My iMac is a beautiful object, but it should be beaten and scratched until it begs for mercy

In December 1899, Rudyard Kipling decided he needed his own car, so he hired one. It cost three and a half guineas a week. It was, as he put it, a "Victoria-hooded, carriage-sprung, carriage-braked, single-cylinder, belt-driven, fixed- ignition Embryo which, at times, could cover eight miles an hour". The car came with its own driver. The chauffeur/engineer was essential, because the car broke down almost every time Kipling took it for a drive.

With new machines, the tinkering is part of the point. You're meant to treat them as a bit of a hobby and enjoy taking them apart at the weekend, or on the hard shoulder of the A12 as juggernauts thunder past. There is a category of men who, you could say, are addicted to the process rather than the product. They are more interested in the car than the place where the car takes you.

You can see other examples standing in waders in the ponds on Hampstead Heath with their intricate model boats. When I was six years old, I thought that, when I was a grown-up, I would have a radio-controlled model boat that I could race round and round the pond. But, by the time I was seven, I had started to notice that these model boats spent 59 minutes on the bank being adjusted with intricate tools and oily fingers for every one minute they spent speeding around the pond. And, by the time I was eight, I realised that, for these men, it was the bit on the bank that was truly enjoyable. The one minute on the water was just to have an excuse for the nights in the garden shed, stripping the boat down and soaking the parts in oil, or whatever it is that people do when they strip down engines.

Tragically for these men, cars are now being built so that they can't be tinkered with. You're not even meant to change the oil. They are simpler, more reliable, and you really don't need to know anything about your car, apart from how to drive it. This is how things are meant to be. Technology is supposed to be transparent.

Which brings me to the computer. Yes, I know that, for a grand, we can now buy a computer that is a hundred times more powerful than the 1950s mainframe computer that used to fill an entire floor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and cost more than the national debt of Peru. I am grateful for the increase in power. I wrote my first book on an Amstrad 8256, and it occupied about five floppy discs and took two days to print out. My Macintosh LCIII from 1992 was very reliable, but it just ran out of space. I couldn't use it to get on to the internet, so I bought an iMac.

My iMac is a beautiful object but, even when it works, it does more than I need. It offers me such an overwhelming plenitude of choice that it's harder to find the few things I actually want to do. If you want to read Pride and Prejudice, you're better off going into the tiny bookshop on the high street, rather than looking in the British Library.

The real problem is when things go wrong. My old Mac crashed about once a year. My iMac (don't you hate that pert little "i" at the front?) crashes at least once a day. Experts say it's because there are now so many features that they start interfering with each other. The things you're meant to do to deal with that remind me of those men and their miniature boats and a life spent out in the shed. It's also meant to be easy to move files from my Mac on to my wife's Mac. Yet I spent days struggling with floppy discs, ethernet, cables (if you don't understand, don't ask - you really, really don't want to know), and now we are stuck with sending each other e-mails.

It's wrong to hate an inanimate object. It's an entirely irrational, primitive response. Nevertheless, I would like to take my computer down to the cellar and hang it by its base from a hook on the ceiling and beat it until it begs for mercy. I would like to scratch its screen with my fingernails to make it wince. I would like to do to it just a bit of what it has done to me.

If somebody manufactured a toaster that could answer phone calls and copy documents, but only made toast properly one time out of four, customers would rise up in fury. How do computer manufacturers get away with it?