Saturday, December 29, 2007

Computerized Confusion

By Thomas Sowell
Tuesday, December 25, 2007

When I bought one of these small, cheap, old-fashioned cathode-ray TV sets on sale to watch while on my exercise machine, I had no idea how high-tech and computerized even these obsolete sets had become.

Nor was this a blessing. I could not even turn the set on and get a channel without reading a 60-page instruction book. If the truth be known, I could not do it even after trying to make some sense out of the instructions. (To continue: Computerized confusion)

My Comment: I could have written this! I share the frustration. I have a cheap, simple cell phone, yet it offers game options and text messaging and all kinds of things I don't have a clue how to use. When I first got it, I programmed some phone number for automatic dialing, but now I forgot how to do that and have not taken the time to relearn how to do it. My sister’s old phone number is in my cell phone; I don’t know how to delete it and add her new one.

A few months ago, my simple alarm clock died on me. I went to a store to buy another. All a wanted was a small clock that would wake me up in the morning. The one I got had to be set to synchronize with a satellite that ensured it kept perfect time within a minute fraction of a second. Also, the set option and on/off was complicated. I never could get it to work. I had to purchase another one and was fortunate to find one that was simple to operate but I had to make an extra trip and spend time shopping. There was opportunity cost.

Recently, I needed to change the out-going message on my answering machine. I had to spend an hour finding the product online and reading lengthy instructions. The clock on my coffee pot and my VCR are on permanent blink status. Supposedly, I can program my TV remote control to operate my TV, VCR, and DVD player. Don’t ask me how, however; I use three remotes.

I work in a small office, with limited tech support. We have a phone system with features that no one knows how to use. I don't know how to "park" my call on a busy line, but I know the phone system will do it. We got a new fax machine, and I had to spend 30 minutes figuring out how to make it print confirmations that a fax had been sent. We did get the machine to do that, but don't know how. Now it prints out a confirmation for every fax. Some times, we don't need printed confirmation, but neither I nor anyone else knows how to change that setting and do not have the time to learn.

I don't want to sound like an old man pining for the “good ole days”. I am reasonably intelligent. I am college educated. I am not fearful of technology. But why must everything be so complicated? Am I the only one who wants a simple bedside clock that you can set and that has an "on" and "off" button? Do manufactures think that complexity and more features always add value? I wonder if the market is working? I think I would pay more for simplicity.

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