Taking technology personally

January 11, 2023
 by Paul McGowan

How many times has it felt like technology has it out for you? Butt dialing someone right after their call, closing the page too soon and losing it, pressing delete, and then…..

Half the time I walk into Music Room 3 to play the system it doesn’t work: the DAC’s on the wrong input, someone forgot to replace the amp trigger jacks, the transport’s been unplugged. It sometimes feels like the system doesn’t want me to play it. (of course, this is an exaggeration but this is what it feels like sometimes)

The opposite can be equally true. Everything just works, and the music sings to the heavens. Those times, it feels like I am in synch with technology (maybe it even likes me).

I think it’s natural to anthropomorphize our technology. We’ve reached the point where most of it is complex enough to have taken on a personality. It’s then easy to assign blame or lavish rewards on the machines we interact with.

Truth is our technology is quite literal. For the most part, technology just does what it’s told.

The good news is that even when it’s you pushing the wrong button, the stereo system doesn’t take it personally when you holler at it.

Our stereos love us no matter what.

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57 comments on “Taking technology personally”

  1. The problem level of connected gear, selected inputs etc. is a very rough one. I’d say getting magic out of a setup starts a good part after that level and goes far beyond. Not sure if this can be done at all in a common room where gear is switched out probably quite daily. But that’s where indeed the topic of todays post applies to what I experienced, too: sometimes something sounds clearly worse because whatever tiny thing optimized, changed…and it can take a while and some headache to find out.

    Love & stereos = pathologically complex

  2. With all-in-one systems, you send it a digital stream, it wakes up the machine and plays the music. It will select the incoming source. I think this is pretty commonplace, my system has had auto-detect since a software upgrade in 2016. The rest of the house I can use Amazon HD using voice via Alexa devices, but the bezels are due to be upgraded with microphones so you don’t even need Echo Dots everywhere.

    This is how the modern world works. Our satellite TV remote, we have the most popular system in the uk, has a voice command button.

    Once you use multiple components and break the chain of command, good luck. I think once people start using integrated systems, going back to lots of boxes is difficult. I genuinely think audiophiles like to have problems, otherwise they’d just have to sit back and enjoy the music, and that would be too simple.

    Getting Ethernet and WiFi right is equally important these days and my life-saver is the UniFi GUI, as I have 85 IP addresses in my house with 11 audio zones and it allows me to see exactly what each one is doing, signal strength, what access point it’s using, performance issues etc. I don’t have to worry about cable connections and buttons/switches, as there aren’t any.

    1. I have 32 devices in use at my place and thought I had a lot! It is just two of us however. I could have a few more, but have elected to remove from the network access from devices like my old Panasonic Plasma, that have no smart features anymore that are supported and firmware updates are non-existent. Even my refrigerator has an app now to tell me if someone has left the door open!

      1. All my kitchen appliances, Ring door and sensor devices, 26 lights, 24 light/speakers, TVs, computers, mobile phones, printers, … I’m surprised there are only 85, and there are just 2 of us.

        My favourite remote control is called “the pebble” and controls our blinds, as I couldn’t be bothered to Alexa them, and it’s a lovely little thing. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CSUmQkEuTRQ

        1. That is one thing I have not yet started to change over, being the light switches. Because of the way my house is oriented I also don’t need to have the blinds in constant use so certain ones just stay down all the time. I see now and could easily add another 30 devices if I switched those out! Technology fun.

          I am thinking I need to periodically change my WiFi password but the thought of then needing to go around and figure out again how to change those for each device makes me shudder.

  3. Warning Will Robinson, warning!!!

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Dww4xFXWEek

    But seriously, I have an SACD player & an integrated amplifier & both are
    built like the proverbial ‘Sherman Tank’…what could possibly go wrong??
    I guess that it helps that nobody else in my household is remotely
    interested in ‘messing’ with my home-audio rig 😀

    “Less is more” & “KIS”

        1. Devialet Expert, but for the most part used integrated amplifiers. Choice now would be AVM, Hegel or NAD33, but was looking/listening at the D’Agostino recently – wow.

  4. Sounds like It’s not the technology. – it’s the human side
    Of course it’s Never the human who’s wrong, it is always the “technology”
    Sounds to me like the DAC needs many more inputs.
    Apparently it’s too hard to walk over, bend down, and use the power switch.
    Fix and train the humans – fix the problem.
    Too many ‘experts’ involved – build a MR4 – the CEO can pick his favorite of the 3 rooms – add retinal scan – finger print identification- and face recognition for the technology aspect, along with an old fashioned outdated key for egress.

    Or, assign a personality to the system – piss and moan when it doesn’t work conveniently – write a post – and let the cycle continue. ✌️

    1. As a last resort when you press the remote and things don’t work the way they should….
      Head to the laundromat, get a clothes cart, jump in the upper tier and take a spin. 😀 😎

      Feeling aggravated? Jump in a washer and press agitate to enhance the aggravation ✌️

  5. My friend was letting a guy test drive one of the cars on his lot, when the guy comes back he says I like the car but how do you turn the stereo down, so my friend goes and checks, the detachable face plate was missing. We still can’t figure out how it was working without the face plate, which he found in his desk drawer.

  6. As strange as today’s post is I understand it. It does not happened to me so much with my stereo gear, however, it did happen to me when I was young and serious about cycling. When I was in grad school I some how became serious about cycling. The time was the mid 1970’s. I was twenty something and in the best physical shape of my life. I had bought a bike that cost more than $400 ( it was one click bellow the racing team bikes, back then $400 was real money ). I maintained and tuned the bike every week before the serious riding on the weekends.

    It started off simple and became so much more ( 25 mile rides became 100 mile rides over a two year period ). I went from someone who was young and in pretty good shape to someone who was in excellent shape ( 7% body fat and limitless energy ).

    On the best rides the bike and I became one. I could not tell where I stopped and the bike began. The pedals became part of my feet, the crank arms became part of my legs. On Mondays after 100 mile rides on Saturday or Sunday my arms where so sore I could hardly lift them. How do you use your arms riding a bike? Ride a bike for 100 miles and you will understand.

    I still have that bike. I do not ride any more and it has fallen into disrepair. There are times when I see the bike that I tear up and almost cry. I do so because I do not maintain the bike anymore and I do not maintain myself anymore. I realize that at my age those days are over, but I miss them so badly.

    1. Tony,

      I don’t know how old you are, but it is never old to ride your bike. A few weeks ago, riding up the local “hill” I met my old friend George, all of 84 years, riding up. A bit slower these days but there he went.

      Last year I rode over 4,000 miles, rode uphill over 460,000 vertical feet, including Mt Ventoux in July. This despite travel, weather annoyances and other issues interfering with riding.

      Go, get a new bike, even an e-bike to start and go out again. You’ll enjoy it. But don’t listen to music while riding, you’d rather hear the cars coming to get you.

      I still run too, though my speed is also slower, but I can still get 7:30 min/mile for up to 5 miles. Not the same as my NYC marathon best time of 3:15 hours.

      1. I concur – I recently got an ebike and have rediscovered the joy of living in the open country. You still get excercise but can go so much farther and longer and don’t grumble quite so much when that big hill appears.
        I love it!

          1. I still contort my carcass about in police cars in positions that a 21 year old nubile yoga instructor would envy 50 hours a week.
            I’ll opt to take the PAIN FREE ride up that hill! (I’ll still help & pedal some… y’know – until I see my ticker begin to oscillate my outer jacket in & out…)

            1. Ah! Technology!

              First, I’d rather avoid police cars. Can’t trust them.

              Two, all these gizmos that tell your heart and other body parts how they are doing. I have set an “alarm” if it goes above a certain rate. Then, when you are done you check distance, time, speed, elevation, heart rate zones, power zones, calories burnt, recovery time, and I am sure I am forgetting many. Plus the fitness states such as VO2Max, FTPs, BMI, body fat percentage… I love “measurements”!

              I ignore recovery time, I just go out again the next day.

              My missus encourages me to yoga frequently. Nice to look at.

        1. Kip,
          I’ve heard of a few instances where people have left their ‘e-bikes’ charging overnight in their garages, only for the LiON battery to overheat/overcharge at around 4am & end-up burning their whole house down while they were sleeping…regrets??

      2. CtA, You are clearly a better man than me. After my heart attack at age 55 when I was much leaner than I am today, they put me in cardiac rehab and I took it very seriously. I got to the point were I was running 8 min miles ( the fastest the tread mill would allow ). I dropped down to my old playing weight of 180 lbs. That was about 20 years ago.

        In about that same time frame, I had to have arthroscopic surgery on my left knee for a torn meniscus. Everything was fine for about ten years and then the area where they removed part of the meniscus started to rub against the lower knee bone ( the gel in the knee thins out as you age and where the meniscus is gone there is no longer support ). The X rays of my knee look horrible. I have been limping along with periodic gel shots in my knee, however, my orthopedist says I am at the end of that road and the only answer is a partial knee replacement.

        I am having a very hard time with the idea of surgery since my only brother ( a younger brother ) died three years ago shortly after having surgery. It was not knee surgery, but the surgery led to problems that caused his death. My wife keeps telling me I am not my brother and I should get the surgery.

        I’m glad you’re still riding, keep it up.

        1. Desolé Tony!

          It is fascinating the issue of body tears. I have two brothers, younger than me, with clearly bad knees and hips. They will need surgery sooner or later. We are six boys and though I am the oldest, I have been extremely fortunate with chronic issues (except for cholesterol).

          I have had a big reconstruction of my right shoulder due to rugby damage, but surprisingly, I can run and ride with very minor inconveniences. Especially compared to my younger brothers. Same parents and still. And I have been extremely physically active since 8 or 9 years old. I’ve had major crashes in double black ski runs, a few crashes on the bike, but I don’t know why I have been spared, except for luck.

          I sincerely empathize with your issues. My first job outside of business school was working on a project for Post-MI patients (heart attacks). And the last 20 years have been on monoclonal antibodies, the first one in arthritis. Unfortunately, the advances in rheumatoid arthritis have been exceptional. For ostearthritis, the road is paved with failures…

          Take care of yourself.

  7. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve said, I don’t get mad at people, I get mad at things. It often involves trying to get Bluetooth devices to pair…

  8. There’s a great Onion You Tube video titled “Sony releases stupid piece of s%%% that doesn’t f-ing work” that shows a new Sony box that no one can figure out and they just scream at it. People interviewed talk about having to have the latest piece of crap.

  9. Paul, your thoughts here are spot-on, all of them, although I experience it all on a much simpler level. One thing I have learnt over time is to trust my (largely vintage) system, such as it is. Because I collect old music, from often indifferent sources, I’ve occasionally experienced, say, a brief dropout, volume change or other minor glitch. So, originally I’d swap, eg, a CD player, even an amp — until I noted that the fault wasn’t in my rig but in the material. Became a lot choosier and all is well.

  10. My hifi issues are invariably internet connectivity related and tend to sort themselves out if left alone, but made worse if I attempt a fix.
    On the other hand, I have a car that insists on opening its sun roof and windows at random intervals, without my knowledge, which of course allows water to accumulate on the seats and floor.

  11. “How many times has it felt like technology has it out for you?” Constantly! Case in point, I’ve recently replaced an aging Pioneer Plasma TV with a Samsung “smart” LCD in my family room setup that also has full home theater surround sound. For the life of me, I cannot get HDMI eARC to work reliably between the Samsung and the Marantz AVR! Nevermind that the Samsung has a “mind of its own” when it comes to auto-switching between source inputs and hiding a simple capability like “choose an input” to view. Argh!

    And, for reference, I consider myself pretty technically savvy. I’ve been a hardware and software engineer for 30+ years, in industries ranging from CPU/ASIC design to high-end core data networking equipment to safety-critical avionics software platforms.

    But, I can’t get the “plug and play” audio return channel to work between a TV and a reciever. Sigh.

    1. This is why we have a son.

      In “Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance” he explains;
      Some of us believe that with tenacity we can work out what other intelligent people have designed for us.

      Others believe it will always be beyond them.

      Take my wife.

  12. Great stories all!

    I often have my wife come downstairs and ask me to show her how to turn in the TV.
    Invariably, it had been left on another input from the cable box, and just needed switched.
    The training continues 😉 … for both of us.

  13. I freakin LOVE automation – keeps the brain active and is as much fun to set up and coordinate as it is to use. IFTTT takes over when you need to combine different platforms. I also use Actiontiles on tablets and PCs.
    https://www.actiontiles.com/

    Custom commands add to the fun – “Oprah is talking” or “I hate this F’n commercial” will mute my TV…

    When I was 8 or 10 in the early 70s and a star trek fan I remember thinking – when I’m all growed up, there will be a speaker built into my wall and I will just ask it questions and it will answer me like – how long do I boil an egg. Well that kid was bang on. Just this morning I asked google what the population of Madagascar is. We truly live in the coolest of times as far as technology goes.

    It isn’t perfect tho, I asked my google hub something today, to which she responded “Something went wrong, please try again in a few seconds.” I responded with a “Nevermind! I’ll ask Alexa. SHE’LL tell me…” Yes, I’ve lowered myself to artificial cattiness.

    I preferred A.I. a bit better when it was still learning speech recognition:
    Me: “Alexa – remind me to be a leader; more risky, and to go to the gym. And my motto is: unwind!”
    Alexa: “I’ve added a litre of Whiskey and Gin to your shopping list. And a bottle of Wine.”
    NO! I said… oh wait… hmmm – Good job Alexa!

    My biggest beef? TV ads, films or programs that have ‘Hey Google’ or ‘Alexa’ in their dialogue. This crep REALLY pisses me off. Thanks a lot – I was enjoying a movie and suddenly my TV just shut itself off, I have some f’n shite song playing, I’ve ordered some feminine hygiene product from Amazon, all my lights just turned on, organic milled bilateral birdseed was added to my shopping list, I am currently involuntarily learning the definition of the word onomatopoeia, I’ve just been lectured on the entire history of Borneo, my Roomba is in entropy escape mode, my now unlocked truck has started itself and every smart device in my house is talking at the same time in different languages. I guess as a professional script writer who LIKLEY OWNS ONE – you could never see THAT coming eh? Putz. Y’know if Bezos was smart, he’d just broadcast a commercial on every channel worldwide that had a character saying aloud: “Alexa, order TEN of everything I previously bought from Amazon in the last three years”. And speaking of, jezuz Jeff, you’re a multi-bazillionaire, can you not afford to fix that wonky eye?!?
    OBJECTION!! – petty badgering of the mid-life crisis phallic-rocket owning witness!!
    I apologize your honor, I withdraw that last statement.

    1. We purposely avoided minimizing wifi connections at home for devices. Lights have switches.

      But the door has a ring camera, where a neighbor’s one saw a mountain lion the last few days, the garage has a camera too, then the security system. The heating/AC also has a “smart” thermostat, which isn’t very smart. The irrigation too.

      Oh well, our minimizing connections is not very efficient. No Alexa or Siri though.

  14. This site is the rare example of tech that makes me irate. Being automatically logged out, then having to jump through endless loops to prove I’m not a bot. It’s gotten VERY old.

  15. “Butt dialing someone right after their call, closing the page too soon and losing it, pressing delete, and then….”

    Isn’t this just a problem of Boomers and technology? My Boomer audiophile friends and each of my parents butt dial me regularly. But my wife has never butt dialed me.

  16. I have a friend who works for the dept. of defense, and works from a safe room in his home where no one can enter. He told me recently that he will never have any smart objects in his home that are connected to the internet. People don’t realize how easy it is to hack those systems and listen and watch everything you do , or take everything you have when you are gone. Kind of lends some weight to that old saying ” Buyer beware “

    1. Well if someone wants to know I turn my stereo & TV, lights off & on, adjust my heat, ask trivial questions, ask about the weather, talk to my dog like he is a newborn baby and swear at the idiots on TV, they can have at ‘er! 😉

      1. But wait there is more!
        Once in your home network, every door is opened— your email, password vault and … your banking. Be very afraid. And implement two factor authentication on everything.
        “Smart” devices are so dumb at protecting themselves from being taken over.

        1. Copy that – firewall, 2 stage AND random password generator with monthly password chance. Should be good to go. Unless the password generator gets hacked….

  17. Simplicity works. I got my first competent playback from a CD player with volume control, power amp, and speakers. Everything was hard wired together; it was, effectively integrated, like a kitchen radio.

    Ever since I work to make every rig I play with become of the same nature … the better I do this, the more convincing the SQ becomes. Current setup uses a DVD player, and active speakers – and that’s it.

    Complexity is a fast track to having SQ issues. Yeah … but what about flexibility?!! Umm, rule 1 is to get good sound – throw in other bits and pieces when you’ve got rule 1 satisfied … I couldn’t live with a system that had degraded sound, just to allow for, ‘options’ …

      1. FR, Edifiers … the S2000 Pro model. This was a pretty spontaneous thing; someone mentioned the brand, and I checked out a few reviews and blog pieces around – they all made all the right noises about what these speakers were getting right. And they happened to be available at an excellent price, at that moment – so I just went for it; from first becoming aware of them, to having them in the house took less than a week. Even if they were duds, not much lost …

        *Very* impressed with them – remarkable value for money – and they do things better than anything else I’ve used in the past, in some areas. The quality of the bass is outstanding, for example.

        Some would say they are too cheap to take seriously; I would say, how come rigs a 100 x more expensive sound a lot worse …

        1. fas42,
          Good for you sir!
          I was curious because I’ve heard very good things about the active Neumann – ‘KH310A’ studio standmounts & matching Neumann – ‘KH750 DSP’ subwoofer…also apparently excellent value for money/performance.

  18. At school, we had one of the accompanying subjects a “Quality Control”. Among other things, we touched on the subject of the probability of failure of the whole based on the probability of failure of component. Since then I have not understood how it is possible that a more complex machine can actually work for any reasonable amount of time.
    So to me, any device more complex than say a hammer is a Murphy’s Law game, and each one has its own unpredictable mischief and whimsical personality. And even the mentioned hammer sometimes has its own head (at least it hides from me when I need it).
    So, treat your devices nicely and maybe they’ll reward you once in a while.

    1. burphy,
      “…the probability of failure of the whole based on the probability of failure of component.”
      I’ve heard of a lot of lithium-ion (LiON) batteries in things like the above-mentioned “e-bike” catching fire whilst charging overnight & burning down people’s whole houses…oh what fun!

      1. Such as a joke…
        Q: What is an “alternative”?
        A: Imagine you have chickens and a flood comes and they all drown…
        Q: Well, what about the “alternative”?
        A: Ducks!

        Old school you-must-pedal-to-go bike …

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