Living with a rat’s nest

There have been some benefits arising from the age of computers but the one thing that many observers predicted, that they would usher in a new era of leisure and enlightenment, hasn’t happened.

The biggest response I ever got to a column was one where I noted that computers had made it possible for employers to save money by getting more work out of less people. More work, that is, until the damn things go offline and the staff sit twiddling their thumbs, no matter how urgently you need to know the balance in your account.

Still, there have been benefits as computers have moved into homes and offices but there have been some unintended drawbacks, including the introduction of the rat’s nest of wiring which seems to go along with every computer.

The list of wires you can have is potentially endless but it could easily number 20 if you had a printer, scanner, ADSL modem, speakers, external hard drive, microphone, memory card reader, battery charger, monitor, mouse and keyboard.

Add three or four power supplies the size of house bricks, for those of your peripherals which need such things, and you have the makings of a rare mess which is impossible to hide decently away.

The wires behave just like teenagers who, however well-behaved on their own, turn into delinquents the minute they get in contact with their own kind. They start smoking pot, some of them reproduce, and before you know where you are, you have a huge tangled ball of wire.

The tangle gets worse when, in a fit of tidiness, you stuff as much of the wire as you can behind the computer, to get it out of sight. The tangle gets worse but things don’t look much better, and then dust bunnies begin to collect behind the computer, which you can’t get to because of all the wire.

Moving the wire, or otherwise disturbing a working computer, isn’t such a good idea because you can loosen a connection or just give it an excuse to break down. The only thing you could do in the past was to hope the neighbours didn’t notice and, when things got too bad, upgrade the computer and clean your desk before installing the new one.

There’s now a glimmer of hope on the horizon with the advent of peripherals that can do more than one thing, thus cutting down on the number of wires you need. Another promising development was announced recently by boffins at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

They have apparently developed a non-carcinogenic way of sending electricity to appliances, without the need for wire. The whys and wherefores are beyond me but it seems as if this WinTricity thing could mean the end of power cables.


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