dkSez : : : : : : Don Kahle's blog

Quips, queries, and querulous quibbles from the quirky mind of Don Kahle

dkSez : : : : : : Don Kahle's blog random header image

For Whom the Beep Beeps

January 24th, 2006 by dk

It’s the third week of January. Have you learned your new kitchen commands? Each December, families exchange new gizmos to improve one another’s “quality of life.” Each of these new electronic time-savers has its own set of signals to alert you, its owner, that it has completed saving you time and now demands your attention.

I have a new electronic egg timer, because eggs not synched to Greenwich Mean Time are just not as tasty. I liked my old timer. The bell sounded like something hitting something else — more pneumatic than electronic. It reminded me of the gas station hose that alerted the mechanic to stop tuning his Chevy and come pump somebody’s gas. I remember when I first was big enough to jump on that hose and make it ding, my first prank on a stranger. The memory will likely fade now, because it won’t be refreshed with my GMT-synched egg timer.

The egg timer and the microwave now sound like twins, which is surprising when you look at them.

My new microwave beeps four times when it has finished, then it sits silently with “done” blinkingly scrawled in place of the time. It has different beeps for a command it doesn’t understand. Three beeps means something must be turned over or rearranged. If I ever need a job at a nursing home, I can consider myself partially trained.

My new oven is not so patient. It beeps over and over until it gets somebody’s attention. It’s a used oven. I’ll bet today’s ovens have learned to follow the new, first-alert-then-inert kitchen protocol.

It’s just as well that the oven is so demanding. It doesn’t turn itself off when the time has expired. In fact, if whatever is cooking inside the oven doesn’t quickly get removed, then the smoke detector will soon enough join the insistent chorus of beeps, followed by the new carbon monoxide detector. If these two little sirens could then turn on the vacuum cleaner, well, that would be the ultimate household din.

I’m sure somebody is working on it.

A friend received an automatic vacuum cleaner, a robotic R2D2 that spins and sucks all over the room. If the iRobot Roomba gets trapped under a rocking chair or caught between a rock and a hard place, it alerts you with its own series of beeps. If no response is provoked, it powers down and waits for you to wonder why things are becoming such a mess around here.

Why beeps? I know they are the least expensive type of sound to produce, but truly, is that really reason enough? If that robotic vacuum cleaner is in trouble, it could have been programmed with little arms to mimic the “danger, danger” message Will Robinson was always receiving on “Lost in Space.” Or Flipper, doing his best dolphin imitation of Lassie, explaining to anyone who would listen that Timmy has fallen down that old mine shaft. Again.

Beeps run us from one task to another, telling us to close the car door, buckle our seat belt, the garage door is opening/closing, doors are locked, lights were left on, etcetera, etcetera. With all these beeping bellhops, did not one of these engineers think to program his device to beep “please” or “thank you”? Have you met many engineers?

My new phone’s ringer sounds more like a synthesized bell, but when I lose the handset, I press the button on the base and it beeps for a minute, sounding just like my microwave, only more stubborn. Usually the phone is in a couch cushion, but if it ever gets lost in the kitchen, who knows what trouble that might cause? If the phone gets lost before my eggs are done, it may dial Greenwich on its own, just to avoid being put in the microwave.

My son downloaded for me the “Dick Van Dyke Show” theme for my cell phone ringer. That’s right, the beeps themselves have become gifts. The phone still has its stock language for tones for each numeral, plus different chords to report that the dialed call is going out, or not. If a number’s been memorized, there’s a chord progression for that and if something’s being deleted, there’s a discordant little tone to ask me if I’m sure.

The list goes on. I haven’t even gotten to my computer and I don’t wear a wristwatch.

How many new beep commands have you learned this month? Don’t worry. The month’s not over yet, and your new machines will just flash “done” until you come around.

Tags: No Comments

Leave A Comment

Are you human? *

0 responses so far ↓

  • There are no comments yet...Kick things off by filling out the form below.