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'Key' unlocks technology's revenge

September 02, 2013

I’ve had a fairly good working relationship with technology. I believe I was first on board when they started equipping coffeemakers with timers, which eliminated that horrid, bleary wait every morning for the syrup-slow drips to add up to a full cup.

Computers were no problem, even though I had learned to type on a manual typewriter (there are still some of us around; we can be discovered by the way we still pound sensitive, electronic keyboards with a force that would penetrate a cinder block.)

I was not thrilled with the advent of carphones (remember them) and cellphones on the grounds that I wanted to be less reachable, not more.

But smartphones had more in their favor, including the ability to deposit a check without visiting a bank; talking maps that ended the need to stop and ask for directions; barcode scanners that meant you never again had to ask for a price — you know, all those little things that help eliminate human contact, I was all for them.

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But I should have realized there was a darker side to all this.

There’s something known as Moore’s Law, which more or less states that technology effectively doubles every 24 months.

And, hard as it might be to believe, I have concluded that my brain is not advancing at quite the same pace.

But all this aside, I never thought that technology would come to bite me in such an innocuous form as a set of car keys.

The root problem is that our vehicle has three presets for the seat and mirrors. I have one, and Beth has one, and with the push of a button the seat and mirrors adjust to our preferred positions.

That’s fine as far as it goes, and the technology probably should have stopped there. But no, the key fobs “remember” the seat position as well, and adjust accordingly when the door is unlocked.

The problem is that both keys think they belong to Beth. So when I unlock the door, the seat moves forward and I — never able to remember before it’s too late — am greeted by a cold steering column to the gut.

Look, as problems go, it’s not Syria or Miley Cyrus, but it’s been an ongoing inconvenience that I finally decided to do something about.

So in the instrument cluster there are about 40 different screens worth of information, settings and answers to questions you would never want to know the answer to such as which of the four wheels are “pulling” at a given time.

Some of these screens I have seen once and never been able to access again.

But buried deep in the matrix was something called “MyKey,” which I naturally assumed would fix my problem. (And being a guy, I would naturally never dream of consulting the owners manual.)

So I set it up by pushing a few tabs on the steering wheel. All I wanted to do was match my key to my seat position, but somehow I set it up so that the car thinks I am a 17-year-old girl with a learner’s permit.

Now it records all the miles traveled when I am behind the wheel. So no joy riding. It limits the speed of the car to 80 mph and disables the radio whenever the seat belt isn’t fastened. And worst of all, it limits the sound-system volume to the point that, being old and half deaf, I can barely hear it at all.

You can imagine how well this sits with me.

So now I don’t know which is more depressing. The fact that I can’t figure out how to undo this, or that I am so old that capping my speed at 80 mph has proven not to be an issue.

Tim Rowland is a Herald-Mail columnist. He can be reached at 301-733-5131, ext. 6997, or via email at timr@herald-mail.com.

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