Clipped Wings

Perhaps he had been too keen, he now thinks. Looking back, he realises he’d been like a shop assistant that asks over and over if you need help, eventually driving you from the shop. He began to annoy customers, and that never ends well.

He also feels that he was too polite.

Offering people a choice had been a mistake. What he should have done, reflects the Microsoft Paperclip, was just turn up on your screen and say “I see you’re writing a letter, and frankly it’s rubbish. Give it here.” People would have been cowed into submission, then afterwards grateful.

Instead he had said:


 

 

 

 

and people had rejected his offer of assistance, like a lost male driver refusing to stop and ask for directions.

Not only that, but over time people started to tick the third option, basically telling him to get lost. Management noticed, and action had to be taken.

Microsoft could have moved him sideways within the company, of course, and in fact to places where he could have been of genuine help. They could have transferred him from Word to Excel (“there’s a mistake in that spreadsheet that means you’re under-stating your losses by fifty grand, just saying”), or to PowerPoint (“the fourth slide is upside down, you’re going to look like a gobshite in front of two hundred people”) but big business tends not to think perceptively, tends not to try to find square holes for even the finest of square pegs, so Clippy was simply made redundant.

And he was got rid of just when he was needed most, just as grammatical standards fell to a level so low that, for example, people would start sentences, indeed whole paragraphs, with the word “And”.

So he watched on in horror as people used “Yours Sincerely” when they should have used “Yours Faithfully”, and vice versa, then in even more horror when they replaced both with “Best Regards”, a phrase which means absolutely nothing.

Finally he watched in utter desolation as letter-writing, an art which went all the way back to St Paul, an art which had spawned decades-long scholarly squabbles, and life-long pen-friendships, and the sentence “Dear Aunty, thank you very much for my Christmas jumper, it is very long nice”, an art which had fought off the telegram and the telephone, finally fell under the challenge of email.

There are no words (even if Clippy offered to help find them) strong enough to describe his loathing of email, often sent without a hello or goodbye, or without even a name at the end. He despairs of predictive text, which tries to finish your sentence for you, like a virtual wife. And he has nothing but contempt for the use of emojis, especially since they don’t always appear in the same way at the other end, so that an email sent with “thanks, (three smiley faces)” might appear on the recipient’s screen as “thanks (bus, melon, Slovakian flag)”.

He feels like writing a letter to the Times about it.

 

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