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Royal Wedding: Prince Charles is a ZX81, Wills is an iPad

One ruined young lives, the other is shiny on top

Remote control for virtualized desktops

Back in 1981, two major events occurred in the UK. An awkward, troublesome, difficult-to-get-on-with contender captured the heart of an inexperienced young virgin: and in the same year, Prince Charles married Lady Di in the last major royal wedding to hit the UK.

The frankly irritating yet inevitably famous (given the position it filled) contender we speak of was of course the Sinclair ZX81, the digital world's exact equivalent of the current heir to the throne - and the inexperienced virgin was very probably you, dear reader, or anyway your spotty friend who had a ZX81. Like the 19-year-old Lady Di, you no doubt found yourself won over by the ZX81 despite the fact that it was blatantly unsatisfactory, simply because it was the only thing of its kind available.

If you wanted a home computer for £70 - roughly equivalent to spending say £430 today after adjusting for inflation and growth in average household income - there was only the ZX81. If you wanted an actual real live prince who would one day be king, Prince Charles was all there was.

Evidently there's some kind of natural law at work here - because this year we find that once again the future king of old England, Wales and (probably still, by that point) Scotland is to get married shortly.

Prince William seems a lot more appealing and easy to get on with than his dad - plainly the House of Windsor has been refining its product just as the personal computing world has. Today's genre-defining computer gadget, occupying the same iconic niche as the ZX81 did in its day, is of course the iPad: and competition notwithstanding, this will still probably be the case when the bells ring out for Prince William and his new princess next year.

Funnily enough the iPad takes much the same proportional bite out of the household budget as the ZX81 did: and it is of course much smoother and more popular, just as William is compared to his dad.

But both Prince William and the iPad are still far from perfect, though both have a large swarm of swooning, mainly female (or somewhat camp male) admirers who will listen to no criticism of them whatsoever. Nonetheless, one really must face up to the fact that William is a lot more bald than a fairytale prince ideally would be: and the iPad, while even shinier on top than our future monarch, lacks many physical attributes that one would hope for in a truly desirable slablet device (card slot, swappable battery, camera etc).

The ZX81 and Prince Charles, of course, made their shy virgin brides desperately unhappy and - it could be said - ultimately ruined their lives. Being married to a grumpy architecture critic and organic farming obsessive with a horsey older mistress in tow will have doubtless produced much of the same bitter frustration that the RAM-pack wobble and limited capabilities of the ZX81 did. Just as many ZX81 aficionados would ultimately wind up working in the miserable and soul-destroying IT industry, the Princess of Wales, repeating her own cycle of despair in a similar fashion, later wound up with a partner whose father was if anything even more embarrassing than the Duke of Edinburgh.

Returning to the modern day, it would be possible to describe the new Prince's efforts to find a bride and furnish his future subjects with some proper entertainment and example as, if not disappointing (no disrespect intended to the lovely Ms Middleton, and everyone seems to be having great fun with the royal wedding already), then... well, a little unambitious perhaps. So far from searching far and wide to find the one perfect lady in all the world for him - employing if need be the traditional vegetable-enhanced mattress or glass dancing-pump - we see instead a man in his late 20s falling back on his university girlfriend.

The parallel with the iPad is alas all too clear. Rather than seeking to search the wild world of exotic software princesses - accepting the risk of encountering the odd dragon or evil-magician father - the iPad timidly sits in its safe, mumsy middle-class walled garden, accepting only nice apps guaranteed not to shock the family.

How much more fun for us all would it have been if Prince William had escaped his minders somehow, gone on an unauthorised adventure of some sort to the outrage of his grandma - and returned with a more mysterious princess from a more exotic background.

But that didn't happen. And just as our Prince has remained firmly under grandma's eye, so does the iPad remain locked down under the control of grandma Jobs with his often old-fashioned, queenly view of the world.

Meanwhile we seem to have flogged this particular metaphor horse well past the point at which it stopped really going anywhere, so we'll desist. No doubt many of you will have thought of royal-wedding IT angles we've missed, have criticism to offer for this shameless piece of royalsploitation, republican diatribes you must get off your chests etc: the comments pages and the moderatrix await you. ®

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