BAFFLED BY TECHNOLOGY
Technophobe Alan Cochrane has had his struggles with gadgetry, but a new low came when he bought a car then found you need a PhD in computer science to drive it
Alan Cochrane struggles with his new car's gadgets
Technology has never been one of my strong points. In that I’m not alone – certainly amongst those of, shall we say, a certain age. It’s true, however, that I did manage to scribble and send this missive to our illustrious editor via a laptopthingy, which in moments of high stress I still call a typewriter.
Talking of typewriters, I miss them terribly; not so much for their convenience – the modern way of writing and sending is much simpler. No, what I miss is their noise. That clack-clack-clacking of metal key on paper is what I was brought up on in, variously, Bank Street in Dundee, Albion Street in Glasgow and – the Street of Dreams – Fleet Street in London. The racket a score of them made plus the din of a couple of shouty news editors and/or sub-editors is what I miss most about those pre-computer days in the inky-trade.
However, if technology has transformed newspapers and magazines, it’s nothing when compared to cars. Now, I don’t mean what goes on under the bonnet. That is, and shall remain, a dark and distant secret. It’s what happens in, or more likely behind, the dashboard that has thrown me completely. I’ve just about mastered the Sat Nav, although how it works is a mystery, but on taking delivery of a new car a few months ago I had something like an hour-long presentation of all the things its electronic gizmos could do. It was astonishing; in fact so astonishing that not a single one of them stuck in my ancient brain for more than a few seconds.
Oh yes – and, of course, there’s a handbook with every detail today’s driver could wish for, but a quick read showed me that something like a Higher National Diploma in computer science is necessary before understanding any of it. I think my brother’s got one of those but I’m not asking him for assistance – he’d just take the Michael.
Perhaps the most embarrassing episode occurred when David, my excellent and helpful salesman, asked: ‘What’s this?’ in holding up a CD he’d found on the front seat. I explained it was my favourite recording – the Central Band of the Royal Air Force playing marvellous stuff like ‘Crown Imperial’, ‘633 Squadron’ and the ‘Dambusters’ March’. To all of which he replied: ‘Well, you won’t be able to play it in here – there’s no CD player in modern cars.’
That wasn’t too much of a disaster for me – Radio Four is perfectly adequate. That is not the case, however, for my better half. She insisted that she
couldn’t possibly drive all the way to Sutherland, as she was about to, without ‘her’ music – you know, stuff like ‘Bach’s Greatest Hits’ blaring out in the car. And so, after a mammoth weekend-long consultation, involving two daughters, a sister and a computer programmer brother-in-law, something approaching a solution was reached. This entailed, in so far as I followed things, music being transferred from CDs to smart phones, via computers and thus – somehow – to the car.
So far so good? Well, not exactly. It wasn’t until she reached Dingwall, which is not exactly just round the corner from where we live, that a strange symbol appeared on the dashboard screen. She clicked on it and guess what? The car was choc-full of her favourite music! Success – even if we’ve no idea how it was achieved.
There was more confusion on a long drive to London when the steering wheel seemed to be fighting me when I changed lanes. Whilst I’m sure it wasn’t dangerous I found it disconcerting, especially as I hadn’t a clue what it was. A quick call to the dealer – Clelands of the Borders
– reassured me that it was a safety measure equipped to ensure that cars didn’t inadvertently slip across motorway lanes. Of course I could switch it off, they said, but that involved me – or at least my wife – going through a short course in computer technology to find the right button to press.
And even if they’ve assured me that I’m wrong I’m certain that the voice-activated car phone can’t understand my Dundee accent.
All of which leads me to suspect I’ve become something of a regular with the service department of that dealership, given that the above are only a few of the ‘crises’ I’ve raised with them and they’ve never, ever been anything but helpful. That’s just as well as I’ve no doubt that there will be many more calls before I find out everything this Volvo – which I’m delighted with, by the way – can do.
However, I do think that some form of robot co-driver, which understands everything that’s going on, should be the next installation by the manufacturers. He (or she) could be stored in the boot…
“I’m certain that the voice-activated car phone can’t understand my Dundee accent