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Thursday, 13 July, 2000, 10:05 GMT 11:05 UK
Computer-free days: Could you cope?
Could you imagine a day without computers? Join the debate
It's back to pens and post-it notes for a weekly "computer-free day" for the inhabitants of Hirata, western Japan.

Mayor Mitsuyasu Ota has declared that all-official documents, proposals and correspondence should be written by hand.

So could you face life without computers, even for a day? Do we rely on computers far too much?

Or do you think that it would be a blessing in disguise and that "computer-free days" should be adopted world-wide?

This debate is now closed. Read a selection of your comments below.


Your reaction

Why is it, when I am on holiday in places like Bali and Java the cyber-cafes are full of westerners? Can't they log off for a few days?
Chris Chow, UK


Vital information stored on the database and packed away on the server has to be printed out for you to work on. Anyone see the flaw in this plan!

Alan Greep, UK
OK so you don't use your computer for a day at work - that means all that vital information stored on the database and packed away on the server has to be printed out for you to work on. Anyone see the flaw in this plan!
Alan Greep, UK

I suppose Mayor Mitsuyasu Ota will then have someone "scan these hand written documents" into a computer system!
Murray, England

There are people whom Americans call "computer nerds". I thought they didn't exist until I saw them myself in America. All those people's joys and troubles are in that electronic box. They can't live an hour without computers. It's very sad, because most of them are only teenagers, wasting their best years.
Andrej, Russia


Being disabled, the computer and Internet have broadened my life and my enjoyment of life

Findlay, Australia
Being disabled, the computer and Internet have broadened my life and my enjoyment of life. I think I could live without a computer, but a voluntary computer free day? Why give up something that provides so much to a person, such as myself, in my circumstances?
Findlay, Australia

Your correspondent "Richard, UK" says, "paperless offices are impossible". I worked in a paperless office in the RAF for many years (though we did have paper in the toilets). It needed only reasonable planning and it worked very well.
Brian Milner, UK

Working for a local computer firm who sells and maintains computer equipment I would have to say it's a bad idea. On the other hand, if I could have a day off work on that day?
Martin Reay, UK


I've become so accustomed to automation that I'm annoyed when I have to speak to a real person.

Robin Sinckler, USA

I could not live without a computer. I've become so accustomed to automation that I'm annoyed when I have to speak to a real person.
Robin Sinckler, USA

I always enjoy my "computer free" days when I don't go to work and also don't do anything at home. What's the big deal? Of course when I'm working, and that often involves computers, then it's essential for my work and allows what really could not be accomplished without computers. I don't think we rely on computers too much. Rather, we rely on the assumption that humans will put computers to intelligent and efficient use and that sufficient resources (human and machine) will be made available to accomplish this.
Kirk Haselton, American in Germany


The paperless office is about as possible as the paperless toilet.

Richard, UK

Choose the tools that make your task most simple. If the complicated computer really simplifies your task - use it. In some posh Australian kids have to use their laptop for almost everything (e.g. to make a drawing that describes the music they listen to). This shows clueless object-orientation of the creators of the curriculum and this object-orientation is transferred to the poor students - while they are missing out on music education etc.
Raimund Neumann, Australia

I am disabled and the growth of computing in industry has opened up work opportunities that hitherto would be closed, long may the computer prosper.
David Pomfret, England

I'm an 18 year old student currently on a year scholarship in Japan. For me a computer is an essential. It is my main mode of communication between family friends and me. It also allows me to keep informed with what is happening in the rest of the world. Without computer access I'd have a far harder time.
Craig Harkness, British in Japan

For starters, this web page wouldn't be very successful without computers...
Matt, Germany (but English)

Computers are an integral part of mine and many people's lives and work, some of us CANNOT work without them!
Gareth, Sweden

> I'm a pensioner, and only learnt computer handling when the local library gave up card-indexing! Of course I can manage without it, but I couldn't do all that it helps me with. Just word-processing, for instance: I am currently working hard to assist a young friend falsely accused of a serious crime. Handling the documentation relating to his case would be impossible without my Applemac. That's an important matter of justice.
Kath, UK


Hopefully it shall sit in the corner of my living room, only to be used occasionally while I go and live in the real world again.

Raymond, Scotland

Does my computer enhance or rule my life? Well I am new to this computer lark, and at the moment I spend too much time in front of it. It has, however enhanced my life in many ways: I now have more access to the outside world, (I suffer from anxiety and sometimes find it difficult to get out and about. So I am now in touch with relatives I have not seen in many years, and also have an e-mail pen-pal in Germany.
I don't think I could live without it at the moment. What I really hope is that it shall open new avenues in my life that I would not have known about without my internet access. Then hopefully it shall sit in the corner of my living room, only to be used occasionally while I go and live in the real world again.
Raymond, Scotland

Yes, I have recently started celebrating by Computer-free day i.e. Saturdays. Since rest of the week I am on web for around 14 hours daily it generates a false sense of happiness so I keep one day to be free of mails, sites , research etc and I spoil my self! Good idea eh!
Nitin USA/India

No. Maybe for a couple of days, but not any more. My symbiotic relationship with the PC would break, and I would die slowly and painfully.
Graham, UK


So much for the 'paper-free-society'! I am constantly asked for more and more in-depth reports on the progress of everything.

Paddy Fairhead, UK

The advent of computers has, far from making life easier, created a climate of an amazing amount of "paperwork". So much for the 'paper-free-society'! I am constantly asked for more and more in-depth reports on the progress of everything. Please, please, please let us get on with the jobs we were trained for and leave the computer-generated paper-work to those who wish to spend their time goggling at a screen!
Paddy Fairhead, UK

Since getting my PC, I have collaborated online on a piece of music with someone I've never met who lives on the other side of the planet, I've opened a bank account and found a job. All from the comfort of my studio at home!
Nick Hunter, England

Sorry I need it !! I get all uptight even when it is down for a short while. I am Games Chairman of a Lawn Bowling Club and do all the club's work on the computer plus I am able to get news from all the world over including the BBC. It can't get any better !!!!
Bill Jones, Canada

The computer is just a kind of throwing stick or "Bicycle for the mind" as Steve Jobs famously said. If used properly (which implies training) it can enable you to do more, better and quicker. If not, you will fall off, and maybe hurt yourself a little. This is an old story, with yet another new product. As usual the real enemies are fear and ignorance.
David M, Englishman in the USA


I wouldn't want to live a day without my computer

Kathleen Redding, US

My computer has become a blessing to my family and me. I am a virtual assistant and work out of my home. Recently my mother, who lived in another State, suffered a heart attack and now needs constant care. I was able to pack up my business (no bulky file folders and briefcases) and fly to her side without missing a beat on my job. Now she lives with us and my "computer office" is the room next to her's. I wouldn't want to live a day without my computer because it not only provides me an income, it now gives me a means to keep in touch with a world wide support system of other people that care for their aging parents in their home.
Kathleen Redding, US

I think my computer helps me in my life - I use it daily for e-mail internet access and personal finances etc. I could do without it but find it enhances my life rather than rules it.
Dave Smith, UK

Computers, technology and affluence are wonderful but anyone can turn on a computer or buy style. If you cannot survive without technology or comfort for a week, I suggest you get a life. The above comments are not directed at anyone dependent on technology for medical survival.
Tom, Australia


I bet that Japanese Mayor doesn't intend to hand-write all his own letters

Jon Livesey, USA

The funny thing is that there are indeed people who will only eat unsliced bread, only drink unfiltered wine, only eat organic vegetables. These people are those who have a sort of inverted snobbery about technological progress. To insist on doing things the old-fashioned way is essentially a luxury that only the rich can afford. I bet that Japanese Mayor doesn't intend to hand-write all his own letters. He will make some poor civil servant do it for him.
Jon Livesey, USA

I would not even consider a day without using my computer. As I also depend on using it for my hobby, which is astronomy, it saves a lot of late nights outside and cloud chasing.
John Green, UK

It's doubtless that there were similar luddite comments made about the telephone and automobiles, both of which are now hard to imagine life without. It's up to us as a society and as individuals to shape the way that technology enables us to communicate. Enforcing "computer free days" is a prime example of sticking your head in the sand.
MP, UK

When we found out that slicing bread was a good idea I don't remember people declaring unsliced-bread-days.
Reuben Wilcock, England

I have just returned to England after 10 years away. One massive change I see is that people's inter-personal skills appear to have vanished. Whenever we need to speak to someone on the phone, for example, the person cannot seem to be able to have a normal reasoned conversation anymore. It appears that this is due to relying upon their computer screen to answer questions put to them. They do not "think" for themselves anymore, they cannot be reasoned with. If the answer is not on their screen, then no answer will be given. It's that simple. Computers are taking over our country, simply because we let them.
Paul Tyce, England


I find that in my personal life, I have no time for my PC and it has now become the domain of my wife who is non technical, and the children for chatting and communicating

Mark, Germany
The level of uptake of mobile communications is what drives the software industry I work in. However, the level of services required by customers such as WAP and the next generation UMTS, necessitate the creation of more complex systems without which what many people take for granted would not be possible. However because of the intensive workload I have, I find that in my personal life, I have no time for my PC and it has now become the domain of my wife who is non technical, and the children for chatting and communicating. I prefer now to watch football, do DIY and mess about with my car.
Mark, Germany

Most people in the Western world today are poorly educated in handwriting, and their letters are nearly unreadable. Imagine what that means for official documents. Therefore, the word processor is a blessing for both the writer and the reader.
Ron Brandenburg, The Netherlands

My computer links me to friends at a pace I want and at the confidentiality levels I need. I no longer have to worry about "re-sealed" and "snail pace mail" envelopes by my secretary. These are some of the loopholes in pen and paper which only the computer can solve.
Grace Akello, Uganda

Why do people say that others need to "get a life" if they are always involved in computers? I work in IT on good money and I met my other half over the internet (he runs his own very successful internet company) so believe me, we do have a life, a very good one.
C. Smith, UK

Last year I had a holiday on one of the game reserves in South Africa for a week. There were no computers, radios, televisions etc. The atmosphere was peaceful, quiet and relaxed. The whole community was communicating which is something people find difficult in London, especially when there is an email facility.
Chris, London, UK


I think we all need to slow down once a week and enjoy the simple things

Colin Steward, UK
I can't help thinking that doing without a computer is almost a call for a day of rest like Sunday used to be. I think we all need to slow down once a week and enjoy the simple things. I could certainly leave the computer for a day now and then. However, a total ban on mobile phones would suit me even better!
Colin Steward, UK

I could cope without my computer but I do not think that I would want to be without it for very long. I have grown to rely on the Internet for communicating with friends and family. Some live on the West Coast of North America and some live in Britain. The Computer is an excellent tool for researching numerous subjects and invaluable for keeping up to date with world news. Of course hand written letters and cards are very nice to send and receive and I try to use old fashioned communication styles, from time to time. However, I am very glad that my sons badgered me into learning to use a computer.
Pat van der Veer, Nova Scotia, Canada

I find it useless, because I'm sure they could not afford more than one day without computers. It seems to be rather an attempt to show how people really depend on computers than on any other thing.
Rafael Moreno, Spain

I am involved in the research field and have to use computers about 6 hours a day. It would be good to have such a day so my eyes could take a good rest.
S Xi, Hksar, China


It is my experience that many of the e-mails, faxes and phone calls I receive are not worthy of my time

John R, Texas, USA
It is my experience that many of the e-mails, faxes and phone calls I receive are not worthy of my time. The problem with instant communication is that it is used as a mental trash can. Once the problem is in cyberspace it is no longer the concern of the sender. The other side of the coin is that I receive messages which require research and consideration before I reply, yet the sender expects a solution by return.
John R, Texas, USA

Computers are a working tool not a life enhancement. A beer and some good craic at the weekend with a real human being are far superior to any virtual nonsense.
Gerry, Scotland

With Computer Free days, Leave the Car at Home days and days without mobile phones why not go for Live in a Mud Hut day?
Joe Twyman, UK

I'm sick of people saying that those of us who use the computer all the time need to get a life. I've virtually replaced watching the TV with using the computer. This is far more pro-active and stimulating. One might say those people who watch TV every night need to get a life.
Malc, London, Ontario, Canada


God bless computers and the Internet

Steve McCoull, England
I met the love of my life whilst travelling around South East Asia and I was able to keep a very good relationship going with her via email until the point when we could see each other regularly. I'd like to think that would have happened anyway, but PCs and the Internet made sure that we are together now. God bless computers and the Internet.
Steve McCoull, England

At home, I often go for days without even turning the thing on. That doesn't really improve or worsen my "quality of life" as a whole. At work, our office has become so dependent on the wretched things, that people are apt to panic when the lights go out and we lose power. "What will we do without the computers?" goes the panicked cry. Get your pens and paper out! This office has been around for a score of years and we used to get on fine without them.
Paul A. Lux, Florida, USA

Last year I was in a small town in Nepal that consisted of a few concrete and tin buildings on either side of a rutted earth road that served as the main street. One of the buildings had been converted into an Internet cafe and was full of Western tourists, which seemed odd to me.
Steve, Scotland

Computers are a tool, just like a screwdriver or a pencil - they are not invading entities from another planet! It should be remembered that the term "computer" covers everything with any kind of processing on board, from a mobile phone to the computers that predict the weather. Can we live without our PC? Probably yes. Can we live without computers in general? Not without undoing every advance in technology of the last century.
Nick, Germany


No corporation could afford the manpower necessary to maintain corporate records anymore

John Cole, USA
I am heavily involved in the computer industry, but there was a time, many decades ago, when I was an accountant in England. In those days, computer technology was only available to the largest of corporations, and consequently, medium sized companies had a "counting house" full of clerks, all using double entry in ledgers to record transactions. The computer environment has allowed these companies to grow, and still retain a measure of control. I'm afraid it is too late to go back, no corporation could afford the manpower necessary to maintain corporate records anymore.
John Cole, USA

How would you be able to read this if you didn't have one?!!
Gail McCreery, England

You should see my handwriting! I like to use a fountain pen when doing "Real" writing but I am not decipherable in normal situations. I was held back a great deal at school because of my handwriting. Although, I have a considerably higher than average IQ, many doors were closed to me on the strength of my lack of physical co-ordination. The PC is a boon and I only wish it had been around when I was at school.
Jeff Dray, UK


Imagine not being able to get cash from the ATM or your groceries scanned at the supermarket

John, UK
It would take more than pen and paper to get through a computer free day. Imagine not being able to get cash from the ATM or your groceries scanned at the supermarket. And how would the Internet cafe survive just selling beverages for a day.
John, UK

I work for the United Nations Development Programme for Afghanistan. Even in a country least developed as Afghanistan, computers have made work so easy that without them one would have to stay home!!
Humayun Hamidzada, Afghanistan

Maybe a ban on printing for one day might have a bigger effect. Computers are there to help your work/ life. Unfortunately many are used to speed up the paper mess they had to begin with.
Billy, Ireland


The Japanese Mayor deserves all praise for suggesting a weekly computer-free day in all government offices

Albert Devakaram, India
The Japanese Mayor deserves all praise for suggesting a weekly computer-free day in all government offices. He is absolutely right in saying computerisation has increased the lack of human contact in offices and led to declining literacy. I for one, can cope with the Mayor's suggestion but would find it difficult to be without a computer on a daily basis. Let us face facts. Many of us have enormous difficulty in using our pens to write a letter, simply because we are totally dependent on the computer. Furthermore, our handwriting has become awful. We should, therefore, never become slaves to science.
Albert Devakaram, India

Computers should only be tools to help you do your job more effectively and should not take over your life. I work in IT, but I have now sold my PDA and gone back to a Paper diary. The paper area is bigger than the screen and has better definition, which is less hard on the eyes, and does not demand a printer to produce hard copy.
Phil W, UK

I don't see the point. It's like saying let's have a day without books or bicycles or bread. Like each of these, computers simply add to our lives - they help activate our minds, share insights and information, work more productively and make connections. We embrace things like books, bread and computers because we recognise and exploit their virtues
Richard Goodwin, Australia


If people used a little more common sense, we would all benefit from improved communication and therefore efficiency

Dave Jones, UK
I am an IT professional so would have to find a new career! However, there is much gross stupidity in evidence when computers are in use. A prime example is the colleagues who sit next to each other but communicate via e-mail, which is all too common. If people used a little more common sense, we would all benefit from improved communication and therefore efficiency.
Dave Jones, UK

I have worked in offices where it takes some staff (usually men) longer to write a simple letter on a computer than it does by hand because they insist on playing with all the little fonts and colours and sticking little pictures in there. The results tend to look a mess as well as taking longer.
Richie, UK

I have 2 computer-free days a week - at the weekend. During this time I indulge in conversation, practice calligraphy by writing a few letters and exercise my brain by doing arithmetic without assistance from calculators. In this day and age when nearly everything is geared by computers, there appears to be no contingency plans for occasions when computers do fail and we have to do the job manually.
Hazel, UK

No computers for a day? I'd have to do some work or something instead!
Jamie P, London


The trouble is that we now rely on them so much that they have become an integral part of all our lives

Gary Holcombe, UK
I would love to live without computers - there would be more jobs for people and you could actually speak to humans whenever you phone your bank or insurance company. Money would not be lost through computer viruses, and I think that jobs would actually be completed better and quicker using traditional methods. The trouble is that we now rely on them so much that they have become an integral part of all our lives, like it or not!
Gary Holcombe, UK

As a designer I feel that computers are worth their weight in gold but I also feel that they are grossly over-used and we are becoming unnaturally reliant on them. Let's never forget about pen and paper!
Jeremy, England

What do they do on the day after the computer free day - spend the whole day transferring scribbled notes onto their PCs so they can get on with their jobs again?
Paul B, UK

I'm a web designer so without my machine I'd be a bit snookered. I'd use the day to plan out my sites on paper (as normal) but the next day I'd be twitching for my computer again.
Jo Mitchell, UK

Why stop with computers? Let's have a pen and paper free day when we all communicate using hand-etched clay tablets which we bake on an open fire in the back garden. It might slow communications a bit but think of the improvement in quality as you try to squeeze meaning into just a few marks in the damp clay. A whole new industry would be created overnight.
John Brownlee, England


My response to anyone who cannot do without his or her computer for one day is to get a life

Norman Campbell, UK
My response to anyone who cannot do without his or her computer for one day is to get a life. This technology is there to help us with life, not take it over. I work as a computer consultant so I am around and work with computers 5 days a week. Come the weekend, I switch off. Yes, get a life.
Norman Campbell, UK

I'm a professional software engineer and I can tell you that computerisation often causes massive inefficiency, because people no longer understand the system that they're involved with. Days when people had to run things by hand, coupled with good feedback to management, could improve many systems and procedures.
Richard, UK

I work for a software company providing back office trading systems for many of the large banks and brokerages in the city, so it might prove a little tricky. This industry certainly relies on computers a great deal, because of the enormous amount of data that needs to be processed. Trying to work out the profit and loss or gross initial margin for ten thousand daily trades, a thousand clients and brokers, month to date in Japanese yen would take a lot of time, and a very big sheet of paper! Besides, how would I write in to Talking Point?!
Alex S, London, UK

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05 Jul 00 | Asia-Pacific
Japan mayor orders break from computers


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