Auto Adventures

Forty years ago, the clear and certain sign of technological ineptitude glared, blinking unambiguously in living and family rooms across the nation.

In 1975 Sony introduced the first consumer video cassette recorder (VCR). Bigger than a Buick and priced at four figures, this was a device for the economic elite and the spatially profligate.

Videotape, of course, was nothing new in 1975. Broadcasters had been using it since the 50s. But more or less compact (relatively) record-playback units, tape that was less than 3-4 inches wide and contained inside a cassette (rather than being manually threaded) were innovations.

Anyone who owned a VCR with a clock that incessantly blinked “12:00” was someone who didn’t know how to program their device. Shameful!

The recent purchase of a new car coupled with The Great Change prompts the present column.

Some days I feel like Steve Martin: “Oh, you can’t say anything anymore,” he once quipped. Without someone taking it the wrong way.

The Great Change is, of course, daylight savings time (DST), an invention widely if erroneously attributed to Franklin Roosevelt. DST, it turns out, has considerable international history. At least so Wiki-Know-It-All reports.

Intended as way way to enhance and exploit daylight hours, and well before Seasonal Affect Disorder had been identified, benefits accrue to employers, flora and fauna of all stripes, and naturalists.

The new car comes complete with no fewer than four consumer guides to its satellite system, a “highlights” owner’s manual that runs 45 pages and, for the deeply invested or desperately lonely, a two-inch thick, multi-hundred-page owner’s “guide.” At that length, “guide” might be a misnomer as one might expect something comprehensive, no?

An aside: you know what they say about the frustration involved in trying to figure out software. When all else fails, RTFM.

The new car is smart. Really smart. For instance, when the temperature hits 37 degrees F, the dashboard makes a loud, startling alarm sound and the very large display panel at the center of the dashboard lights up with a snowflake symbol and a “printed” display announcement that the roads may be slippery.

The cautionary announcement has the immediate effect of attracting the driver’s attention both to the sound and screen thereby distracting the driver’s attention from doing the driving. Might as well try reading a book while driving.

Convergence between new car and DST occurred recently, thanks to the The Great Change.

The new car isn’t so smart that it automatically resets its clocks to accommodate the new hour. And the plural is accurate: there is an analog and a digital clock side by side. Mine is a very inclusive automobile.

Everything else works just fine. At least I think it does.

But now I’m an hour ahead of everyone except the nonconformists in Indiana. With whom, sadly, I have no appointments.

But for everyone in Western New York, I expect to be promptly on-time.

Previously, I had been immediately successful in programming my VCR’s clock as well as programming shows I wanted to record. A nearly identical task in my new car – nope.

At least the car clock doesn’t blink, like the VCR, thereby (more or less) preserving the anonymity of my technological ignorance.

It’s another one of those First World problems.

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