On Knights Errant and Ladies in Towers

Under the heading of “what goes around comes around”, we have these days a little-noticed reversion to an important aspect of medieval life which otherwise would be branded wholly sexist.

I refer to the daily struggle men have to understand their computers, put them right when they go wrong, and help their helpless spouses and girlfriends with computing problems that seem totally beyond them.

An unscientific, but persuasive, poll of computer and internet users has shown that women wisely leave computing problems to their men folk. Noisy in their demands for equality in other realms, the gentle sex is curiously dependent upon men to help when emails they are working on totally vanish or they can't get the printer to work.

Thus it would seem that the shining knight in armour is back, bravely assisting the helpless lovely who flutters her eyelashes and tells her husband, “But you are so good at these things. Sigh”. Feeling manly and in command, the male sets forth on his charger (and there are a lot of those these days - chargers for i-pads, i-phones, batteries and a host of other gismos) and nobly does battle with the Dragons, whose sole task has been to complicate our lives and suck up every moment of spare time in a futile worship of technological toys.

And who are these Dragons? Microsoft is the biggest and most egregious of all of them. Every few years Microsoft introduces yet another new operating system. Just as you have become used to one you have to learn another, and you now find that the new email system requires a PhD to operate it. Oh, and you can't print out just one page of a message; you have to print everything (printer ink manufacturers rejoice!). Thus the Dragon tortures the population.

Computer technology is a job protection racket aimed at keeping geeks employed in California, or India, or wherever. The geeks make unnecessary changes to software so that the company can demand large sums for a “new improved operating system”. It is, alas, seldom improved. This is demonstrated by the fact that every other day Microsoft interrupts your work to download the eighty-eighth security amendment. Then because chip makers can fry (or what ever they do) chips twice as fast, the computer software types are able to offer “exciting new upgrades” that consume gigantic extra amounts of megabytes. This has the infuriating effect of making you replace a perfectly good computer with now-limited memory every four years. Not even the car manufacturers have been this successful in designing built-in redundancy.

So this is the formidable enemy, and we haven’t even touched on Google, who devote themselves to minutely examining every aspect of our daily lives, to what end we are, as yet, not quite certain.

The brave knight errant has only his limited patience and his native intelligence with which to fight. For the “help” function is at best time-consuming - - time being the most valuable commodity, ever in demand - - and at worst it is incomprehensible.

This whole subject illustrates how much more intelligent women are than men. Men are compelled to sally forth armed with shield and buckler because they think they are expected to do so and it is masculine to take charge and sort out problems. When the issue was that your horse had cast a shoe or you couldn't find your best lance, the crises of mankind were neither all that urgent or stressful. Alas, we have made a disagreeable rod for our own backs by greatly complicating our existence, so that we have little time for the really important things in life (here you can list your own really important things in life).

Women, on the other hand, quickly realized at the dawn of the digital age that they faced a new phenomenon: the Revenge of the Geeks. This refers to the reaction of train spotters and computer programmers to all those who have ignored them for so long, especially pretty girls, who shunned them for decades, while they (the geeks) walked forlornly around in plastic raincoats clocking the 19.05 train from Grimsby Docks to London King's Cross. The rest of us, of course, were dating the said pretty girls. Now the geeks are getting their own back, and have moved out of their squalid bedsitters to torment their tormentors.

Faced with this new world, women adopted two separate but intelligent strategies. On the one hand the minority have put aside their preference for good-looking hunks with personalities and instead married selected geeks who had suddenly become multi-billionaires. Good move!

The greater number of ladies however, have decided to revert to medieval type and pretend to be utterly helpless in the face of the digital onslaught. Even the few who affect to get annoyed when men open doors for them suddenly become suspiciously sweet and polite when incomprehensible computer problems erupt. The buck has thus passed in its entirety to husbands and lovers.

In days of old, when knights were bold, they never let on that they hadn't the slightest idea how to slay the local dragon, were probably scared stiff, and wished they could go back to the alehouse and get drunk. But they put a brave face on it, tried various things half-heartedly, and went home and spun a good yarn.

Today the male knight in shining armour still obligingly gallops daily to the rescue of the damsel in distress, having in truth only the remotest idea what to do to correct the computer glitch. Plus ça change.....................

October 2011