Friday, November 7, 2014

When Technology Does Too Much

Sometimes, technology does too much.  When that happens, we are inconvenienced.

I had a telephone with a really neat feature.  If you got a busy signal when you dialed a number, it would hang up and then re-dial the number for you automatically.  But that stopped working when the phone company rolled out new technology that would give you a call back when the busy line became available.  The phone company's feature reduced the number of repetitions the busy signal would produce, making it impossible for the phone to detect it.  Now the busy signal beeps just twice, and it's followed by a matronly voice that says, "That number is busy.  If you'd like us to call you when the number becomes available, please press 1 now."  Of course there's a charge every time you use this feature; my phone provided the same type of feature for free.  No matter -- the phone was fried just over a year ago along with the DSL modem.

My coworker likes to use a Keurig machine to make coffee, but he doesn't like all the waste inherent in using those pre-filled, foil-sealed, plastic K-Cups.  So he uses a filter cup, like the My K-Cup.  Unfortunately the Keurig machine at work is designed to tip the used K-Cup into a reservoir bin after each brewing cycle, saving the next person from the "drudgery" of having to remove the used cup from the machine.  But if you're using a filter cup, you'll want to retrieve your filter cup, which means partially disassembling the machine to get at the bin.  And in the process of tipping the cup into the bin, the machine spills undrained liquid and messy grounds all over the bin.  Worse than all that, the additional components that perform the tipping are costly, use more electricity, and require repair.

The Keurig machine itself is an example of too much technology.  It's not too hard to fill a drip coffee maker with fresh cold water, place a coffee filter into the machine, add grounds, and then start the machine.  And after reading this online critique of the Keurig system, it would seem to be healthier to use the drip coffee maker, too.

No comments: