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Thursday, June 25, 2009

A Technology Lament/Rant

We saw Angels and Demons, very good movie, do not expect to lie back leisurely and watch, it is an edge of your seat kind of movie. Afterward the couple we were with suggested dinner and we ended up on an outdoor patio shouting over the unnecessarily loud music and the most definitely loud children nearby. Ger proceeded to tell me how much trouble he had hooking up his new TV and then hooking digital converter boxes to his old TVs. It was far more trouble that it should have been. I treated him to the story of my hooking up my new TV.

Since I have the DVD burner/player, TIVO, external speakers with subwoofer, cable box and computer all hooked to the TV the wires and the small holes they were supposed to go through in the cabinet provided the first difficulties. After taming the wire snarl I proceeded to set up the new cable box. My old cable box would not do high definition and since that was one of the reasons I got a new TV I called Comcast to find out how to get the new box. First phone call told me I couldn’t get a new box since I was under contract on my Triple Play. Second phone call told me I could upgrade and it would be $8.00 more than my current Triple Play price. Third phone call it would be $14.00 more than my original Triple play price. (Eventually they charged me $30.00 more and I had to call and get them down to the $14 they had quoted.) I agreed to go to my local Comcast office to pick up the new box and return the old box. Now I was trying to configure the new box which went smoothly for normal TV. However I was not getting any of the HD channels. I could not get to the programming screen following any of the instructions in the manual. Finally after way too long fighting with it, due to my stubborn insistence that I am tech savvy and I should be able to figure this out, I called Comcast. The tech I spoke to told me to hold one button down on the remote and simultaneously hit another button twice and I would get the programming screen. I asked where that was in the manual and he said, “Oh, it isn’t in the manual, you just have to know it.”

I then proceeded to the programming screen and discovered after 5 more phone calls and comments like, “yeah, the manual is wrong about that, do this” on the sixth call the tech said, “we need to send somebody out.”

The tech that showed up was very nice, very professional. He took one look at the box, after I explained my problem, and said, “Where did you get that box?” I told him I had picked it up at the local office and he commented, “ Geez, they shouldn’t be giving those out anymore, we’ve had nothing but problems with that box. “ He went out to his truck, came back with a different box, hooked it up and Viola I had the high definition channels.

Now here is another situation that just shouldn’t have been that hard. If I had been given the correct HD box in the first place, I wouldn’t have needed a service call. Technology doesn’t need to be mysterious or difficult. Most frequently it is made difficult by poor business practices or lack of concern over the customer’s time and the companies’ money. I’m guessing that the service call cost Comcast at least $75.00 plus the six calls I made to tech support had to cost at least $20 per call. So by giving out a box that was known to be defective, Comcast lost roughly $200.00. I lost 5 or 6 hours of time and some more of my already dismally limited hair.

Alvin Toffler’s book, “Future Shock” was published in 1970 and his succinct definition of the title was, “too much change in too short a period of time.”
39 years later, change is certainly not slowing down. In my age group, I find that my love for technology is not shared very often. Primarily due to the implementation difficulties demonstrated by the examples above most people over 50 don’t like technological changes.

Is there a solution?

A plea to manufactures to try harder to make sure manuals are correct would help. If problems are discovered, add an insert noting the fix for the problems or direct people to a web site with a correct manual.

Pull problem products immediately. Don’t continue to distribute them knowing they are flawed.

I’m sure anyone reading this can come up with dozens of ways to make technological implementation less stressful

Why manufactures don’t implement those ideas is beyond me, this rant isn’t going to solve the problem but it does make me feel just a touch better.

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