metres or so.”

“My brain is being overloaded. Quickly, before I fry. What else?”

“Cursive writing (see PCs 56 & 57) is slightly passé. Reading anything, be it a book or a newspaper, can be via an electronic device although, unless you’re travelling, most people seem to prefer the old-fashioned paper book. Learning is similarly available through the internet. And the internet has freed those chained to their office desk; they can work anywhere, provided they can get an internet connection. Your electronic ‘library’ for research purposes is, in the main, provided by a company called ‘Google’; so it’s part of our language ‘to google it’, meaning to go online to find the answer through the Google search engine.”

“Search Engine? Oh! Don’t bother!”

“And the most exciting developments are going to be, I think, in the area of nanotechnology and the use of Graphene. Meanwhile everyone still moans about the weather and politicians of every persuasion, no one has solved the 69 year-old Israel-Palestine problem, and extreme Islam is the butt of blame for most of the world’s woes.”

The world’s a very different place it seems, but it was ever thus! My father would have said the same; different developments, different times. Thanks for bringing me up to date! Now I must go and tell St Peter all about it, although he probably knows as he seems to have eyes and ears everywhere!”

Richard 7th May 2017

Pixels: A pixel can be turned on (ie illuminated) and off (darkened) on a computer monitor. Resolution depends on the number of pixels a monitor can show. They have developed from 640 x 480 pixels per inch (PPI), through 1073 x 768 PPI until today’s 1000 x 1000 PPI. Colour depends on how much memory has been assigned to each pixel. For instance, two-bit memory pixels can show 8 colours, whereas eight-bit pixels can show 256 colours.