:: Life Of Dave ::

modern life

Every now and again I like to go to electronics stores. Not generally to buy things, although every now and again it's necessary, but rather to see what people could be buying. One of the down sides of being deeply plugged in to the tech world is that I don't actually know what people who aren't plugged in know about. The electronics stores offer me a way to see into that world.

The last time I went, I noticed the proliferation of off-the-shelf home automation tools. I don't know how much all of it is selling, but the number of options and space dedicated to it makes me think this might be becoming a thing. Since I generally don't go around looking at people's light sockets (tho I have been known to examine their light bulbs), I don't know if the people I know have these, or are using them. But now I know that they're out there, which raises a second problem with being in tech - people assume you know how it works.

Of course, in a general sense this is true - I've been automating things since the 1990's. But it's been ad hoc using specialized tools. It hasn't been a web enabled package with a pretty front end sold by a major manufacturer. And one of the things manufacturers love to do, because it's part of the reason people pay them, is to hide the complexity. Which just makes it completely obscure to folks like me.

Let me give you an example: the office copy machine. How do I make it coolate and staple? No clue. There's most likely some series of buttons to push, but each manufacturer chooses their own weird series, and sometimes it's unique to your office environment, requiring a security code or a billing code or something. I almost guarantee I'm not going to get a copy machine to do double sided prints without someone telling me how to do it.

In the same way, although I can tell you that it is technically possible to connect all the electronic things in your house to the internet and operate them remotely, I'm not going to be able to do it without spending a great deal of time learning how. And because I'm an economist as well as a programmer I'm not going to spend the time to learn any particular system without some major incentives.

All of which is to say that it's ironic that things I've been saying we could do for decades we can now actually do, except now I probably can't, because now they're all pretty and obscure and I can't figure out which sequence of shiny buttons to press.