SANDY BERGER: Newest Technology Seems All Wet To Me
ATM machines give us access to cash anytime day or night. Cell phones put us in constant communication with family and friends. The Internet opens a world of information right on our desktop.
There is no doubt that technology will continue its penetration into our daily lives. Some will make life easier, but some may be quite superfluous.
Consider this: Whirlpool Corp., Panasonic and Microsoft Corp. have recently began testing a washing machine and dryer that calls you on your cell phone and/or posts messages on wirelessly connected computers and televisions.
There are messages that indicate when the wash is done. There are also warnings when a load is too large, the machine becomes unbalanced, the link filter is full, or when you fill the machine and forget to press the start button or start the machine without adding the soap.
If you would like to start the wash before you get home, you can control it by calling the washing machine on your cell phone, but you still have to sort the clothes and put them in the washing machine yourself.
The project, which is doing in-home trials in the Atlanta area right now, is called Laundry Time. Its main goal is to offer time-saving convenience to the end user.
Certainly this would be useful technology in college dorms and Laundromats. When I am working in my home office in the back of the house, I might like to be notified when the clothes need to be taken out of the dryer.
And, if my husband was watching television when the "Take clothes out of the dryer" notification appeared, he might even be propelled to do it. So this technology has some usefulness.
And there is no doubt that this is the wave of the future. We already have microwaves that determine how long to cook the food depending on its weight. We have vacuums that alert you when there is still dirt in the carpet.
All of these technologies are useful given the right circumstances. Yet, aren't we just adding more things that could break in the future?
I recently had a problem with the electrical system in my car. The doors locked and refused to open, and all of the lights flashed on and off. Luckily, after about 10 minutes, this unusual behavior stopped as unexpectedly as it started.
When I got the car to the dealer, the culprit turned out to be a short in the lighted-mirror in the sun visor. To repair it, the visor would need to be replaced at a cost in excess of $300. Fact of the matter was that I didn't need a lighted mirror in the first place. I had used it only once that I can remember in five years of owning the car.
Seems that we are nearing technological overload that offers small conveniences, but can turn into costly aggravations.
Whirlpool suggests that if the testing goes well, these washers and dryers could be on the market sometime next year. If I got a washing machine that could communicate wirelessly with my computer, would I be unable to wash my clothes if my computer crashed?
If I lost my cell phone would someone else be able to control my washing machine? How much would it cost for repair when one of the washer's many sensors broke?
While I am usually a big proponent of new technology, I'll say no to this one. I think I'll wait for our baby steps in technology to turn into a giant step. Give me a robot that can sort, wash, dry, and fold the clothes. Then I will be happy.
Sandy Berger welcomes all of your questions and comments on today's column. Please post them on the Compu-Kiss Message Board at www.compu kiss.com/ckmessageboard.
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