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Last Updated: Wednesday, 9 February, 2005, 12:33 GMT
Syntax error
Campbell and Blackberry
Campbell: Had trouble with Blackberry malarkey
Alastair Campbell's e-mail, containing a full selection of colourful language, was sent in error he says because he is "not very good at this e-mail Blackberry malarkey". Jon Yuill, just three years younger than Mr Campbell can sympathise.

Something occurred yesterday, which I found quite disconcerting. I caught myself having sympathetic thoughts towards Alastair Campbell.

Not because of the content of his errant e-mail, but the fact that he sent it only due to his ineptitude in using his new, hand-held Raspberry, or Cucumber (what's this obsession with fruit and computers?)

My learning curve isn't so much steep as overhanging
Jon Yuill

I mean, consider your lives, your homes, and workplace. Just how much technology have we had to get to grips with in the last 20-odd years? There's the microwave in the kitchen. The mobile phone. The home PC. The internet and e-commerce. Satellite navigation systems. Mobile imaging, video and texting. Digital cameras. And they've all got their own ways of working. It's no wonder Alastair pressed the wrong button on his new gadget.

The mere fact that you are reading this, dear user, is testimony to my tenacity in attempting to understand my iMac. Indeed, I have a rather special reason to feel smug about my burgeoning computer skills, as I am currently engaged on an intensive course in photo-editing and design software. I can only marvel at my teacher, Richard, who sits so patiently beside me while I prod my sausage-like fingers over the keyboard with all the dexterity of a bemused gibbon.

Biggest humiliation

My learning curve isn't so much steep as overhanging. But I have learned that my computer can do so much more than I previously thought. For instance, I recently spent an entire day programming it to send out all my mail with my name included at the bottom! But perhaps my biggest humiliation comes in the form of the Playstation that sits in the corner of my sons' bedroom.

Indeed, as I write, I am stinging from yet another drubbing at Crash Bandicoot, a game so easy it makes Space Invaders look hi-tech. My inability to master even the basic skill level has made me the family laughing stock.

Gadgets galore: Some of the trials of Jon's life
Recently I bought the much-heralded "Freeview", complete with "digibox" (even the language bemuses me) and spent weeks watching nothing but a channel selling stain removers. However, unlike Mr Campbell, I do take some pride in my mastery of e-mail.

Now, I think e-mail is a wonderful invention, despite my mothers' protestations that it's the end of handwriting, and, therefore, all things civilised. This isn't just because the Post Office charges 28p to send a letter (2p for postage, 26p for storage).

It's that because of e-mail, I can now keep in regular contact with friends all over the globe who wouldn't receive a normal letter from me from one year to the next. Why? Because sitting over the keyboard late at night, glass of Shiraz within reach, I suddenly realise it's the most important thing in the world that I write to them there and then. And why not put one or two of those silly photos in for good measure. It's all there, within seconds, and I don't have to queue at the Post Office!

Mellowing with age

This is especially effective for us, as my wife is from the southern hemisphere. Unfortunately, this immediacy can rebound. For now, if something riles us, we go back to our desks and fire off an impromptu broadside. In the old days, if we could be bothered to find paper, envelope and stamp, a letter would often have time to mellow upon the page and probably end up in the bin.

Now if something riles us, we go back to our desks and fire off an impromptu broadside
And of course, a letter from cyberspace is somehow more anonymous. Alas, I am guilty of firing off all sorts of angrymails, only to regret it the second I hit the "send" key. And then starts the sort of cover-up operation that got Mr Campbell into trouble - "I'm so sorry, it was a colleague", or the equally pathetic "Someone sent it when I left my computer unattended".

My worst moment came recently when, upon receiving what I thought was another fraudulent e-mail informing me that if I didn't send all my bank details to a particular online auction-house, I would be barred from trading. I replied using the name Mr Wayne Kerr. Imagine my horror when, some days later, the e-mails started arriving en masse, to Mr W Kerr. No, it wasn't hoax after all, and now I have to re-program my entire profile again.

It wouldn't have happened in the old days.

Trouble getting to grips with new gadget? Send embarrassing e-mails? Tell us, using the form below.

Like 95% of other computer problems, Mr Campbell's blackberry problems are a classic case of a PEBKAC error. What exactly is a PEBKAC error? Problem Exists Between Keyboard And Chair.
Mark McBride, Wirral

Some of us like gadgets that do one thing properly rather than a hundred things badly. Anything electrical is accompanied by an instruction manual the size of the Domesday Book, strings of 'menu options' and ridiculously tiny buttons. I can master the gadgets but what exactly is the point of these useless add-ons? I want my phone to make phone-calls, not take fifth-rate pictures. I want my camera to take high-res pictures, not poor quality video clips. The television thinks it's a radio. I even saw a fridge freezer with a tv screen inset into the door.
Lorraine Kirby, St Albans, UK

I must admit, getting to grips with the constant updates of all programmes, from e-mail to word processing is quite a headache! And with a new mobile phone out everyday, how are we meant to keep up with all the changes that they make?
Chris Naylor, Spennymoor, Durham, England

I don't have a problem with sending accidental or ill thought out emails but I am rapidly coming to the conclusion that mobiles should have some kind of breathalyser- I'm losing count of the drunken text messages that I wish I hadn't sent!
Susan, UK

He got caught out - that's all there is to it. If you don't mean it then don't write it.
Jim, Northants, England

Digibox I have (sort of) mastered, but I bought a new VCR last year. Unfortunately this co-incided with my son moving away to college.......need I say more ?
Graham Turner, Bath

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