Mel’s World

Af­ter decades of abus­ing his eye­sight by star­ing at a screen, Mel Croucher is see­ing the world through new eyes, thanks to a Chi­nese doc­tor and the mir­a­cle of tech­nol­ogy

Computer Shopper - - CONTENTS - MEL CROUCHER Tech pi­o­neer and all-round good egg let­ters@com­put­er­shop­

He may be a tech­no­log­i­cal vi­sion­ary, but Mel Croucher has been un­able to see any­thing at all for some time now. But com­put­ers have now re­stored his 20/20 vi­sion, and what he’s seen is a rev­e­la­tion

COM­PUT­ERS HAVE RU­INED my eye­sight. A dim­mer switch has been ap­plied to the world, which has it­self be­come more and more out of fo­cus, and those floaty things and zig-zag pat­terns are no longer amus­ing.

It’s my own fault, of course. I spent 50 years slouched in front of a screen, peer­ing at pix­els and ab­sorb­ing the dam­age they cause. Those early cath­ode ray tubes fried my reti­nas with ra­di­a­tion and beta rays. Then I al­lowed TFT dis­plays to bom­bard my eye­balls with charged dust par­ti­cles. And I em­braced ul­tra­w­ide screens as soon as they hit the mar­ket. What I mean is, I threw my arms around them and phys­i­cally em­braced them for hours on end.

These days I can trans­fer gunk di­rectly into my or­bital sock­ets thanks to touch­screens and an eye-rub­bing re­flex. The greater the reti­nal dis­play, the greater the reti­nal de­cay. And I have writ­ten many ar­ti­cles about the haz­ards of star­ing into screens for a liv­ing, but I have never taken the slight­est bit of no­tice any­thing I ad­vised you lot about.


You know how it goes; never view less than an arm’s length away, take a break at least once an hour, min­imise re­flec­tions and ex­ces­sive sun­light, ad­just back­ground light­ing, bright­ness and con­trast to match your sur­round­ings, in­crease font size, blink like an owl, walk like a man, and all that other sen­si­ble stuff. I never took a blind bit of no­tice.

So when Grace, my eye doc­tor, aligned her laser beam at my throb­bing orbs where the cataracts grow and the pres­sure ex­plodes, and whis­pered, “Just a lit­tle prick”, I whis­pered back, “I know I am”.

Even though my stu­pid­ity and com­pla­cency have al­lowed com­put­ers to ruin my eye­sight, do not weep for me, be­cause com­put­ers have also saved my eye­sight. A clever soft­ware pro­gram has scanned my eyes from the in­side out and cre­ated an amus­ing three-di­men­sional in­te­rior map, which looks a bit like a pair of rot­ting ly­chees. A tame ro­bot has drilled 32 pre­ci­sion holes into my eye­balls to sta­bilise the in­ter­nal pres­sures and re­duced them from ‘off the scale’ to ‘hmm, that’s bet­ter’. And com­put­ers have been har­nessed for my ben­e­fit to guide ro­botic ma­chines called an auto-re­frac­tome­ter, a phoropter, a lacrimal sac roug­ine, and a chorizo scoop, although I think I may have mis­heard that last one.

Slic­ing eye­balls is one of the old­est sur­gi­cal pro­ce­dures in the busi­ness. 2,500 years ago they waited for the cataract to get com­pletely opaque and rigid, then waited for the pa­tient to get com­pletely pissed, and then whacked them in the eye with a spe­cial eye-whacker, which dis­lo­cated the wob­bly bit and broke up the crispy bit. Vi­sion was either mirac­u­lously re­stored, or the pa­tient went com­pletely blind. A bit like Brexit.


It wasn’t un­til 1748 that some bright spark first used a scalpel to suc­cess­fully re­store eye­sight, but pa­tients had to be kept im­mo­bile with weights on their eye­lids and sand­bags round their head un­til ev­ery­thing had healed. To­day, com­put­ers work out the di­ag­no­sis and their ro­bots per­form the cure pain­lessly, with­out a sand­bag in sight.

Grace, my eye doc­tor, comes from Sichuan in China, whereas my new eyes come from Spec­savers in Southamp­ton. Grace has the most beau­ti­ful ear lobes I have ever been or­dered to stare at, whereas the Spec­savers fac­tory is a ster­ile mega­lith. It is where hushed hu­mans clad in white space­suits task an­other load of ro­bots to churn out pre­ci­sion glasses. Their out­put ac­counts for 42% of the UK mar­ket and, thanks to the scale of econ­omy pro­vided by these opthalmic au­toma­tons, the stylish new specs I am wear­ing to type these words cost only £35. I hap­pily stumped up an­other £35 for the pre­scrip­tion sun­glasses I wear when I stride out­doors with a con­fi­dent step, thanks to their col­li­sion-avoid­ance prop­er­ties. It goes with­out say­ing that my pre­scrip­tion sun­glasses are rose-tinted.


The world is beau­ti­ful, es­pe­cially when out walk­ing. Those blurry things in the sky now have de­light­ful nu­ances of colour and tex­ture. I can see that in­di­vid­ual bricks in walls have in­ter­mit­tent lay­ers of mor­tar. I re­dis­cover that the car­pet un­der­foot is made of in­di­vid­ual blades of grass and exquisitely cam­ou­flaged dog waste. I no longer have to wait un­til peo­ple in the street are within sniff­ing dis­tance be­fore I can recog­nise them. I can also tell the dif­fer­ence be­tween a swan and a plas­tic bag float­ing in the old moat down by the seafront.

Things are slightly dif­fer­ent in the pri­vacy of my own bath­room, where I am aware that curly stray hairs, which used to be in­vis­i­ble, now need dis­posal on a reg­u­lar ba­sis. And when I look in the mir­ror I no longer see a vague hole where my elec­tric tooth­brush needs to go, but the de­tailed wreck­age of my for­mer face. Def­i­nitely older. Def­i­nitely wiser. Def­i­nitely de­fined. I am born again, and eter­nally grate­ful to my eye doc­tor and all those ro­bots. Amaz­ing Grace, how sweet the sound that saved a wretch like me. I once was lost, but now am found. Was blind, but now I see.

Slic­ing eye­balls is one of the old­est sur­gi­cal pro­ce­dures in the busi­ness

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