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I Got What I Wanted. Now What?

It must have been over seven years ago that I whined and moaned (using a Webb column as my venting post) that cool, functional, consumer-friendly items weren’t appearing before our very eyes as promised.

You know, the flying cars, the interspace shuttles, the automatic kitchens, the rotating windmills in our yards. I mean, even the “revolutionary” mid-engine Corvette was making rounds in — 1973! 45 years later and they bet the house it’s here in 2020. I will believe it when I see it in person!

Blame the withered old pages of Popular Science and Mechanics Illustrated magazines for making a young boy’s mouth water and making everything else seem obsolescent. We were to get atomic powered vehicles (couldn’t even pull off a turbine version), robots that served us dinner (someone deemed our mothers weren’t good enough), and weekly trips to Mars (we can’t even maintain local bridges, let alone intergalactic travel machines). But, it was fun to dream about the future and the products it would offer us.

But I am here to report I’ve finally tasted some of these new features on the menu, and I’m not entirely happy. In fact, mostly downright displeased!

Let’s begin with transportation. Since the auto manufacturers have given up on offering anything in tasteful design (all current vehicles seem to look like angry, oversized insects ready to devour pedestrians) they’ve turned to fidgets and gadgets to gain your attention and money.

Most of this stuff is “half-baked” and rushed to the market before full results can be reviewed. Because of that, paying consumers are forced to become “guinea pigs.” Do we really need modules instead of keys to activate our vehicles? The batteries go dead in them and then what? Then — you can’t open your doors! A key can still twist and gain admittance.

Onto those “desirable” big, black screens of doom that now dominate your car’s dashboard. The Ford MyTouch and Cadillac Cue systems are just the tip of the iceberg of ones that infuriate me. Even “revised” editions do little in the way of improving your driving pleasure.
They don’t save time, they actually waste time by you having to touch and scroll and select to the point of total distraction. In fact, I think texting might be safer than actually trying to set the interior temperature, find the front defrost, or select a radio station. Then do it all over again in several minutes.

Please. Give me simple knobs and dials to use. It takes milliseconds, not minutes. Look, when it takes several minutes to figure out how to start it, then another five minutes to get warm or cold, then another 10 to disarm the voice on the navigation system, we have problems that are working against us, not with us!

Note to interface design teams: we wear gloves in the winter. Did anybody figure that out when trying to operate your screen devices? They don’t operate with gloves on! In fact, many times they don’t operate with gloves off! The glare off the screen is terrible and, the smudge marks that accumulate after a day of use would make Mr. Clean blush. Shame on all of you! And when they break? Since when should it take a small personal loan to fix your damn screen once the warranty runs out?

It thrills me to tell you former auto executives, Bob Lutz included, have said this “force fed” technology upon us is ridiculous. He said its just one company trying to “out screen” another company. Problem is, when this crap fails, the company quality control and JD Power ratings plummet. So be it.

None of my cars have screens. All have knobs or simple to use buttons. I was in a new car recently when the entire screen system “blacked out.” Thus, there was NO access to climate, entertainment, navigation, or whatever else could or should be brought up. Funky future indeed.

A typical example of how “first on the block” technology backfires. Stuff we never asked for in the first place. And if we did, we wanted it to work as intended! I’ve wasted enough breath on vehicles and their silly, non-ergonomic features. Let’s move on.

It’s difficult if not impossible for me to operate the new wave of televisions and the cable or dish systems that go with it. These days, the remote control isn’t a “helper” but a handheld horror. For when you need a masters degree to master finding your local weather or a favorite channel, we have a problem. Anyone out there hurl their remote out the window to the squirrels? Go ahead, let them bury it!

I’ve watched people at various electronic stores trying to figure out how all the digital is supposed to work in their favor. Teens pick it up quick, adults are less adept. This doesn’t mean older brains aren’t up to it; it means the future can be cruel. I swear older televisions didn’t break as much as the new ones. At least the ones my dad uses.

Elon Musk is promising us mere mortals (the general public) space travel soon, and has already tested a few rocket ships. Two red flags: first, it costs six figures for the privilege of entering another atmosphere. Second, with his electric cars setting themselves on fire and running into barricades during auto mode, I am not sure his rockets are ready for prime time. As a kid it looked swell going to the moon and battling aliens. However, now it may be best to keep both feet planted on the front porch and fight weeds.

Other “future think” things that have made my life harder, not simpler. Online banking. Sure, if the laptop wants to function properly and the banks computer infrastructure hasn’t crashed and burned all may go as planned. Till then, I stroll the bank lobby.

My neighbors are the Jones, not the Jetsons. And if you think I can’t keep up with the Jones, the Jetsons have opened up an entirely new saga in my life. It’s not jealousy, it’s frustration. For when those cool futuristic items lose their luster, we’re stuck looking for something else that will suffice. Thus, the companies rush out with more unproven, but hyped up product.

People are inclined to buy old style mouse traps before engaging in unproven, but newfangled devices. Last time I checked, cheese and a tightly wound spring on a wooden board worked just as well, if not better, then the infrared tracking and false aroma “Mouse be gone” kit. Hungry cats prove quite a deterrent also.

It’s not beneficial to me coming off as an old fart. I’m willing to embrace the future if it aids me (such as medicine) or prevents risk to life or limb. But when you have to read directions over and over and over again for something that used to be a snap isn’t future think, it’s futile think.

If it doesn’t work better, yet costs much more, that also bears mentioning. Companies trying to pass off costs onto us knowing full well the older model was actually more user friendly and reliable. They tell me research and development doesn’t come cheap. Guess what? Neither does my sanity trying out some of this new future frivolity.

I don’t need a self-driving car. That in itself is Jetson like. That’s because I am still proficient at using a steering wheel and pedals. But man, where is that self propelled, automatic sensing lawnmower I saw in 1950s news reel footage? That thing actually does make sense for older people, invalids, or a heat wave! (Editor’s Note: Gerry, this is actually a thing now!)

So why are they holding out on us? My lawn is just begging to know.

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