What do you call the disease caused by the novel coronavirus? Covid-19

Back in the 80’s I had a conversation with my (non-tech) line manager about something that I’d read in a computing magazine. It involved a program that allowed you to create search request and dispatch an “agent” to “crawl” multiple electronic sources searching for possible matches. After several days, you would get a list of results to follow up.

I thought it was interesting. He laughed and said something along the lines of “don’t believe it”. Today that technology is part of everyday life – we call it a search engine and, unless you live in a village, it returns results in fractions of a second, rather than days.

In the 1943 the President of IBM predicted that there may be a world market for as many as five computers. And he was an expert.

When Boris Johnson says that we will have a Covid-19 test that we can all use on a daily basis, at home with near instantaneous result he is (a) making it up as he goes along and (b) (and it pains me to say this) right.

I don’t doubt that one day such technology will be both available and affordable. We may all have a gadget, similar to a blood glucose meter, which can be periodically updated to check for the latest virus.

In the meantime, even if it became available tomorrow, we couldn’t afford it at an estimated cost of £100M pa. But it could be used in health settings and we might make it available to people who were at high risk rather than those who just wanted to go to the pub. Others would buy it, demand would drive down costs and it might become as commonplace as a thermometer.

But it is not a quick fix. At the moment it is, to use an old IT analogy, vapourware.