Thinking of the future

There is a business I drive by nearly every day that has a big banner out front advertising discount princes for having a remote starter installed in your car. I know that there are several different cars that come from the factory with remote start functions. There is a button on the key fob that starts the engine and allows the car to warm up or cool down the interior space before the driver enters it. I suppose it might be handy for clearing light frost from the windshield as well. These features, of course, depend on the heating controls having been left in the proper position when the car was last used. I’ve never had a car with that feature and I’ve never felt the desire to have such a feature. I have noticed that there seem to be more cars left running in parking lots. The other day I noticed a car next to mine was running, so I was very careful as I got out of my car to go into the store. I thought the car might move at any moment. Then I noticed that there was no one in the car. Its owner must have either left it running while hoe or she ran into the store or used a remote starter to start it as she or he was waking across the parking lot. I guess those people don’t mind the extra cost of poor gas mileage from long periods of idling. Here is the deal. On that particular day it was absolutely beautiful outside. There was no need for heat or air conditioning in a car if you rolled down the windows. But, as usual, I noticed a lot of cars with their windows all rolled up.

“Rolled up” s a term that is nearly meaningless these days because so few cars have cranks that you use to roll up windows. It wasn’t many years ago that I saw this feature as completely useless. Who needs a complex motor system to raise and lower windows when a simple hand crank works well? I was completely happy with the hand crank system until it became nearly impossible to get a car with hand cranks. These days I use the electric windows all of the time. It is way easier to lower the passenger window from the driver’s side than it used to be to lean across the vehicle and turn a crank. I don’t think I’ve complained about electric windows for several years, now.

It is similar with the key fob that you use to lock and unlock doors. I thought it was a totally useless device. How hard is it to use a key? Then we got a car that had the electric lock and unlock feature. I immediately began to use and enjoy the feature. Before long I bought the parts and retrofitted remote lock and unlock onto another vehicle that we owned. Now all of our vehicles have that feature. I still drive that car that was our first to have the remote lock and unlock. It is now 19 years old and has more than 270,000 miles on it and the buttons on the key fobs are wearing out. Sometimes I can’t get the devices to work at all and I have to use the key to get into the car the old fashioned way. I find myself getting annoyed at the technology not working.

The list of extra features that we have on our cars these days is really long. We’ve gotten used to power steering and automatic transmissions and air conditioning as standard features. I can remember my father staying that he saw no reason for a radio in a work truck. Radios just distracted drivers and he wanted his employees to focus their attention on the job. I’ve never owned a car that did not have a radio. My kids have never owned a car that didn’t have electric windows.

Old guys like me complain about change, but we are completely ineffective at stopping change from occurring.

My grandchildren will probably live to see a world in which no cars have internal combustion engines and remote starters are a thing of the past.

Of course another thing that old guys like me do, when we aren’t complaining, is to comment on how the world didn’t turn out the way we expected.

When I was a young teen, I believed that general aviation was going to become so common that everyone would have their own personal airplanes. I expected to see flying cars in my lifetime. I watched the Jetsons cartoons on TV and figured that such a life was within the range of possibility. I couldn’t understand why everyone seemed to live in towers like the space needle without using the space beneath the towers, but I liked the idea of a robot that would select your clothing and help you dress. The robot that cleaned the house and did the dishes was quite nice, too. We don’t have one of those and we don’t have a flying car.

At the time we thought that the way to explore distant planets was to send people there. It never occurred to us that we would be sending robots to explore mars while we did our own dishes and dressed ourselves at home.

Robots are coming into our homes, however. So far I’ve resisted the “smart speakers” for my home. The idea of a machine that is always listening to me sort of creeps me out. I have no desire for a company such as Amazon or Apple to know more about me than they already do. But I found myself looking, just last night, at web sites with information about remotely controlled mowers. I was looking specifically for a mower to tackle the steep slopes at the church, but my mind wandered to the idea of being able to sit in the shade while the mower took care of the lawn.

Who knows what the future will hold? Maybe it will bring a way to keep old guys from complaining.

Copyright (c) 2018 by Ted E. Huffman. I wrote this. If you would like to share it, please direct your friends to my web site. If you'd like permission to copy, please send me an email. Thanks!