Maggie Harding EBay PowerSeller Maggie Harding, 43 from Manchester, couldn’t do her job without a computer. “My computer doesn’t just help me, it’s fundamental,” she reveals. “I’m furious if it stops working because it could destroy my business.”

Harding makes her living on eBay selling vintage clothes antiques. It’s her full-time job and as a PowerSeller – a seller consistently high volume of sales and above 98 per cent positive customer feedback – she depends heavily on her computer. But her generation didn’t grow up with technology, she’s had to learn to use it. “I first starting using a computer when I was working council,” she says. “At that point, it was very basic stuff.”

“I was astounded by how easy it was to use the computer and eBay. I think some people are scared of getting started – like my mother – but once I’d pushed a few buttons, I felt quite confident. I went on to teach myself everything I know.” Harding now teaches classes at libraries in Manchester in between selling online.

Paul Say, also 43, runs Red House Music, a chain of two shops in Leeds. He sells musical instruments and accessories, both in his shops and online, so although eBay is not his only outlet, he depends on his computer nonetheless.

“Red House Music couldn’t survive without my computer and eBay,” he says. “We do 50 per cent of our business over the Net, so it definitely helps us. I reckon we make £100,000 a year from eBay sales.”

Harding is also enthusiastic about the business benefits of technology. “There are some customers who only buy online. I sell a lot of vintage ladies underwear to men who don’t have the guts to go into a shop!”

Say describes the opportunities technology has given him as “absolutely fantastic, a real bonus”. Using wireless, he likes to sit in the comfortable surroundings of his conservatory and surf the internet, revelling in the freedom wireless gives him. “I use comparison websites for things like house insurance,” he says. “And my partner does all her banking online.”

“I might not be as up to date as some people are – with blogs, say – but my partner and I love the internet. Computers save so much time and the internet gives you so much freedom.”

Wireless technology has vastly improved her life. “I have a desktop computer and a laptop. At this time of year, I sit at my desk overlooking the river, but in summer I grab the laptop and sit in the garden. This flexibility has increased what I use technology for because I now chat to friends on messaging programs and via e-mail.”

“Before, I would have said that people who were into computers were geeks. I was very much someone who didn’t want to get involved, a pen-and-paper woman, but look at me now.”

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