D.L. Stewart: Turned off by the power of technology

Whatever happened to “on” and “off?”

For most of their lives, the devices we frequently used — televisions, radios, record players — were controlled by buttons on them that were clearly labeled “on” or “off.” For those of us for whom that was entirely too complicated, some of them had a single button labeled “on/off.”

Either way, all you had to do was push one of them and the device instantly awakened or went back to sleep. But that was before technology started to run amok.

So now we have a stereo system in our living room that hasn’t played music in years because we can’t find the remote. A radio in our car I don’t know how to turn on because the dashboard has more controls than the cockpit of a jumbo jet. A music app on my cellphone I’m afraid to use; the last time I did, some cowboy yodeling “Home on the Range” played on it for over an hour because there was no “off” button to shut him up.

And recently we welcomed a new television to our home, which I should have known would be trouble when it required two technicians to install it and a third to show us how to operate it. Which I still haven’t been able to do.

The other day, for instance, I wanted to watch the 6:30 news. Fortunately, my wife had taken notes from the mob of technicians and left an illustrated copy on the kitchen table.

— “Tap power (she drew a picture depicting the little red semi-circle that was on the remote) and wait three seconds.”

— “Right-click (picture of something that looked like a bagel) and scroll across the bottom of the screen.”

— “Center-click (picture of something that looked like a fried egg) and scroll sideways to icon you want.”

— “Channel screen will come up. Swipe to channel you want.”

So I tapped the red button and waited three seconds. Right-clicked the bagel. Scrolled across the bottom of the screen and center-clicked the fried egg.

A note appeared on the screen saying it was loading data. Then another note appeared saying it was loading my TV. Followed by another note telling me it was checking my subscription, which I assume meant it wanted to make sure we didn’t owe them more money. Then one more note saying it was preparing my cable company experience, although by that time I was pretty fed up with my cable company experience.

Eventually, I’m confident I’ll get it all figured out and be able to watch the 6:30 news every evening. As long as I start pushing buttons at 5:45.

Contact this columnist at dlstew_2000@yahoo.com.

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