Archived Story

Beware mind-reading appliances [UPDATED]

Published 10:05am Thursday, June 27, 2013 Updated 12:06pm Thursday, June 27, 2013

“Exactly what do you think you’re thinking,” demanded Mr. WhirlFool, The New Washing Machine. It should, by now, come as no surprise to you that my appliances speak to me. In their way.

But I didn’t know until now that they were capable of reading my mind. Maybe not all of them, maybe just these new DC-powered, digitally-controlled monsters that the new efficiency standards are causing to be invented.

Remember the first powered wringer washing machines? I do. Not that I ever spent much time with one, but I remember Ma letting me feed clothes into those two round squeezers.

“Don’t get your fingers in there,” I remember her saying. “Hit that bar there quick if you do,” she added. That released the two rollers. This machine became famous for the saying: “Don’t get your you-know-what (female part) caught in a wringer,” an admonition to be careful, no matter what you were doing.

Those machines were so simple. Even General Electric the Washing Machine, whom I retired a while ago, was much simpler. Onery, yes; but a nice alternating current machine, with easily diagnosable symptoms when he broke down. When Mr. WhirlFool fails, it won’t be something easy.

Back when Thomas Edison and George Westinghouse were battling it out on the electricity front, Edison for DC; Westinghouse for AC, it got pretty heated. Each thought his way was the best. At the time, Westinghouse was right, because AC was easily transformed into voltages that worked the best, overall.

But Edison, who up until then had a row of successes behind him, stuck to his guns, and, just to show the public how dangerous AC was, arranged for an AC-powered electric chair to be built by a New York state prison, into which they placed a condemned man.

Edison envisioned this electrocution to be all the public would need, to be convinced that DC was safest, his way the best.

In the end, they had to hush up the results, because it turned out to be harder to extinguish the poor guy than thought. (The details are so gory I’m going to skip them.) George W. won, and we got AC.

In the meantime, DC has become much more suitable due to solid-state means of varying the voltage, and Mr. WhirlFool is an example of what modern technology can do. For us. To us. I don’t like him, and he seems to be sensing that.

He asked me: What was I thinking? I was thinking of opening him up like a bean can and cutting a porthole in his lid, so I could see what’s going on in there. How come the manufacturer considered his inner machinations so secret that no one can see? You know what I think? I don’t think he’s doing anything. I think he makes sounds like he’s working. That’s why they don’t want us in there.

If I need to add a sock to him after he’s started, I have to push “The Button! The Button!” It allows him to consider whether or not to stop what he’s doing (or not doing) that he doesn’t want me to see, and allow me to open him up. I have to just stand there, like a serf before a king.

“Allow” me? Just who does he think he is? I paid for him. He’s mine.

So, yeah, I told him, I was thinking of performing open-lid surgery on him.

“I thought so,” he said to me. “Don’t even think about it, I’ll void what little warranty you have, and wash every other one of your socks out to sea.”

Well, then, I told him, let me see what’s going on in there. I won’t tell anyone. (Yes I will, in a heartbeat.)

“Uh, uh,” he grunted, “you’re not a factory approved person.

And that’s where it stands right now. I’m threatening him with a power tool; he’s holding my underwear hostage.

I think he’s the reincarnation of Thomas Edison, come back to get even.

I’m going to unplug him, that’ll show him.

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