November 13, 2007

Man Vs. Machine

Do you have a love hate relationship with computers and technical gadgets? I know I do. At times it seems like the gadgets have their own spirit and intentions and in some cases (as in below story) openly defiant. And forget about the manuals. I want to constantly shoot the authors of them. And gadgets always screw up at the same time don't they? Which is contributing to my personal persecution theories...

Case in point. I bought a Motorola 2.4 ghz cordless phone w/ answering machine. I was happy with the purchase and got it for a good price. But for some reason it would not correctly update the day and time stamp for incoming messages: it was always one day behind the current one. What started out as a simple quest to reset and fix became an unwinnable war between man and machine.

To start off, we manually reset the date on the unit to Saturday 10am. We hear it. We're not hallucinating. The answering machine said "Sa-tur-day 10 ay-EM!" We call the phone and leave a test message : "Hello this is a test of the answering machine". We listen back to the message and the answering machine defiantly reports "New message sent Fri-day 10 ay-EM". We try it several times with the same result. Even setting it to Thursday. The machine, like a defiant child responds, "Wednesday, 10 ay-EM(?)" almost with an upturn in the voice to pose and interrogative as if to say, "Had enough, human?"We decide to trick the machine by setting it one day ahead since it insists on putting it one day behind. Makes sense right? Wrong. You know what the box said? You guessed it. "Fri-day, 10 ay-EM! Now I'm completely confused. Is time not relative for these little machines? If I tell it that it's Sunday, shouldn't the little demon accept my appraisal? Does it know I'm lying? Who's in charge here??

Anyway it became my theory that there was a bug in the machine and somehow had an internal calendar set for 2005 rather than 2006. I looked at my old calendar and confirmed in fact that January was one day behind in terms of numerical day of the month and its day of the week. Eureka! I thought. So I slog through the manual for some time (Again no love lost there to Mr. Manual writer) to find a way to reset the complete date including year for the phone. After achieving this I'm certain I've licked the problem. I reset the machine, the phone and leave a message. "New message....sent.......FRI-DAY, 10AY-EM! At this point it's about time I take the answering machine to the back alley and rough it up a bit. But like death and taxes I'd resigned myself to Mr. Motorola's wishes to remain in yesterdayville and focus on other things with the unit.

Well at least I can change that awful blaring default ring tone to another one more pleasing. After scrolling through the classics and testing them out, Mozart, Handel and others we decide on Lizst. Catchy and soothing. But when we call the phone we are somehow treated to the Motorola's perverse form of musical counterpoint: the base ringing the default tone and the handset ringing Lizst! And on top of that there is no way to control the volume level of the ring for the base. Once again I consult Mr. Manual and of course there is everything but practical function explanations on there. Troubleshooting? Well I'm sure you've seen the explanations. "Make sure the unit is plugged in.." and the like.

What I had first viewed as an attractive, stylish machine with it's silver lines and umber/orange LCD, now struck me as a kind silver metal armadillo in sunglasses that wanted to do its own thing. "Screw you, anthro". Needless to say I boxed the little dickens in a generic container with lots of bubble rap and now it's on its way back to the merchant and eventually to its next unsuspecting owner looking for a good deal on a refurb. Perhaps it will encounter talking Chucky somewhere in the gadget warehouse in need of an answering machine , who won't be quite as civil or forgiving as I.

(This story was first published in 2006 on the somewhat useless portal & blogspace, Yahoo 360)

No comments: