Sunday, June 22, 2008

Our Friends Electric

It’s strange how lives are measured out in cars. Our old van, the ‘new’ van, the Vauxhall Viva, the Vauxhall we didn’t have for more than a couple of weeks, the Chevette ('the Vauxhall Chevette is whatever you want it to beee'...), the much later Ford Orion, the Escort and now, well, the ‘new one’. For those of us who don’t do pets cars cut your life into chunks of memory. I wonder if this still works for those people who replace their car every couple of years?

This leads me into one of my ‘inappropriate technology’ rants too. I wonder if the Vauxhall Viva had any instructions in the handbook on locking the doors? Probably did but probably didn’t need it. Thing is that most people could figure out how to lock doors. You put the key in and turn. Well, the new car has no less than 17 pages of instructions about locking the damned car – and we still can’t work out why there’s one key without a bleepy pressy keypad thing which just sets off the alarm if you try to use it. 17 pages and we still can’t work out how to unlock the stupid car! Why?

And everything is automated and computerised so you can’t work out how to use it and it does things it thinks it should do that you don’t want it to do – so the windscreen wipers set themselves to the speed they think they should go at, one of them comes on on its own when you reverse whether you want it to or not, you can’t tell how much petrol you’ve got (or anything else) without the ignition switched on and if it all goes wrong you need a software engineer rather than a mechanic. Stop this madness!

Modern stuff does everything but no-one uses it properly because it does too much in a much too complicated way and no-one has the time to figure it all out. So people go for years without being able to use anything they’ve bought until they replace it with the next thing they don’t know how to use.

I got a new mobile phone (an antique by most people's standards of course) and the instruction book has 120 pages! And it's not got a blue wire video wapp enabled search camera either, it's just a phone. I guess button A and button B were a bit complicated but they had instructions written up in a few sentences. Not 120 pages. And directory enquiries was free of course. Before competition made the world so much better. And they were all made of wood. In Sheffield.


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