Beware of computer addiction. We are often warned that young people are spending too large a part of their lives connected to electronic devices, but what we are seldom told is that those devices are making us stupid and often inefficient.
Beware of computer addiction. We are often warned that young people are spending too large a part of their lives connected to electronic devices, but what we are seldom told is that those devices are making us stupid and often inefficient.

A typical example of electronic brain shrinkage (EBS) occurred in my home recently when one of my guests mentioned in passing that her kitchen mixer had broken. She wondered whether there was an agent who might be able to supply spare parts for it.

Instantly, almost everyone reached for their “devices” and began tapping away furiously. It became a frenzied race to be the first to solve her problem. “Here we are,” said one. “Spares for all models available online, best prices."

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“Oh great,” said my friend. “Where are they?” And after some additional tapping it was discovered the agent was in Minneapolis in Minnesota in America. Not much use to a Fish Hoek cook, really.

Another guest tapping away found a spares supplier in London. “Supply postal code for delivery within 24 hours.”

Also not much use if you have a South African postal code.

The tap-tapping continued, punctuated by yelps of “I’ve found it! Oh no, damn, it’s in Madrid.” And then one woman quietly said: “The Cape Town agent is XYZ Electronics in Montagu Gardens.”

Problem solved. Case closed.

The “device” she had used was the telephone book.

So often we find the old systems are as good as anything electronic, and sometimes better. A pencil and a scrap of paper will keep an address easily accessible and is safer than fumbling with a Google map on your smartphone while you’re driving in a strange suburb.

A shopping list written on the back of a till slip will never go “off-line” or run out of battery power.

I am not saying for one moment that all our electronic devices are unnecessary.

They have definitely made our lives easier. I think we should remember that simple things like pencils, notepads and telephone books still work as well as ever.

If your drop your paperback novel on the stairs, you just need to pick it up, dust it off and put it back in your pocket. When your Kindle drops, no amount of dusting will find your page for you.

Quite often, it’s your old friends that are the most reliable.

Last Laugh

A motorist was driving along a quiet country road when his car broke down. He lifted the bonnet and was peering into the engine compartment when an old horse came trotting up and looked over his shoulder.

After a few moments, the horse said: “I’d check the fuel pump if I were you,” and trotted away.

The motorist was so astonished that he ran to the nearest farmhouse, found the farmer in the garden and breathlessly told him what had happened.

The farmer leaned on his spade and said: “Was it an old black horse with a white blaze on its forehead?”

“Yes, yes, that’s the one,” said the motorist.

“Well, I wouldn’t pay much attention to him,” said the farmer. “He knows bugger-all about engines.”

 * Biggs writes a daily column, "Tavern of the Seas" for the Cape Argus newspaper.

** The views expressed here are not necessarily those of Independent Newspapers.

Cape Argus