How tech will turn you into a grinch this Christmas

Xmas stocking
Quick! Pull the stocking over your head and HIDE!

Christmas. It's a time for people to weep at advertisements for supermarkets, for drunken uncles to offend entire families with a single joke and for gran to start peeling off her tights at the dinner table because her feet are too hot. And if you're a geek, it's even worse.

Picture the scene. It's Christmas morning, and hurrah! Santa has been! And he's brought you a PS4 or an Xbox One!

That's brilliant, and while the fact that you pre-ordered it in an in-store punch-up months ago has ruined the surprise somewhat, your heart sings with gaming joy as you unbox it, plug it in - and discover that there's a 10-petabyte day-one patch that must be downloaded before you can even think about playing a game.

And of course, everyone else in the street has the same console, and they're online, and downloading the patch, and ruining the internet for everything and everyone else. Netflix? You'd be lucky to get an animated GIF.

Still, at least that gives you time to do other things. Things such as taking part in the hot new sensation that's sweeping the nation: acting as IT support to a bunch of six-year-olds.

At some point last year, it seems that all of the toy companies got together and decided on four key things: one, that wherever possible even the simplest toy would require a secure wireless internet connection; two, that if a toy used batteries, those batteries must never be the AA or AAAs we've got in our kitchen drawers but WTF models such as LR44s and CR2032s; and three, that those batteries had to be placed in compartments secured with the smallest, fiddliest screws imaginable.

Why oh why oh Wi-Fi

There was a fourth decision, and it's by far the worst one: it's the move to give even the smallest, cheapest toy a companion app. Our parents used to moan about shelling out for batteries for our toys. That was nothing. Today, we're expected to hand over £400 tablets so junior can make their Furby flutter its eyelashes. And woe betide you if you try to palm the kids off with an Argos MyTablet or ALDI's £80 Android: they know it isn't an iPad, and they'll wait until you nod off in your chair and then run up £1,000 in in-app purchases out of sheer spite.

Still, there's always your console… nope, it's still patching.

Time to visit the folks.

It's a well known fact that parents dread hearing certain phrases, such as "I've decided to become a pole dancer" or "I've crashed your car into a gathering of nuns" - but parents don't realise that we dread hearing things from them too. Whose soul hasn't shrunk into a tiny ball at the words "would you mind having a look at the computer? I'm sure it won't take long" on a frosty Christmas morning, especially if they're accompanied by Satan's little helpers "wireless printer" and "Windows XP"?

It's not just your parents, either. No matter where you go, the slightest indication that you can navigate a TiVo box or connect a USB device the right way round means you're the butt of a terrible traditional joke:

"What's got an Intel processor, a Seagate hard disk and EVERY SINGLE VIRUS EVER INVENTED?"

"I don't know! What's got an Intel processor, a Seagate hard disk and EVERY SINGLE VIRUS EVER INVENTED?"

"Let us know when you've fixed it! Merry Christmas!"

Carrie Marshall

Writer, broadcaster, musician and kitchen gadget obsessive Carrie Marshall has been writing about tech since 1998, contributing sage advice and odd opinions to all kinds of magazines and websites as well as writing more than a dozen books. Her memoir, Carrie Kills A Man, is on sale now and her next book, about pop music, is out in 2025. She is the singer in Glaswegian rock band Unquiet Mind.