Thoroughly modern me

Matthew Reeves reports on HMV profit warning, retro glasses wearing bloggers and Linotype printing press

I'm not one of these retro-glasses wearing bloggers who incessantly type about how iPhones and Google are dumbing down a whole generation from the comfort of their MacBook Air. Actually, I think these kinds of wizardry are going to dumb down many generations - and there's nothing wrong with that. Get the kids out of the school by the age of 12 and back down the mines. No excuses for being late - they'll be traceable through their GPS socks. Yes, I'm an unapologetic fan of technology. But I have no patience with today's newborns. They have no experience of getting lost with real maps, or only being able to call somebody from home. They download their little guitars and video software and use their hi-tech gizmos to churn out a truly amazing amount of horrible meaningless sludge. And until someone invents an iPhone app for quality control, we're all going to be subjected their creations.

Above a perfectly good pub, I was recently conned into the lair of some of these arty types to endure a documentary - and I'm being nice here by using that term. What I actually saw was a stream of slickly edited nonsense about a defunct printing press called the Linotype. Even as I type these words I'm thinking that two hours on the various uses of cotton-wrapped excrement would have been more exciting. Oh what a shame it is that we've all seemed to forget about this lumbering piece of ironwork that efficiently produces lines upon lines a day of relatively legible text (depending upon how many operators are maimed). As with any nostalgia-fuelled film, there's the obligatory mention of how the shacks these printing apparatuses inhabited were always full of �character". That's character, oil, smoke and injury at work.

As the digital projector silently and energy efficiently ploughed-on, I managed to sneak a peek at some post-Christmas profit warnings on my character-free touchscreen friend. Joyous news: HMV are shutting down stores. It would be easy to make some witty quip about not listening to His Master's Voice (who kicked the bucket years ago), but actually this profit warning is the best thing to happen to them. It should prompt them to ditch the flagging emporiums of unsellable CDs and odd box sets, and keep the few salvageable ones. Chief executive Simon Cox's bright idea is to chuck in tiny arthouse cinemas above a select clutch of his shops. Affluent high streets will be transformed in a few years with hoards of pointy shoe-wearing types grasping Starbucks coffees, desperate to out-niche each other in the upstairs room of �wow, a retro CD palace". I just see good old-fashioned quality control - a whole new set of venues to avoid!

Next plc on the other hand, always as cutting-edge as the Sphinx, has now totally lost its way. Operating in a no man's land of strangely designed clothes, its website invites you to �browse the directory" as if clothes are always bought out of a thing like a phone book, or we need to be told that a website is a kind of �collection" of information where �the front page is kind of an index, but you don't have to read the pages in order". Come on Baron Wolfson of Aspley Guise (to give the chief executive his full title) - think! What does the Everyman want?! He would been better off just filling every shelf of every floor of every store with iTunes vouchers. If in the season famed for the exchange of hideous jumpers a company that sells hideous jumpers can't make a profit, it really needs to make some changes. Or to star in a documentary about how it's full of character.

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