The Computerisation Of America

Two weeks ago, a friend needed to call a technician for her dishwasher. She could not turn it off. The technician determined that it was too expensive to repair. This dishwasher has a computer that turns the motor on/off as needed, and that was the part that malfunctioned.

Her unfortunate plight helps me to love my older mechanical dishwasher even more. I just set it and forget it. The irony is that I do not use it much, but I really should use it more because I am constantly washing dishes. I often do not use gloves, and the dish washing soap tends to dry out my skin. Mom complains that her dishwasher is too small, even though it is the same size as mine, and it is an older one.

When my friend posted her plight on Facebook, it made me very cross. Now she needs a new dishwasher. Why add a computer to an appliance to make it even more complicated that it should be? Now, it is not a matter of just turning the dishwasher on and letting it do its thing. Turning it on means you are asking for permission to turn the dishwasher on. If the correct parameters are in place, the computer will grant the request. Maybe the manufacturers add electronics to make them more efficient. All I see is them making the appliance more complicated to operate, and more expensive to repair.

When I was 13 and living in Brooklyn, I remember mom’s giant Hotpoint top loading washing machine. It had a huge timer knob, and three smaller knobs for water level, fabric type, and water temperature. Just set the timer, pull the knob out, and the machine starts the desired cycle. I loved to watch the teal coloured agitator swish the clothes back and fourth, and watch how water squirted out the side, and into the lint filter. As long as the machine was set up correctly, it always did the job, without the aid of a fussy computer.

I used to drive a wheelchair bus for 10 years. I have seen my fair share of W/C lifts. One bus I drove had the Braun Century II, which was aided by electronics. The weight of the W/C had to be properly centered on the lift, or else a red light would illuminate, and and the lift would not work. This drove me crazy, especially on either a rainy, or snowy day. Its a wheelchair lift. All it does is go up and down, and Braun felt the need to make it complicated by adding electronics. In comparison, the older buses I drove had the mechanical Millennium Lift, which is the heavy duty version. As long as the chair was centered on the lift, and the wheelchair brakes applied for safety, transmission in neutral, and the interlock was engaged, the lift works as it should. No computer to drive me nuts. As much as I hated the Century, I did like the spotlights on the lift, which made night work much easier.

Just so you know, I am not against computers. I use my laptop at home, and I use a desktop at work. In the right capacity, computers can be more efficient. I am against the idea of making what used to be a mechanical household appliance into a high tech computer operated machine that becomes expensive to repair when something goes wrong, and may need an expensive replacement that the majority of us may or may not be able to afford. One could argue that a consumer can purchase an extended warranty, or some sort of maintenance contract from the manufacturer. Whether it is worth it or not depends on a number of abstract factors.

Comments are always welcome. Thanks for reading my post. Namaste.

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