I was forced on to the internet in the 1980s. I still don’t belong there

With regard to modern technology, I find that people of around my age — by which I mean people in their seventies or over — are divided into two camps. There are those who have embraced the digital revolution with embarrassing enthusiasm, knowing much more about it than it is decent to know; and then there are those who, almost as embarrassingly, take pride in knowing nothing about it whatsoever. The former seem determined to show that they are not past it, that they are in tune with the modern world, and, like teenagers, are never parted from their computers, emailing and tweeting as the day is long. The latter

The American economy vs gravity

The American economy always feels better when the Super Bowl is on. Ads for trucks and beer fill the airwaves. It’s steak and cigar season for the corporate bigwigs, not a time for the calorie conscious. For a few days, they can forget about foreign labour and cratering emerging markets and wallow in the fantasy that America is still about men in faded jeans and worn baseball caps, doing practical things with their hands. Now the pigskin has been locked away until autumn, however, one can take a colder look at the behemoth. No doubt, it has been a fine few years to be rich in America. The crash of

Where I’m looking for the next great banking blow-up

A reader likens me to Dr Pangloss, the quack philosopher in Voltaire’s Candide who insisted that ‘all is for the best in the best of all possible worlds’ even after he was reduced to a syphilitic beggar. It’s true that I tend to regard positive indicators — a 22-year high in the BDO index of business expectations, a CBI statement that ‘we’re starting to see the right kind of growth’ — as a pattern of recovery, rather than a mirage in a minefield. But rest assured I’m also on constant alert for ‘black swans’, those change-making events that (so we learned from a more modern thinker, Nassim Nicholas Taleb) come

Happy 30th birthday to the Macintosh — one of the most significant developments of the 20th century

On 24 January 1984, Apple Computer introduced the Macintosh. Thirty years later, it’s hard at first to see what is so special about this computer. It doesn’t look much different to other competing products of the time. Housed in a squat gray box, the original Macintosh has a tiny black and white screen, no built-in storage and limited processing capabilities. It was expensive too – costing $2,495 ($5428 today) — and had very few pieces of software available. Plus it was a flop, selling way below Apple’s original expectations. But the first graphical personal computer changed how we thought about computers, and arguably, set the course for much of the

Toby Young: Why I’m giving up drinking. And chocolate. And ice cream…

I’ve gone completely overboard with New Year’s Resolutions this year. I’ve sworn off three illicit substances — alcohol, chocolate and ice cream — and vowed to eat an apple every day. I’ve given up alcohol before. The first time was when I was living in New York in the 1990s, though the episode that prompted it happened in Switzerland. I got spectacularly drunk at a nightclub in Verbier and woke up the following morning without my signet ring. This was a family heirloom given to me by my mother so I was understandably distressed. It turned out I’d given it to a young Swedish woman who I’d proposed to the

Our house was burgled as we watched The Fall

Caroline and I were watching The Fall in our front room when the intruder entered our house. Not great timing on his part, considering The Fall is a BBC drama series about a serial killer who breaks into people’s homes, then tortures and murders them. Thankfully, we never actually set eyes on him. We only discovered we’d been burgled when we returned to the kitchen to load the dishwasher and found various items missing. But still. Caroline was probably more upset than she would have been if we’d been watching Eat, Pray, Love — which we wouldn’t have been, obviously, because it’s complete drek. I was up most of the

The West wants chunks of Apple

Apple, the world’s friendliest technology company, stands accused of tax avoidance. The fashionable corners of Fleet Street, bless them, are appalled. Isn’t Apple supposed to be in the good business? What gives? Mr Steerpike bumped into one of the late Steve Jobs’ former lieutenants not so long ago, and he provided an explanation. There was a time when Microsoft was driving Apple into the dirt and the company nearly went bust. Apple, he said, remembers its unhappy past and hoards cash under the mattress. This is why the company is sitting on cash reserves of £67 billion in Nevada. As the ageing hipster put it: ‘It’s like your grandmother who lived through the

Cameron, Fruit Ninja shinobi

In my Telegraph column yesterday, I quoted a senior adviser to the Prime Minister saying that he ‘spends a crazy, scary amount of time playing Fruit Ninja’ on his iPad. It seems No.10 has been denying it — telling The Times (£) that ‘the real culprit’ is ‘his six-year-old son’. Now, all fathers will immediately recognise this transparent defence. I used to blame my kids for my being into Glee, but it doesn’t wash (they’re four and two and male). I won’t name the official whom I quoted, suffice to say that this was not a half-remembered conversation but a verbatim quote. And the other problem No.10 has is that

Introducing Coffee House: the App

The Sunday Times lists the ‘Top 500 Apps in the world’ (£) today, and I’m pleased to say that The Spectator’s brand new app ranks no.4 in its ‘news apps’ category. The newspaper describes the list as ‘the good, the mad and lovely’ and ours emerges as little of all three. What we have sought to do with the new app is combine our blogs and the magazine, and we are (I think) the first magazine to do so. The Sunday Times gives it the thumbs-up. It ranks us behind its own app, and those of the BBC and Sky News. Here’s its verdict: ‘The contents page may be slightly

Steve Jobs: The Exclusive Biography by Walter Isaacson

America has always idolised its entrepreneurs, even when it has proved a thankless task — if you can glamorise Bill Gates, you can glamorise anyone. Especially Steve Jobs, whose death from pancreatic cancer has been greeted as the loss of Mammon’s Messiah. Is any of this justified? Well, yes and no. Jobs did as much as anyone, with the possible exception of Gates, to bring digital change into the mainstream, and this makes his biography as much a history of a digital revolution as a personal story. It’s this fittingly binary quality that makes Walter Isaacson’s biography so worthwhile, since Jobs himself emerges from it as an unattractive, even repellent

The Cult of Jobs

The immediate beatification of Steve Jobs, the visionary Apple chief who has been killed by pancreatic cancer aged 56, fulfills all the criteria for mass delusion and is evidence of some kind of quasi-religious quackery. The Book of Jobs, indeed. Sky News report that Apple-obsessives are “flocking” to Apple stores, presumably to “pay tribute” to the man behind the iBook, iPod, IPhone and iPad. Here again we may pause and wonder at the Mania of Crowds. There are live-blogs and vigils and everyone is iSad and all the rest of it. Strewth! To say this does not diminish Mr Jobs’ achievements. It merely asks that we keep them in some

There’s life in print yet

On Boxing Day, Fraser blogged on whether the iPad and other mobile devices will save British journalism. His view peered into the future, but what about the market today? Fraser points to The Times’ Christmas Day edition, the first of the paper that was available purely in electronic form. Along with Apple and News International’s iPad-only ‘Daily’ newspaper to be launched next year, this represents a landmark achievement that could signal the beginning for the future of journalism. Or it could represent an industry collectively hurtling towards a brick wall. Online journalism has now been with us for a decade – but, strikingly, no one has taken the issue of making money from

A sign of the Times

Yesterday, The Times produced its first Christmas Day edition for more than a century – since, that is, newsagents started taking that day off. The jewel in that edition was a wonderfully spirited piece from my Spectator colleague Matthew Parris about the importance of paywalls. I fervently believe in them, and regard them as the only hope for this sharply contracting industry. But over to Matthew: “‘Sorry, I can’t read you anymore, but I refuse on principle to subscribe now that there’s a paywall,’ these muppets whine. ‘On principle?’ I reply. ‘What principle?’ As they fumble for an argument, I interrupt: ‘Look, maybe the money is a bit tight at