It was the Wi-Fi and 3G Summit, and official bod Bernie Frieder was on stage. As Director of Emerging Technology for the government, he was giving forth about how the recession was over, Wi-Fi was changing the underlying delivery mechanism for the whole world, rally round the flag boys -- you get the picture.
And then PowerPoint coughed, barfed and a little bit of its own technology emerged. Up popped up a little window with unreadable writing, and sat over the presentation. Ah. Right. Hold on a sec. Buttons were pressed, mice were clicked,
"I, ah, can't seem to get rid of this little goofy thing" said the Director. "If we ignore it, perhaps it'll go away". It's not often you get such a straightforward, unambiguous statement of official strategy, nor such a beautiful demonstration of the consequences. The box didn't go away, and after a while neither could it be ignored.
Eventually, our hero burrowed into the bowels of PowerPoint, gave up and summoned an assistant from the wings. The box still refused to go away, but it was finally persuaded to sit unobtrusively in a corner and the show went on.
As a risible demonstration of technological ineptitude it might not be on a par with the splendidly named Dr Pepper, director of GCHQ, and his admission that in the mid-90s the heirs to Turing had failed completely to get the hang of this networking thing. I suppose the likelihood of Bin Laden running his entire campaign on a Windows XP-based network are somewhat limited, so GCHQ's in-house skills may not lean that way.
It would be unfair to say that the mighty organs of government are uncomfortable with all new inventions. After all, the fire and the wheel are now fully understood (well, with the understandable exceptions of the Departments of Energy and Transport), and sometime soon we'll all understand what the hell we're doing with nuclear missiles in 2003.
Perhaps if we ignore them, they'll go away.