1997 -- Year of the Mouse

3rd January 1997 at 00:00
As cybernauts all over the world make their New Year resolutions, Arnold Evans gives his wish-list of byte-sized resolves

This year, computerholics have once again made their usual New Year resolution. Aware that IT is an addiction - and one that can seriously damage their wealth - they resolved to spend less time in front of their VDUs. They word-processed this resolution, saved it, set it to synthesised music, embellished it with imported art work, published it on the World Wide Web - and promptly forgot that they ever made it.

But these chronic anoraxics are still in the minority. There will be many more people who have resolved that this is going to be the year when they overcome their debilitating technophobia. They will be helped by the Government's "IT for All" campaign which is dedicated to persuading every Tom, Dick and Harriet to make 1997 the Year of the Mouse.

What of the rest of us? We are not experts - we wouldn't know a byte if it bit us - but we still dabble doggedly with new technology. We know that we're not making the most of the opportunities offered by IT but, nonetheless, feel decidedly chuffed that we are using it at all. Here are some of the New Year resolutions that we should have made: 1 In 1997, we will be technoevangelists. We will persuade the timid that getting a PC to do what they want it to do is decidedly easier than driving a car, program-ming the timer on a video recorder or dreaming up yet more lame excuses to justify why they still haven't joined the Digital Revolution.

2 We promise to become autonom-ous computer users. Never again will we need to phone computer-literate friends to beg advice. Nor will we have to preface all conversations with network managers and IT co-ordinators with the humiliating words, "I know you're going to think I'm silly asking you this, but . . ." We will read the manual that apparently arrived with the computer, and commit to memory every handy hint that appears on the Windows 95 start-up screen. The crazier members of the teaching profession might even go so far as to point out to the head-teacher that if they are expected to meet the IT requirements of the national curriculum, perhaps the school should offer some decent in-service training. And while they are about it, they could try to organise flying lessons at the nearest pig farm.

3 We will take meas-ures to improve the performance of our hardware - without, of course, resorting to expensive upgrades. Instead, we solemnly promise to degunge our mouse ball, and to run a damp cloth over the VDU. Those of us who despair of the quality of our dot-matrix printer, might even weigh up the pros and cons of investing in a new ribbon.

4 Of course, we are going to spring clean the hard disc. We will zap our pram - or, at least, resolve to find out what "zapping a pram" means. Those files which fall into the category of "I haven't the foggiest" will be deleted. Aware that it is illegal to run unlicensed software, we will jettison any applications that may have been borrowed, stolen or left by the fairies. We might even phone the Federation Against Software Theft (01753 527999) for guidance or just to boast that we are model citizens.

5 We solemnly undertake to back-up the hard disc regularly. Honestly. We really will. Scout's Honour. Cross-our-hearts. Strike us down if we don't.

6 Instead of treating new technology as a diversion (pleasant or otherwise) from real work, we will keep open minds when colleagues propose ways in which it might actually improve our efficiency. Those who teach, for example, promise to give serious thought to the idea of transferring mark book, lists, timetables and other indispensable data to an electronic organiser. They also promise not to guffaw in unison next time that the staffroom's resident techie argues that the school should adopt one of the electronic systems for registration.

7 Although maestros of one-finger typing, we will refrain from showing off how many words we can type at a sitting when communicating with colleagues. We promise that no memo will ever extend beyond one side of A4 paper.

8 We will resist the temptation to brighten up the aforementioned memo by using the fancy borders and every font in our desktop publishing package.

9 We will grit our teeth, swallow our pride and go on-line. In fact The TES is as of this week - fully on-line with its own website (http:www.tes.co. uk). We will experiment with e-mail, surf the dreaded Net. We will not blush when chums accuse us of being cyberdudes, nor become catatonic when we receive the telephone bill.

10 Since we know that nothing involving IT ever quite goes to plan, we solemnly resolve to make all these resolutions again next year.

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