User Input

User Input: Uncontrollable Distrust

"Excuse me, sir. Are you aware you have the Ask.com toolbar installed? You're going to have to come with us."

“Excuse me, sir. Are you aware you have the Ask.com toolbar installed? You’re going to have to come with us.”

We’ve established previously that our own engineerd™ has a bizarre significant distrust of certain flying vehicles, specifically anything powered by Volkswagen and held aloft by black magic. Techie, meanwhile, has an irrational suspicion for fax machines, and has largely managed to avoid using them at all for the better part of a decade, although this may be due to the fact that nobody uses a fax machine anymore. The Professor refuses to trust microwave ovens; not microwaves in general, mind you. He uses those all the time. This may be a big portion of the reason he refuses to cook anything with them… or, rather, to eat anything cooked by them. For myself, I distrust peanut butter. Sure, you can try and argue that peanut butter isn’t actually a piece of technology; I’d counter-argue that it sure as hell isn’t food, so it’s either technology or purified hatred. I’d prefer to think it’s technology.

We are not alone in our strange aversions to various pieces of technology.

I do not use airplanes. They strike me as unsporting. You can have an automobile accident—and survive. You can be on a sinking ship—and survive. You can be in an earthquake, fire, volcanic eruption, tornado, what you will—and survive. But if your plane crashes, you do not survive. And I say the heck with it.

 Isaac Asimov, quoted in J. Winokur’s The Traveling Curmudgeon, 2003.

What day-to-day tidbit of technology do you flat-out refuse to trust, despite all rationale, logic or common sense?

  • Thermos. How do it know?

    • texlenin

      Thermos Don't Care!

    • fodder650

      Its made of liquid magnets.

      • Another technology I don't trust.

        • fodder650

          Well I mean really. How do they work? Its like their little bits of gravity in each piece.

          • Clearly they are almost infinitely dense. What if that gets in your blood stream? I'm concerned about the health impacts to all the folks who buy those bogus magnetic bracelets.

          • fodder650

            Darn it where did my edit button go. their?! This is why I haven't written an article in awhile.

            As for the magnets being near your blood stream. We know they don't work that way. Sure there is plenty of iron in your blood but so many kids have swallowed magnets that they come coated in sugar to make them easier to swallow.

          • OA5599

            Those folks who buy magnetic bracelets are almost infinitely dense in the head, but that doesn't seem to slow them down.

          • On the contrary, it's almost as if they benefit from some sort of placebo effect.

  • jeepjeff

    Copy machines. I can make Unix servers sing and dance, but put me in front of a copy machine and I stare at the thing like I was just teleported in from the stone age. They don't make a single bit of sense, and worse, they usually mean I'm doing some kind of paperwork (which is also awful).

    • texlenin

      Used to run a Xerox 1050 way back in the day. If I can master that Trabant
      sized beast, I know you can. Just read the manual.

      • jeepjeff

        +1 for telling me to RTFM. I have solved my problem, though. My current employer is as paperless as possible, and I have to deal with them on a sub-yearly basis at this point.

        • texlenin

          Did not mean that in a snarky way!

          • jeepjeff

            Ach, text-only communication. I'm sorry, I know you didn't mean it in a snarky way. I'm a documentation devourer by trade, as is my wife, so RTFM around my household, at least, is something almost always meant in good spirit (and hence my +1, particularly since a copy machine manual is one bit of documentation I've never plowed through, and it is likely my problem).

          • texlenin

            True, true. And to be honest, there was a great deal o' button
            bashing just to see what would happen. Under warranty, after
            all….

  • texlenin

    Electronic Fuel Injection. I use 'em, but after dealing with Bessie the Wonder Z
    for so long, I'll be damned if I trust 'em.

    • jeepjeff

      Carburetors. My main long-distance drive involves a massive altitude change. Also, carbs are fiddly and go out of tune. EFI stays in tune as long as the components are good, and mine will notice the spark plugs going out before it causes any symptoms that I can hear/feel.

      😉

      • texlenin

        Bessie's L-JetTronic has problems (open to ground wire somewhere) and
        the only real solution is to replace with MegaSquirtn'Spark. Which,after reading
        all the forums, scares me just as much. All those fiddely bits, operating together….

        • jeepjeff

          Definitely a non-trivial project. I do understand the distrust of EFI. One of the reasons I like EFI is because I have a ton of educational and professional background that makes it more comfortable for me to understand (embedded programming, robotics, computer-controlled physics experiments and so on). Carbs work on a simple principle (even if they aren't necessarily simple themselves), and there is (was?) a reasonably well understood set of maintenance and tuning procedures.

          • texlenin

            Gonna be a buggerbear, but if I want her back on the road,
            gotta be done. There is plenty of on-line support, tho.

        • I'm a fan of L-Jet, even if they are particularly sensitive. Have you tested for false air and diligently cleaned all contacts?

          • texlenin

            Oh yeeeaaah, I've been thru the whole system time and again. It's the weather-ravaged wiring that's the main prob, and MSnS has more capability and ease of troubleshooting.
            Uses GM sensors, so parts are common.

      • pj134

        I wonder if we can pin down the year when the majority of people stopped trusting carburetors. I know they're black magic to me, but I would figure anyone who was around 12 in 1990.

        • jeepjeff

          I'm certainly that generation. My first definition of "old cars" (that I'm now having to un-learn) was carburetor == old, EFI == new.

        • texlenin

          75 to 80?

          • pj134

            I was born in 90, so by that time it's all the devil's work.

          • texlenin

            Those friggin' Voodoo Magic black boxes, man!
            They crazy.

        • mr. mzs zsm msz esq

          Did you ever paint by blowing across a straw in grade school? That's how carbs work.

          • Number_Six

            My motorcycle suffers from carb icing, and that's how we like it, dammit.

          • jeepjeff

            I understand the principle of the carb just fine. The problem is, to make them work across a broad RPM and load range, there's a bunch of extra bits that adjust the fuel metering. And then, those have to get tuned individually, but they aren't necessarily independent of each other. There's a whole art to tuning and repairing carbs that I don't know or know where to learn it. (I know I've seen Tim lament this as well.)

            OTOH, I understand EFI, the information on it is readily available, and I love it.

          • mr. mzs zsm msz esq

            You understand it, but do you trust it?

            I'm kidding, carbs do kind of blow (badaboomtish), but the honest ones are honest at least. An SU, you turn one screw on the side (I hardly ever have to touch that one once I get it right), then another screw on top, and add oil if it's bouncy/jerky to tune. You can look down the throat and SEE the aerosoled fuel and the piston going up and down with the needle, the butterfly behind, and on the outside even the jet. It's easy to trust. Most carbs are way more complicated though with like pumps, resistors, bypasses, extra barrels, variable venturis.

            Yeah, I don't trust those. And yes it's is annoying to tune, but on those cars you tend to have to also worry about timing, the distributor (points and condenser on the old ones too), and valve adjustment, and none of that is the carb, really yo have to do all that first before tackling the carb. So it's all really nice how modern cars just work. But how!? Devil's blood surely.

          • mr. mzs zsm msz esq

            Whoa reading your comment above, I think you would trust FI more. I never thought of it that way, and I have similar job to you (and likely education) as well Jeff, ha! So I think it's cause my dad would buy old cars, fix them and sell them. To spend time with dad meant for me to walk over to him, and then ask him something stupid. One day I asked what's square thing under the round thing you just took off? And later that day he showed me how the insect duster worked. So these ideas were somehow etched outside of books in my case.

          • jeepjeff

            I think our Dads are the difference. My Dad takes his cars to the mechanic, and while my step-father sometimes turns his own wrenches, he's always owned FI vehicles, and I've never helped him work on a carbed machine (although, I'm sure he knows how). He didn't do a lot of wrenching, so I'm mostly self-taught. Which means EFI is the familiar technology that's been in the cars I've owned (and then there's the education/experience; and I had noticed our backgrounds are similar :-).

          • pj134

            While he generally knows what he's doing and is smart, my dad still takes the muscle over mind approach. Stripping many a bolt and screw in the process.

            Yes, I do take after my father when it comes to working on things. Generally it is the more expensive path. Maybe that's why I like working on computers. Doesn't really give me the option of jamming things around too hard.

          • jeepjeff

            Oh, there's some possibility for some serious power-stupidity with computers. There's a lot of ways to get a bigger hammer with computers. Sometimes it's the right idea, sometimes it means a lot more work. Most of the time you don't destroy actual equipment or hurt people (but see: Therac-25 and Xwindows modelines on CRTs), but trashing the software or harddrives on critical servers can lose just as much money as stripping the threads on a critical fastener on an expensive bit of equipment. In fact, computers often lets us make those mistakes a million times over in one swell-foop, rather than only being able to torque the head off one bolt at a time. Hence, power stupidity.

          • mr. mzs zsm msz esq

            $_="uyCoronnnJ g rrtyacTto!seu ";$_.=$1,print$2while s/(..)(.)//;

          • jeepjeff

            begin 600 UUPIPEOUT
            +5&AA;FL@>6]U(0H`
            `
            end

          • pj134

            You and your mechanical santeria!

  • Number_Six

    Electronic stability control: my car is not nearly powerful enough to need it and when I do get sideways it's on purpose and I have no idea what to do when I've forgotten to turn the stupid thing off and suddenly it's braking without me asking.

    Microwave ovens are not welcome in my home, and have not been since my last one disappeared out a window back in 'ought one.

    Cellphones: I'm sure mine is interfering with the chip planted in a molar by that one dentist. When my head rots off, I know what to blame.

    Laptops: I'm pretty sure watching episodes of Archer with the laptop on my crotch while I recline on the sofa is doing bad things to my gentleman's parts.

    Electronic tax return programs. I know they're feeding my information somewhere other than Revenue Canada.

    I could go on…

    • fodder650

      On the last one that's especially important since you aren't, in fact, Canadian.

      • Number_Six

        Dual citizenship = convenience. In this case it's better I give money to Revenue Canada than whatever terrifyingly byzantine income hoover the UK gov't uses. The ghost of Benjamin Disraeli probably comes to your house with a briefcase and a Webley revolver on a lanyard.

        • fodder650

          Isn't a dual citizenship between Canada and the UK redundant?

          Thank you, thank you, I'll be here all week. Two drink minimum, remember to tip your waitress, good night!

    • texlenin

      Well, watching a hypertropic cartoon representation of Aisha Tyler
      probably ain't doing the boys any good, either……

      • Number_Six

        It is pretty disturbing that Lana is really just that friggin hot.

        • texlenin

          Got a thing for man-hands, eh?

          • Number_Six

            It's the boobs + low self-esteem. If she'll sleep with Cyril…

            I need to leave my apartment more often…

          • texlenin

            Well, what about Pam Poovey?
            She's …..available.
            giggle

    • jeepjeff

      Microwave ovens have their place in the home:
      [youtube cskB5c0mJ58 http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cskB5c0mJ58 youtube]
      [youtube p05DKR2wmA4 http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=p05DKR2wmA4 youtube]

      • jeepjeff

        They're both the same video. Huh. Second one was supposed to be this:
        [youtube p05DKR2wmA4 http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=p05DKR2wmA4 youtube]

        • IntenseDebate doesn't properly handle more than one video in a comment.

          • jeepjeff

            Oh well. First time I've tried multiple videos.

    • The Professor

      Hear, hear on microwave ovens, bloody infernal devices. Give me a 60kW klystron and I'll warm up your damned coffee by god and damned quick.

      • texlenin

        What about that positron emitter variant you were working on?

  • OA5599

    Airbags in cars. I wear a seatbelt, so how does an explosion aimed at my face make me safer?

    [youtube 9e5cHhCEuuI http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9e5cHhCEuuI youtube]

  • Wolfie

    Computers! You dare not turn your back on one of those devious machines for a second.
    Some kind of mind control experiment,gone awry.

  • mr. mzs zsm msz esq

    I swear the kinect is is watching us… And 1984 did predict that the T.V.s would be watching us too. Also Deartháir, today's words you wrote were very funny, thanks!

    • Number_Six

      Dartthere's Asimov quote reminds me to ask, how long before any of us trust this new piece of tech?
      <img src="http://www.newlaunches.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/01/boing-787-590×346.jpg&quot; width="500" />

      • jeepjeff

        Mmmm. Jet-Propelled Monkey Cans. Now with battery explodey.

      • mr. mzs zsm msz esq

        My wife and daughter were going to fly one! But they were grounded. My wife she said she would have trusted the dreamliner more than the ancient plane they got instead. It did not even have vents above the seats, they projected the movie onto the bulkhead. me, I just don't trust planes at all, I get the physics, but just still seems impossible that they can get up in the air, yet they do, go figure.

        • Number_Six

          Your wife has a point: there are some airlines in the US flying some pretty dodgy old things. But still…Boeing's overly-complex supply chain for the 787 really worries me. It can't be possible to properly monitor quality in so many plants in so many countries (many of which hold a slightly different view on the worth of quality as it relates to preservation of human life).

          • Have you seen the supply chain for the 777? Just as complex.

          • CaptianNemo2001

            You guys… Just go get a DC-3. It will still be flying on fumes when the last 787 is retired. AN-2 is also an acceptable choice.

      • "…how long before any of us trust this new piece of tech?"

        Never. I will never trust a stratovolcano. They're just too fiddly. I suspect the planet got along fine without them for most of the Hadean.

  • Digital Maps. I hardly ever leave the city without a paper map of the county where I'm going. So many times my smart assed phone carrying friends have tried to play navigator for me and screwed the pooch. I enjoy the sound of someone with an iPhone sitting in the passenger seat screaming, "Go left! Left! No, it says you have to (have to!) go left here!!! Hold on, it's reconfiguring our route…" I'm like the nasty guy in Highlander, "Oh no! Oh my God! I'm not going left!! Oh geez we'll gonna die…" This is usually in the city I know and have ridden a bicycle down every street twice. Worst is when they bring along a paper (!) printout of just the three blocks around our destination and the itinerary directions to get there. No directions to get back, or suddenly decide to go somewhere more than three blocks away, or drive around construction. I say, "I had my matter replicator create this book of maps, look it up. What, you don't have a matter replicator? Oh do put that silly old phone away and join the 21st century!"
    I've been known to lose my way, not ask for directions, and eventually find my way, sure. But that's an obstinate self reliance, not a blind faith in technology at fault.

    • Wolfie

      Wish you would have relayed that advice to the crew of the "Guardian" mine counter measure ship.
      Too much reliance on digital.
      Our Viking ancestors navigated with the sun-moon and stars.

    • CaptianNemo2001

      My sister cannot read a paper map. =/

  • Fear of things held aloft by black magic is perfectly rational. It's also why I dislike Airbus jets. Any plane that thinks it knows better than the pilot can not be trusted.

    It's much more rational than not liking peanut butter. Peanut butter is creamy, peanutty heaven.

    • Deartháir

      That's it, you get back in your cage.

    • highmileage_v1

      Bah, mechanical systems fail and cause confusion just as much as electronic systems (seen the guts of an older turbojet engine fuel control unit?). I agree the 'Bus has some quirks but it is easier to fly in certain situations than other brands. Probably you know better than I that the B777 and, more so, the B787 have highly integrated software driven systems. I believe that shortly aircraft, and cars, will be essentially autonomous.

      Peanut butter is an essential food group.

    • Wait, he wasn't kidding about not liking peanut butter? I thought when he said it wasn't food it was because calling it mere food is like damning it with faint praise.

      Peanut butter is happiness in a jar!

  • CopterBob

    Fly-by-wire anything makes me nervous, from throttles and steering in cars to aircraft flight controls. I know, I know, those systems have been around a long time now, but software still screws up. Even triple redundant stuff on military aircraft. I've experienced fly-by-wire throttle failure on my car, which was only moderately dangerous in the situation in which it occurred, but the idea that some cars now have the potential for uncommanded steering inputs, now that REALLY makes me uneasy.

    • highmileage_v1

      Fly-by-wire doesn't bug me any more. In the beginning I was highly skeptical but I've had fewer issues with the FBW birds than the plain old mechanical aircraft. Doesn't mean I haven't had to do the old Ctrl-Alt-Del on various subsystems, on occasion. Never had a serious problem with the flight control systems though.

  • BlackIce_GTS

    Buying data. iTunes*, Steam*, XBLA. I don't trust any of them, if my money doesn't get me a physical object I want no part of it.
    The only ones and zeros I can recall trading paper for are 3/4s of Borderland's DLCs. I fear that they will mysteriously vanish at any point, and intend to pick up a "with all the things on a thing" edition of the game to replace them. I'm also waiting for such a collection to happen before buying Borderlands 2.

    *I also hate these as interfaces-with-stuff-I-already-own (stolen MP3s on an iPod, Half-Life2, CODBlOps)

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  • CaptianNemo2001

    What day-to-day tidbit of technology do you flat-out refuse to trust, despite all rationale, logic or common sense?

    Apple Computers.

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