Thursday, December 15, 2016

The Square Peg - Gadget Wars

The Square Peg - Gadget Wars
© S. Bradley Stoner



I like gadgets. I mean, who doesn’t? Aren’t we getting a little too dependent on them though? I recall when I used to open cans with a tool that closely resembled a miniature halberd (for you youngsters who don’t know what that is... Google it!). And it was a multipurpose gadget... it came with a fold out corkscrew. If you couldn’t de-lid something, you could uncork it. Handy! The thing is, it required you to use your muscles. You know, bend your wrist, apply pressure, and all the other things one does to work a sharp little lever around a can. We thought it was pretty handy, until the keyed on came along. It had handles and everything, a squeeze and the piercer punctured the can lid, turn that butterfly looking “key” and a toothed cog pulled the cutter around the can, releasing the lid. Unless you lost your grip, of course. Then you had to reset. Oh, and this was multipurpose too. It had a bottle opener on one end. Yep, kiddies, bottle caps used to be crimped onto a rounded lip on the bottle. You had to pry ‘em off. Pop tops and twist offs hadn’t been invented then. And, OH the joy when they came out with the one you could hang on the wall that had a crank handle. Things were getting easier. And when the electric can opener came along it was bliss, pure bliss. Of course I still have one of the old key type openers. It works when the power goes off. But let’s not get stuck on can openers, interesting as they may be.

Let’s move on to tools. Got a rounded hex-head bolt that’s stubborn? No worries, there’s a vice grip crescent with serrated jaws now that will defeat the most stubborn of them. If you don’t want bruised knuckles, well heck, you can just plug in your impact drill with that fits-all socket and, brrrrrrrp, the bolt is out. And that stripped Phillips head screw? That’s right, there’s a gripper driver that will bite into it and, with a little elbow grease, it will back right on out. If you’re really lazy, there’s a screw extractor that fits right on your drill so all you have to do is flip the lever or push the button to “reverse” and pull the trigger. No muss, no fuss. Oh, and remember when you used to have to practically put your nose on the saber saw to follow that curvy line you needed to cut? We forget that. Now saber saws have a laser light that makes it easy to follow that line without ever having to bend at the waist. Yes sir, pretty soon your collection of box and open end wrenches, those socket ratchets, and your fine collection of screwdrivers will languish in the drawers of your roll away tool chest. You do have one, don’t you?

Then there are appliances. I was ecstatic when I got my first refrigerator with an ice maker and dispenser. No need to fill up those metal or plastic trays, slop them putting them in the freezer, and busting your knuckles pulling the pry bar or breaking plastic because you twisted the tray too hard trying to get those little cubes out. No sir. Now all I had to do was put my glass under the dispenser, push it against the lever and, grrrrrind, out came the cubes, dropping neatly into my glass. I could even set it for crushed ice. How convenient. The one I have now even dispenses filtered water. Neat. My eldest just told me I was living in the stone age. They’ve got refrigerators with TVs in them... and cameras you can synch to your cell phone to look inside while your shopping just so you don’t miss getting something critical. I told him I don’t watch so much TV that I need one embedded in the door of my fridge and as far as getting critical items, I write a list after checking the fridge’s contents. Besides, I gave up my cell phone when I retired. It's in a drawer now with a dead battery.

Of course, that didn’t satisfy him. He went out and bought us an Echo. It’s kind of like Siri on an iPhone. You just say her name and ask a question or make a demand and she complies... most of the time. Just don’t make the question complicated or complex. You’ll just get, “I’m sorry. I don’t understand your question. I’m pretty sure Alexa is a blond. Kids, being kids, my youngest came up with some novel questions, like, “Who’s your daddy?” And danged if she didn’t respond. “I was made by inventors at Amazon.” And that’s when I discovered Alexa is a liar. She might have been invented by engineers at Amazon, but I’ll bet dollars to donut holes she was made by little laborers in Taiwan... or put together by robots on an assembly line.

She’s good at playing music, though, even when that’s not what you wanted. Say, “Alexa, find me groovy screws.” and she comes back with, “Shuffling songs by Moody Blues.” Yep. Blond.

And finally, I found a real problem. You don’t want to have the TV on unmonitored. I had stepped away from a particularly interesting mystery on the ID channel when an ad for Amazon came on. I heard the voice on the ad say, “Alexa, order pizza.” Right away came a response, not on TV mind you, but on my Echo. “Ordering pizza.” Arrrggghhhh! “Alexa, CANCEL ORDER!

“I’m sorry, I don’t understand your question...”

“NOOOOOO!”

Alexa and I are now at war... and she’s winning!