This terminal has been locked. It can only be unlocked by an Administrator or the user XXX
This message is for you. It has been formed from a vast deluge of code and software simply to enlighten you. To inform you. To let you know what's what.
If you're a bit stupid, it can perhaps confuse. You sit down at an apparently free terminal, and blithely start typing away your details into the seemingly appropriate boxes. Problem. You try again. Still, things aren’t working exactly as you expect that they should be working. It must be one of those confusing 'computer issues' that are occasionally thrown into the path of your daily lives purely to annoy you. You take a deep breath, and venture a little out of your normal routine. You actually read the aforementioned message, which has been there displayed in the middle precisely for the purpose of informing you (but come on - who reads things when there's ill-informed actions you can perform instead)? Finally, slowly, realisation seeps through your battling conscience. You get up, and try a different machine.
At least, this is what most people would do. Sadly, not everyone. There are many for whom the idea of getting up - of stretching those millions of nanometres to the computer next to you - seems a task so impossible and tedious that it simply isn’t an option. Whether this conclusion is a product of abject idiocy, or sheer bewildering arrogance, is usually unclear. This computer is yours, as you are sat in front of it you have rightfully assumed its ownership and there is nothing anyone can do to stop you on your relentless campaign for Ethernet access! A locked terminal seems like an unbreakable blockade in your way, but how dare anyone stop you? Suddenly, an idea. A button. "I wonder what happens when I press this..."
A few minutes later, perhaps, the inconsiderate swine who tried to get in your way returns from the quick toilet-, cigarette-, drink- , whatever-break that left his PC exposed to your righteous emancipation. He is not you; therefore his problems are not your problems. Worse, by expressing them to you he is impeding the Brilliant and All Mighty Flow of whatever you happen to be doing. If he was stupid enough not to have saved his work, naive enough to expect that a puny message on a computer screen could halt your vastly more important projects, and as a consequence an entire day's worth of Thesis has vanished into the ether, it has nothing to do with you.
A few minutes after he is gone you finish that all important browsing of some Top 100000 jokes page, and log off. Your work here is done.
Losing work to someone in the manner described above is frustrating, but bearable. I nearly lost my sanity.
Desperate for a bite to eat, I locked my terminal and dashed off for a sausage roll. Less than 10 minutes later I returned, realising I was vaguely unsure which of the 3 adjacent PC rooms I had actually been in. But that didn't matter because I knew whereabouts my PC had been in the room, and it was locked. In all three rooms, someone was using the computer. I sat down, confused. I racked my memory - where had I been? How could I have forgotten so much about something that happened 10 minutes ago?
I assumed that someone had 'stolen' my terminal, but which one was it? I was going to start asking people questions, when I started to question myself further - was I sure that I'd been in that position? Was this the right floor? Could I even remember what I'd been using the computer for? If I couldn't remember what I'd been doing, even where I'd been sitting, how could I ever be sure I had done anything at all? How could I be sure that I'd even existed 10 minutes ago?
I remembered I'd left my bag under the desk. I scanned the floor, but saw nothing that resembled my bag - or at least what I thought I remembered was mine. I needed to think things out calmly, but people were starting to look over, curious. To give a semblance of normality I logged into one of the computers. At least, I tried to. "This Username and Password combination have not been recognised."
I felt like my identity was vanishing rapidly. Looking up, I saw a mass of anonymous people absorbed in an ocean of data, data, data. What was I doing here? What was I?