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You can't Kindle change in a dinosaur

By Chris Peterson | China Daily Europe | Updated: 2016-11-27 15:04

Technology can be baffling for an old-timer - but there's one new invention that's a godsend in my book

I'm surrounded by a whole array of the latest high-tech gadgetry - an iPhone, an iPad, a Kindle. And I work on a state-of-the-art computer to bring you this column every week.

I am totally at home with it all. Well, almost.

If there's a problem, a delightful young colleague will come to the rescue. Like many of her generation, she was born with a gift for technology.

Sometimes I suffer from what the satirical UK magazine Private Eye calls "Aged Hack Baffled by New Technology" syndrome.

Remember, I learned my craft in the world of pay phones, typewriters and telex machines, where we used 100-words-a-minute shorthand instead of tape recorders.

Shouting to make yourself heard over the row of teleprinters and typewriters in a newsroom was par for the course.

Here at China Daily's shiny London offices, shouting is definitely NOT on the menu.

But I have to confess to one guilty secret. Much as I'm into saving the planet, preserving forests and making life easier for polar bears, I cannot work on a screen without printing out the documents I need to refer to.

The net result is that by the end of the week my desk is awash with computer printouts, newspapers and half-forgotten notebooks.

That inevitably earns me reproachful looks from our administrator.

If someone sends me a link I just HAVE to print it out.

Try as I might, I cannot browse through a newspaper's online edition.

No, it has to be the full-on, in-your-face real newspaper. And when you consider I read, as part of my job, all the main English newspapers, that's a fair number of trees I have accounted for by the end of the year.

There is one ray of hope, however.

I am a book addict. Over the years I have amassed an enormous library of paperbacks and hardbacks, from history to biographies and autobiographies. (Here's a tip. Autobiographies by politicians tend to be vast volumes of self-serving nonsense. Avoid.)

When my family and I moved back to London from Hong Kong in 1991, my shipment included 48 boxes solely of books. Pretty much a whole library.

When Amazon first brought out its Kindle, I could be heard loudly proclaiming I would never have one - that books smelled and felt better and the Kindle spelled the end of traditional literature.

So obviously my wife, who knows me better than I know myself sometimes, gave me a Kindle for Christmas about four years ago.

That was it. I was hooked.

Instead of lugging a bag with a half-dozen weighty hardback books for holiday reading, I could slip in a Kindle with over 4,000 titles at my disposal. It's a no-brainer.

Now I never leave the house without it, literally. It keeps me occupied on the 20-minute commute to work and, if I'm traveling, airports, planes and trains pass in a blur.

It's even better now because the latest Kindle is capable of high-speed internet access, so I can check emails and social media.

But before I get too carried away and destroy my Luddite image, let me briefly address the subject of automobile technology.

I have never bought a new car in my life. I have two - a solid, reliable, 12-year-old Land Rover Discovery without any whistles or bells, and a much-prized classic 24-year-old BMW, also blissfully technology-free.

Recently on holiday trips to Senegal and Southern France, I hired cars that were barely a month old.

Frankly, you needed a degree in rocket science to figure out the built-in satnav in one of them, and the other kept talking to me: "Don't forget to fasten your seat belt" and "Please turn your lights on."


It was at that point that I decided Kindle or no Kindle, I am a dinosaur.

Chris Peterson is managing editor, Europe for China Daily. Contact him at

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