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Here I was in the typical Catch-22 situation. My car battery was flatter than a witch's bosom and since the car had an automatic gearbox I couldn't even bump start it. No problem, all the local spares stockists had plenty of batteries available, but when I asked "when can you deliver?" the question was met with total incomprehension. "We have plenty in stock squire, just come and collect one!" was a typical reply from the oh so helpful shop assistants who obviously didn't have a clue what it would be like to go out in the rain and wait for a bus, trudge from the bus stop to the spares stockists, carry a big box containing a heavy battery which was full of extremely corrosive sulphuric acid back to the bus stop, wait in the rain for three number 29s to arrive at once, stagger aboard with a box that was far too big to fit in the luggage area, and wonder disconsolately home from the bus stop wet and bedraggled with aching arms legs and back.

That was pre-Internet. A battery failed me a couple of weeks ago, it took me five minutes to find the cheapest top-quality replacement available online, another five minutes to input my credit card details and it was delivered at 9 a.m. the next morning.

Ever had your car sat on the drive because the spare parts are not available, and there is a six-week waiting list from the manufacturer? No problem, get online and you will probably find the bits you need within minutes. Fancy some new alloy wheels or trims, a new computerised radio/sound system, some exotic panels to customise your unique machine with? Easy, the Web allows you to search the world for them. Got a great idea for a terrific numberplate? Simple, just go to the DVLA website or a specialist numberplate site and you can not only find out whether or not your dream number is available, but you can find alternatives too, almost instantaneously.

Why on earth did we put up with the slow, expensive and inefficient systems of the past for so long?

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