WORLDBEAT - Living la vida low-tech in Singapore

To be able to get away from the trappings of modern lifestyle in the comfort of our own home -- that was my experience a couple of weeks ago. While attempting to tinker with my one surviving PC, I forgot to earth the computer and shorted the whole house. Unfortunately, my home entertainment system was on at the same time and was immediately fried.

After the initial shock and withdrawal symptoms, I have discovered that I am actually adjusting nicely to my low-tech lifestyle -- so much so that I'm seriously considering whether I should go low-tech permanently.

I learnt a couple of important lessons from this experience.

One. Computers do explode.

When I was teaching people how to use computers, I usually started off telling the new users not to be afraid and to feel free to try out anything. "The computer is not going to explode on you," I said. Well, I found out the hard way that That is not necessarily true. Especially when you are touching parts that you are not supposed to.

Two. Replacing a PC and a home entertainment system at the same time can be a very painful process -- not to mention costly. You will keep picking at the remnants hoping to salvage some parts -- a speaker here, a mike there. And the adventurous will take apart everything to try to repair the machines -- only to find that the inner workings of even the simplest DVD player looks like something out of NASA -- totally out of our league.

Three. You may think that it was the end of the world when everything blew up but trust me, you will not miss your PC and home entertainment system as much as you think.

During the last few weeks, I re-discovered that a book could be just as entertaining. And three books mean triple the fun. One weekend, I managed to complete three books that had been lying on my shelf for the longest time. The accident allowed me to finally do some serious reading. So now, I have a greater understanding of the intricacies of cold calling, marketing 101 and even introductory Japanese. Konichiwa!

The time spent on the PC and home entertainment system can be spent more fruitfully on other enrichment activities. After reading three books and jogging four kilometers, I was not even done with half of my weekend yet! Sheesh, why have I been wasting my life with those funny black boxes?

Four. For the uninitiated, a program can still be written without a PC.

It's true. In fact, writing programs without the PC can do wonders for your discipline. Trust me, after taking an eraser to rub off 100 lines of code to correct an incorrect looping function, you will learn to think and plan before you write anything!

But despite all the benefits of having a low-tech lifestyle, one does need to have a backup plan in case of a life-or-death need for some conventional entertainment should arise. And this is when my business continuity plan kicks in.

Having a brother with a working PC and entertainment system in the opposite room does help a lot.

It pays to be prepared because, like Murphy says, everything that can fail, will.

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