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Demanding Appliances

Demanding Appliances

May 24th, 2006  · stk

An Annoying New Engineering Trend


Our household has suffered some kind of technical flu, recently. Appliances have been "sick" and a couple haven't pulled through. Our 12-year-old microwave succumbed a few weeks ago, refusing to heat anything. Our 2-year-old, pre-pubescent DVD player, put its foot down and refused to register half of the discs we shoved into its face. Spanking the surly preteen only made it more stubborn, refusing to register any discs we fed it. Frustrated, we put it up for adoption (in the back alley) and bought a new one.

Besides the annoyance, aggravation and expense of having to purchase replacements, I've made a very unhappy observation about the new generation of appliances: design engineers have made them annoying and demanding! (This is in addition to the fact that they're cheaply constructed, which is something that everyone knows. Our Magnavox DVD replacement has a plastic shell, for Pete's sake.) I want appliances to efficiently and quietly perform their function, not demand my attention in an annoying fashion. I get enough of that from my two-and-a-half-year-old daughter.

Pretty soon, I will exist only to serve the needs of my appliances.


To design engineers at Danby, Uniden, Magnavox, Microsoft and others, I say:

   (Annoying, isn't it? Imagine a "BEEP" too!)

We now have four needy machines in our house. It all started with the telephone answering machine, two years ago. Such an appliance may seem superfluous in today's computer age, but Rachel informed me that she didn't like checking a computer for phone messages, preferring to have a dedicated machine, centrally located, which can be checked at a glance. That makes sense. What doesn't make sense, though, is that our telephone answering machine is insistent that we pick up our messages. If we don't attend to the message, immediately, upon our return, this appliance will bark at us, with an annoying, high-pitched BEEP, every 20 seconds or so, until we do! This beep is like Chinese water torture and with my low threshold for pain, I have become this machine's slave, dutifully checking every message, just to shut it up. If Rachel should get a call, while she is away and I am at home (as often is the case, because I -try to- WORK out of the home), I must get up and give it attention, in order to have some peace and quiet.

When our tiny microwave bit the dust, we purchased an inexpensive replacement. It used to be that we'd heat up a cup of coffee or tea and the old machine would politely beep-beep-beep upon completion. Now, this polite, one-time announcement becomes annoyingly insistent if one doesn't immediately removed the heated object. At first, I thought this a nice feature (as it might mean that I would no longer open the door and find a cold mug of tea or coffee). Yay! (Not!) Now, I get to listen to an insistent BEEP-BEEP, while in the middle of a television show, the result of Rachel having put in a cup of tea during commercial break.

"You're tea is ready," I'll say.

"Thanks. I'll get it in a minute," she says. I guess the BEEPING doesn't annoy her, as much as it does me.

Even our new DVD has gotten into the fray, as it doesn't like it when you put a DVD on hold, for an extended period of time. This will happen when Alex is in the middle of watching a full length cartoon and it's time for dinner. I put the DVD on "stop", so that Alex can pick up where she left off, after dinner. But if we don't gulp down our dinner in 15 minutes, the DVD player decides to shut down, which leaves the stupid television left hanging on channel 3 and suddenly we have a strange glow and odd noises coming from the living room, which has more than startled us, on occasion.

But the worst offender is the Windows XP operating system I have running on my computer. It is so intelligent, that it updates itself, which is convenient, as XP is such a target for viruses, that having the latest patches is a necessary part of its security defenses. What's not so convenient, however, is how insistent it is that I reboot the machine, regardless of how many tasks I might be in the middle of performing. A little window comes up and asks me, "Do you want to reboot now? or later?"

Later, of course, means 5 minutes, at which time another box will come up, asking the same exact question. And if I don't tell it later, it'll just proceed to shut down windows, closing all of my open windows, losing all of my unbookmarked sites I might have open and ungraciously booting me out of as many applications I might have running.

How stupid is that?

Someone needs to add the "I don't want to reboot now, or in five minutes. Shut up and leave me alone. I'll reboot when I'm damn well good and ready" option.

And of course, I blame this all on Bill Gates, as if he, personally, is responsible for this brilliant piece of programming. Hey, it makes as much sense, to me, as having the computer decide WHEN it needs to reboot, rather than the operator.

So, I'm done with my beeping rant and I need to go, because the microwave is telling me that my coffee is ready and insisting that I fetch it.

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Updated: 24-May-2006
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1.flag danny Comment
Only slightly more annoying than the reboot notice is that nagging bubble about unused desktop icons. That has to be one of the stupidest "features" of XP. At least it can be disabled.
2.flag stk Comment

LOL. If I had desktop icons, I'd be a tad more understanding, but my desktop is as clean as a baby's bottom. (Wait ... that's "smooth as", isn't it? Whoops!)

I did have one positive outcome from writing this ... Rachel read it and informed me that the beep-beep of the answering machine is a "feature" (she then disabled it).

Now, if I could just get her to fetch her tea after it's been heated and get the dog next door to quit barking when someone, two blocks away, sneezes, I'd have some peace and quiet around here!
3.flag Vincent Comment
Scott: simply start beeping when Rachel leaves the tea in the microwave. Make the beeps more frequent and change the pitch until you find the one she best responds to. Note: this advice comes from a person who is single.