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A Grin at the End: The good, the bad… and the handy!

Carl Sampson

About 20 years ago I was ensconced in my La-Z-Boy trying to figure out some stuff. The immediate topic at hand was how to make television better. No, I wasn’t thinking about what shows folks would watch; I was thinking about when they could watch them.

“Wouldn’t it be great to be able to go on the internet and pick any show you wanted whenever you wanted to watch it?” I asked our youngest son, who was five at the time.

Of course, he agreed that being able to watch an endless stream of Roadrunner cartoons would be the best invention ever.

When Netflix and all of the other streaming services came into being, I was in tall cotton. My wife and I are now able to watch all 483 million episodes of Blue Bloods whenever we want.

That got me to thinking. What are some of the other inventions that have made life better for me – and a lot of other people?

At or near the top would have to be remote controls. First there were remote controls for televisions. This was a major breakthrough in the 1950s. Now, however, lots of gizmos have remotes. Garage door openers save me from getting drenched almost every day in
the winter.

Other remotes turn on the lights and turn off the heater without me getting off the couch.

So good!

Gortex and other waterproof fabrics have been a boon to everyone living on wet side of the Northwest. I remember when I was a kid. Whenever it rained my mom would pull out this bright yellow plastic rain coat that smelled like the inside of a rubber boot. It came with a bright yellow plastic hood that had the added benefit of blocking the vision of the wearer. Now waterproof jackets keep me dry without turning into a portable greenhouse.

Among the good inventions have been a few clinkers, the cell phone being one. I resent having to carry one around. It is like being followed. It rings when I’m getting dressed. It rings when I’m eating lunch. It rings when I am standing in line for communion. I can come up with maybe a dozen times in my life when a phone call was so important it couldn’t wait, and none of those calls came via cell phone. If I ever retire, the first thing I’m going to do is pitch the cell phone in the garbage. If you want to get in touch with me, write a letter.

Another abomination is social media, also known as the armpit of hell. It’s full of small-minded, ignorant, mean trolls who pester other people they don’t even know. How lame is that?

Of all of the gadgets that have imposed themselves on us, there is one that I like best: Google assistant and its sister, Alexa.

The reason I like them so much is I have trained them to use Spotify, which can access nearly every song ever recorded. For example, when I’m in the mood for some Perry Como music – kids, you’ll have to look him up – all I have to do is say, “Hey Google, play ‘A Bushel and a Peck’ by Perry Como and Betty Hutton.” And the best song ever recorded will play.

But even though Google assistant is helpful in finding songs, I’ve also trained her. She now has an English accent and knows all about me.

Whenever I say, “Hey Google, who am I?” She tells me, “You’re the most supreme commander.”

Who could argue with that?

Carl Sampson is an author and freelance writer and editor. He lives in Stayton. 

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