Going low-tech

Wednesday, January 16, 2013 Permalink

Many many moons ago (well…. 18 years – shit, now I feel old!) I spent about 16mths in Mozambique (in south east Africa) as a volunteer with a women’s non-government organisation.

I probably don’t have a lot of Gen Y or Z readers, but in the event you are under 25 and reading this, it may surprise you to know that back in 1995 computers were still a pretty rare commodity and the internet – though in existence – was (for many of us) a bit like the flying cars in many-a Sci Fi film.

However, my organisation was fortunate to have been gifted a computer by some UN agency or other donor. From memory it was really only used to type letters – which was one of the more common uses of computers ‘back in the day’. I recall that I really only used it to type up assignments for my MBA which I’d continued to do via distance.

Me dancing in a church near Maputo (the man with the rooster is the Minister - and no, it wasn't sacrificed).  We'd been there for an AIDS presentation

What I do remember though, was that on arriving in the office each day (the staff in my office were all picked up in the work car, so arrived en-masse), one of the women would gingerly take the protective covers off the screen, hard drive and the keyboard. It’s a fairly vivid memory as the covers were made from capulanas* (the Mozambican sarong) and in the design and colours of my organisation.

Fast forward about ten years (and a lifetime of jobs, countries and cities) and I was back in Australia doing volunteer work with a church-based organisation (supporting overseas aid projects); and each Wednesday evening (and / or) Saturday morning I’d turn up at the little office attached to the Minister’s house. I’d be on my best behaviour as I was sucked talked into the gig by my mother who offered my assistance for a few months to replace a volunteer who’d passed away. (Eighteen months later I finally handed in my ‘notice’!)

My volunteer job was bizarrely simple, I typed letters to overseas funding recipients which we then printed or emailed. (I also checked the organisation’s emails as the Minister didn’t know how to do this himself.) The organisation prided itself on NOT using donations for administrative costs and didn’t receive much support from the church. As a result I’d sit on a chair with no back and missing wheel attempting to not-swear and appear angelic as I toiled away on archaic equipment.

And each time I arrived, I’d remove the tea-towel that had been lovingly wrapped around the keyboard and remove the cover from the computer screen.

I’d smile. “How quaint,” I’d think. Smugly.

And yet… here I am years later, amidst all-things-Apple thinking about kitschy covers for my own computer and TV screen.

Ridiculous or not? I’m seeking your advice.

When I moved to my new seaside location a couple of months ago some IT guru friends I made via Twitter commented on the impact that the salty sea air has on electronic things – particularly for me living right opposite the ocean. “Oh well,” I chuckled, deciding that everything is replaceable anyway.

Two months later and I’m feeling poorer than before and wondering a little about this whole sea air thing. During recent high seas and windy weather, the glass on my balustrade was literally coated with a grimy substance.


My television is just inside my verandah’s sliding doors; a couple of metres from the railing.

In addition, I’ve just moved my desk into my bedroom – its previous position on the tiny in-built desk in my living space drove me to distraction! – and the glass balustrade is about 6ft from my iMac.

I feel silly even thinking about it. Like someone who puts doilies on the armrests of chairs (sorry mum!). Or a cosy on her teapot.

Lying awake the other night I was thinking about my options (note that the sea salt getting into my computer was not keeping me awake. I’m just a bad sleeper!) and pondered on the idea of making a tres cute little patchwork cover for my iMac which would match my new quilt. (And something similarly bright and cheery for my TV!)

In my tired and warped little mind these covers would be stylish and quaint (in a good way), not old-lady tragic.

viewI told my mother of my spectacular idea (you may recall I’m often big on the idea but not so much on the follow-through!). She may have been thinking that she’ll end up being the one to make these things when she wondered if cotton would even protect the screens and (moving parts – wherever they are) from the elements. Hmmm… I’m not sure. But plastic would just not be as pretty. Quite frankly.

So, because I want to keep my apartment well-vented and breezy (by keeping the doors open) AND don’t want to have to replace my electronic stuff prematurely, I’d appreciate some advice.

Would protective covers work?
Do you simply love my pretty patchwork material idea, or are you rolling your eyes at my stupidity?
Any other suggestions?

 * The pic of me dancing was taken inside an animist church in outlying suburbs of the Mozambican capital, Maputo. I’m the blonde one! And I’m not actually as fat as I look there. I didn’t know we were going out of the office so was wearing flared jeans and my Doc Martens… so had to be wrapped in TWO of our hallmark capulanas for church dancing purposes, over my cardigan and jeans! (Mostly I sat through the session on HIV/AIDs worrying the rooster was going to be decapitated! We did feast on a skinny chicken after the service and ceremony, but I don’t think it was this one!) 

  • Stuart
    January 16, 2013

    You may extend the life of your computer/monitor by keeping them covered when not in use … and if it were me I would be trying everything I could to do that because I’ve seen the results of what living that close to the water in Hervey Bay can do to a computer and it isn’t a pretty sight.

    In fact Toni and I have been so turned off by the sight of all that corrosion that while we were once thinking of moving down to the Esplanade that planned move is no longer on the agenda.

    Sadly the idyllic life of sitting back and admiring a stunning view whilesipping a drink that comes with an umbrella and languidly typing a few characters now and then is not for us 🙁

    • Debbish
      January 16, 2013

      Did you realise it was you I was talking about in the post (the one who told me about the salt/sea air?)

      I was thinking of something like a slip cover to just put over the iMac and TV.

      • Stuart
        January 16, 2013

        Deb I am much too humble to ever think that anyone could possibly be talking about me or anything that I might have said 🙂

  • Stuart
    January 16, 2013

    Actually the truth is that I missed that bit – I should read a little more carefully and skim less.

    • Debbish
      January 16, 2013

      Yes, you were the first person to mention it. It didn’t become as obvious/real until I had salty stuff caked onto my glass balustrade though!

  • @Kanga_Rue
    January 16, 2013

    You made your bed! 😉

    Like the new set-up.

    Nothing useful to suggest I’m afraid though.

    • Debbish
      January 16, 2013

      My bed isn’t REALLY made, just pulled up for the photo!


  • Mel
    January 21, 2013

    apart from suggesting a stylish type of sarong or sheet covering (oh no, it would ruin your apartment design!) you could invest in some new furniture that would encase your tech. like one of those hotel TV cabinets or something similar….

    • Debbish
      January 22, 2013

      Mel, would be an excellent idea but am loath to buy more/new furniture cos I’m already overflowing with furniture (though dumped a heap before I moved)!

      Downsizing wasn’t as easy as I thought it would be!

  • Michael Friedman
    May 18, 2017

    Did you ever come up with a good solution to this? We just moved to a condo on the ocean in Hawaii and I’m starting to worry about my lap, our large TV/monitor/electronics, etc. Thanks!

    • Debbish
      May 22, 2017

      Hi there and no I didn’t…. I’ve moved 1km or so away from the beach now but I was in the apartment across the road for 4yrs and maybe the material covers did help!

I'd love to hear your thoughts