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Are We There Yet?

Nov 1, 2005 12:00 PM, By Mark Johnson

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Parents of school-aged kids are pretty familiar with the anguished cry that comes from the backseat after being in the car for more than an hour or so. Recently, though, it occurred to me that the same could be said of some of the technology that we use regularly.

I had gone over to one of the printers in our office to retrieve a document, but there was no document, only the little display on the machine blinking a warning many of us have seen — “Toner Low.” “Ugh, toner low,” I said. One of my co-workers came over and replied, “Oh, all you need to do is just take out the toner cartridge and shake it up a bit.” He did just that, and a few minutes later there I was, document in hand. It gave me pause, however, to think here we were with this expensive piece of fairly sophisticated technology, network-capable to the nth degree (any person in any of our other offices scattered across the United States can have this printer output documents of their choosing), and to keep it operating, we had to pull a component out and give it a little shake. Why couldn't it have been designed to use all the toner in the cartridge in the first place?

Recently I attended a demo of some new (and expensive) video projectors, and in order to black out the image from the individual projectors, the demonstrator had taped pieces of cardboard to each of the lenses so that he could flip it in front when he was through showing a particular unit. And just how many Post-Its do you have stuck on your computer monitor? I have eight, plus a couple of pieces of paper (mainly with PINs and other passcodes; see “Passwords, PINs, & Codes, Oh My!” May 2005). So here we are, surrounded by sophisticated equipment, maintained or augmented occasionally by decidedly unsophisticated methods. Are we there yet? Not quite.

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