Six pieces of business IT we could do without

By: John McGarvey

Date: 1 September 2011

I think technology is amazing. I love Twitter, my iPhone is the best gadget ever and despite some misgivings, I really want tablet computers to win me over.

But I’m not blind to technology’s faults. There are lots of things about IT that confound, confuse and frustrate – and for some reason, encountering them at work always seems to magnify any annoyance. Here are my top six:

1.    The caps lock key. I have never come across a single legitimate use for this waste of space on your keyboard. UNLESS YOU’RE INTO SHOUTING AT PEOPLE (which is just rude) then I can’t see any reason for its continued existence. In fact, I urge other computer manufacturers to follow Google’s lead and ditch this pointless key.

2.    Tangled cables. You may well have a wireless keyboard and mouse, but I bet there’s a mass of cable spaghetti beneath your desk. It’s a nightmare working out which wire does what, and trying to untangle everything only makes it worse. In an era where we can build the Large Hadron Collider, is a totally wireless computer too much to ask?

3.    Stupid error messages. A single error message that doesn’t make sense can really ruin your day – especially if you have work piling up and deadlines approaching. I don’t have time to deal with stuff like this:

(Yes, that’s an actual error that pops up on my computer now and again. No, I have no idea what it really means.)

4.    Software licence agreements. We’d be better off without them because, quite frankly, nobody ever bothers reading them. Yes, I know there are lots of legal reasons you have to accept a licence agreement before you start using a piece of software, but in practice, no normal person is ever going to read 50 pages of legalese. If we have to have them, they should be much shorter and written in normal English.

5.    Passwords. Every time I have to think up a password for a website, it feels like passwords are fundamentally broken. Passwords you can remember are easy for hackers to guess, but passwords that are secure are impossible to remember. Go figure. Shouldn’t we all be using fingerprint readers or something by now?

6.    Non-standard chargers and power supplies. Why does every piece of IT have its own charger or power adaptor? I have a box somewhere containing all the plugs I’ve accumulated over the years. What a waste. If we can’t go wireless, at least give us a standard connection for everything. (Douglas Adams was on the money about this, years ago.)

It’s fair to say that compiling this list wasn’t difficult. I also considered including mobile phones with a battery life you can measure in hours, computer printers for never working quite as you expect them to, and the entire internet, just for being one enormous distraction when you’re trying to work.

Which bits of IT really get your goat? Head over to our forum to add to the discussion.