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could I replace technophile husband with a handy app?

My computer updated itself again recently. It seems to me it does this every few months. And just when I'm getting used to the updated update, it updates itself again. This means I have to relearn how to format, how to edit and how to discard all the "improvements" that are suddenly arrayed on my toolbar, like items in a display case in Asprey's. I don't know what half of them are, and most have scary names like Mission Control, Launch Pad and Time Machine.

All I want in a laptop is an efficient writing tool with internet access and a DVD player. I do not want to feel like Norma Nofriends every time a smug new message from an alien sidles on to my screen, berating me for not keeping up. I do not want a Boot Camp App or a Migration Assistant or GarageBand. I certainly do not want Photo Booth, which I occasionally click on by mistake, giving myself a terrible fright when I see that bewildered old bat staring back at me from the screen. (Does anyone know who she is, incidentally?)

Updates are not just confined to my computer. The television does it too. It recently took it upon itself to organise my favourites, and I found myself wasting precious minutes hunting for America's Next Top Model, scrolling through a mile-long list of obscure channels that I can't believe anyone on the planet watches. Oireachtas, Kerrang! Sky Christmas, anyone?

It was when I was writing a television script that I realised I was really falling behind, because my language skills clearly needed updating too. When required to write dialogue for anyone younger than 30, I found myself wondering if phat, sick or wicked was the correct mot du jour for something that once simply known as cool. Any time I used hip jargon I felt like a total impostor: a superannuated and much less convincing Ali G.


The most popular writers of the last century - and the one before - wrote to be read by everyone. To paraphrase Oscar Wilde, when they saw a spade, they called it a spade. Nowadays, if I say I've seen a mouse, people will assume that it's attached to a keyboard. Apple, pebble, tablet, kindle - all these have acquired completely new meanings. In a novel that I wrote just 10 years ago, a key plot device took the form of a floppy disc. At the time, this seemed like cutting edge technology: not long after the novel was published, floppy discs became obsolete.

If technology keeps whizzing ahead, how is an author meant to keep up? Most novels are written at least a year before they appear on the shelves: that's 12 months of new apps waiting to be discovered. Has the heroine lost her keys/her way/her mind? There's an app for that. Is the hero dycalculic/dyslexic/dysfunctional? Simply download an app.

The more I fretted, the more concerned I became for my future as a writer of contemporary fiction. No matter what challenges I set my characters, it seemed few could not be solved by some iPhone device - and there are only so many times a phone can go missing or run out of juice or be mysteriously out-of-range.

It was when I was re-reading letters written by my grandmother nearly a hundred years ago, when letter-writing was the only form of non-direct communication, that - to use a phrase that will be unfamiliar to anyone under the age of 40 - the penny dropped. I didn't need to beat myself up trying to parrot yoof-speak because I didn't have to write it. I could set my novels in the past instead.

Suddenly I felt as though, after years of hobbling around in heels that were getting ever higher and clumpier and more difficult to walk in, I was sliding my feet in a pair of comfortable canvas espadrilles. I changed my author name to Kate Beaufoy, changed genre and became a writer of historical novels.

I refuse to believe that I'm the only person not yet 60 who is becoming more and more irritated every time I have to relinquish autonomy to an automaton who pretends to be my friend - the message minders, the cosy bundles, the pay pals who boss you around. The protests of outrage every time that Facebook reformats itself reassure me that I am not the only technophobe out there.


My husband is a technophile and enamoured of every innovation that blings on to Sky SWIPE (one of his favourite television programmes). He's responsible for my website, my online accounts and for downloading any basic apps he thinks I might understand (Cat Piano being the most useful). But if he ups and leaves me? What will I do then?

I dare say I needn't worry. By then there'll be an app for him too.

Liberty Silk by Kate Beaufoy is 
published by Transworld 
and is priced €7.99