It starts, as all the best nightmares do, when you least expect it. Everything seems normal, you are in familiar surroundings doing common or garden things that you have done a thousand times before. Suddenly, without warning, your whole world goes awry and you are struggling to make sense of it. There is no way out and the more you twist and turn the deeper in the doo doo you go.
You switch on your desktop computer at home as you have done virtually every day for aeons. But where are all your usual icons? Where is Outlook and Internet Explorer or that other one they are always pressing you to change to? What is this strange message peering up at you from the middle of the screen? No matter, ignore them, you don’t yet realise you are in a parallel universe, so you do what the techies are always telling you to do when things don’t start right: you switch off and power up again.
But the result is the same, none of the usual icons and a strange message. You get a creepy feeling up your spine. Against your better judgement and very reluctantly you read the message: “Thank you for buying a computer from us, is it for business or pleasure and please confirm you live in the USA. Before you can proceed, you must register with us.” You are not going to fall for such an obvious trick and give detailed information. But when you press “next” all it wants to know is your email address. No danger there then, but still no access to all the functions you want. There’s nothing else for it, you’ll have to take the device in to the experts for re-booting, which doesn’t mean giving it another kick even though that is what you really want to do.
Never mind you have your laptop in the office, so in you go on Christmas Day to deal with the urgent matters. Just when you think you have wrestled a return to partial reality, your iPhone starts playing up. It insists on giving you an “Upgrade”. Now you know from experience what that means – all the functions that you have gradually mastered over preceding months will change and you will have to learn how to do them all again. You reject the upgrade for several hours, but resistance is useless, the technology is relentless and eventually you are forced to let the machine have its way. But what’s this? Now the phone won’t let you use it again until you have re-entered the password you invented two years ago and can’t remember. You can’t call the tech expert for help because his number is stored in the phone which is now denying you access, and of course you can’t email him for help because he’s the one holding your home computer. “Forget password?” the phone asks helpfully. You confirm, then it tells you not to worry, it has sent a new password – to your email account. You know, the one you can’t access because the computer is in for repair. So back to the office on Boxing Day you go. Luckily the laptop hasn’t packed up yet, and eventually you restore functionality to the phone.
Phew! That was a close shave. At least you can message the expert to find out the other computer isn’t fixed yet. And the football is back with all the Boxing Day fixtures from England. At least it was until the NOW TV black box gave up the struggle. You pinch yourself but it doesn’t help: this isn’t a nightmare, it’s your technology reality. Next they’ll want you to ride in a driverless car. Who do they think they’re kidding.