Our expensive, European, state-of-the-art clothes dryer has an interesting button labeled Extra Dry. I’m confused. Why do we need this setting when the assumption is the clothes DRYER will dry our clothes until all the moisture is removed ? The dryer demands we use the extra dry setting to ensure the clothes are completely dry as opposed to the optimistically labeled normal setting which leaves socks, shirts and sheets a bit damp and guaranteed to be exceedingly uncomfortable if worn directly from the dryer. That’s not normal. Not like our old and much cheaper dryer which just dried everything completely without a number of variation selections to mystify and confuse. It only had two knobs and one button and I loved it. Our new dryer has a back-lit touch pad and display screen. So cool and yet so annoying.
Such is the state of technology. We’re bombarded with it every minute of the day. From cell phones to PVR’s we’re knee deep in modern gadgetry and innovation that promise to make our lives easier and much more efficient. Fat chance. Most of it annoys and frustrates the shit out of us and ensures that what once took a moment now takes much, much longer.
If you’re in your 40’s or older you probably remember when television sets had a total of three or four buttons. Off/On, channel changer, volume and contrast. We would turn on the TV, find the channel we wanted (by referring to our beloved TV Guide magazine), adjust the volume and relax. Now we find the TV remote, find our glasses and read the tiny, non-contrasting 3 point text to establish which button actually turns the TV on, scroll through the 200+ channels to find what we like or use the other remote to find a recorded program on our PVR. Adjust the volume with the stereo amp remote (again using our glasses to see which button does what we need) then try to relax. To say nothing of the initial setup of the TV and other components which is something else again. All have proprietary menu systems and custom remote controls which require an education in electrical engineering just to get through the 156 page manual.
Then there’s our arch nemesis, the home computer. With it’s constant updates, hardware and software conflicts, viruses and mysterious maladies our computers ensure we enjoy crippling headaches, tantrums and expensive updates and repairs. Software programs such as the incredibly ineffective, bloated and annoying iTunes ensure we are sufficiently tortured and frustrated during processes such as ‘Determining Gapless Playback’ when we attempt to simply copy MP3 music files to our hungry iPods. The vast majority of us don’t care about gapless playback and we certainly don’t want it determined at all but we have to sit and wait while those wacky software engineers at Apple Corp. force us to endure something that we don’t understand, need or want. It’s much like hailing a taxi then being asked to determine the slope of an equation using differential calculus while the driver navigates the cab to our destination. What’s differential calculus got to do with getting a cab ride from A to B? Nothing. Much like Determining Gapless Playback has nothing to do with copying MP3 files to your iPod.
New technology assumes that we all have a limitless amount of spare time available each day for the various issues and problems posed by our coveted hardware and software. The Please Wait message is all too per prevalent in most software programs, DVD players, and other devices. Why do we always have to wait? Why can’t things be done without having to find a book or magazine to amuse ourselves while software establishes that it needs an update, downloads the software (iTunes has a mammoth 88.9 mb installation file that takes an eternity plus one day to download and install), updates the software, reboots the computer and annoys us with the standard ‘Thanks for updating…” web page or text file. Then and only then are we allowed to continue with our original quest but not before our anti-virus software needs to download it’s virus definition file, install and extend it’s hearty Thanks message for doing exactly what it directed us to do. By the time all various updates, patches and operating system issues are addressed we’ve forgotten why we turned on the computer. So we navigate to Youtube and watch Britney exit her SUV sans underwear. Another job well done with the help of new technology.
I recently purchased a multimedia player to view digital video files on our TV without the need of a DVD player or computer. It required two nail-biting firmware upgrades just to get it to the point where everything worked as per the manual (included on a CDROM of course). Updating firmware can be a challenging and scary process for some and may lead to complete system failure if not executed exactly as the manufacturer demands.
Remember when we would bring our appliances to a repair shop, leave them for a few days and return to collect it, repaired and functional? When was the last time you brought anything to a repair shop? Those days are long gone because everything is disposable and usually outdated by the time we get it out of the store and into our cars. It’s usually cheaper and easier to just buy a new one rather bringing it back to the store for exchange or ship it to a far off land for repair or replacement. But when we buy a new one we need to be re-educated on how to set up, configure and troubleshoot our new toy before being allowed to enjoy it. That is, assuming we’ve completed all the updates of course.