This morning I woke up to a warm bedroom. At first I was a little disoriented, but soon I realized that something was wrong with the airconditioning. Normally when the heating or cooling is not behaving, I go downstairs to check the thermostat. If it tells me that something is on, but I do not hear it, I know that something is wrong. This time the thermostat screen was blank except for a couple of small dark spots in the middle.
My first reaction was that the thermostat finally wore out. After taking it off the wall, I got my glasses and took it out to the kitchen to examine it more closely with a better light. Much to my surprise, those two spots said, “REPL BAT.” I still was suspicious that the thermostat was bad. After all I have a ritual of replacing the three AA batteries every January. I put a piece of tape on the top with the date. There was the tape and the date. No problem there. Rather than get a new thermostat, I decided to take the outside chance that the batteries were in fact the problem. Much to my relief, I found that one of them had leaked. So, I replaced them and all returned to normal after resetting all the times and temperatures.
Recently, I have seen a number of articles about Homes of the Future and the use of Smartphones to interface with them. Everything relies more and more upon computers and electricity. With all the complicated control circuits, it is logical that there are many more potential points for failure. Unfortunately for me, if my thermostat does not work, all I can do conveniently is run the blower that forces air through the duct system. Getting heating or cooling requires figuring out which terminals on the mounting plate behind the thermostat can be used to manually bypass the thermostat. Not a job for a typical homeowner.
“What is this complicated life of ours doing to us? What if all these things go bad at once? Certainly food for thought when hackers can attack networks that control transportation systems, power generation, and virtually everything else that modern societies rely upon including Houses of the Future. Image if someone incinerates your dinner and your house along with it. Maybe it is time to get off the grid.
I often wonder what led me to do certain things that have proven to be invaluable. One of them was to take typing in high school; the other was to take my first computer class in college. At the time, boys seldom took typing, and I was in the last class of Mechanical Engineers to graduate without having to take a computer class. I can remember hearing the dean emphasize this point in a meeting to discuss schedules for our senior year. I am not sure whether he was telling us that we were lucky or that we should take one anyway. All I know is that a good friend from the business school took a computer class and had a terrible time with it.
As a practical, hands-on person, I am a little surprised that I would have done anything that was not required. I looked upon many required courses in Mechanical Engineering as being too theoretical with too many theorums to prove and not enough practical applications. With the exception of a machine design class where we designed, built and tested our design, I preferred my business classes and was driven to be an engineer primarily because it seemed the best route to a good job.
After that first class, I found more and more reasons to get involved with computers. I also found that knowing how to type gave me a distinct advantage. Since then I have found that many of my peers have been forced into retirement because they lack skills that have become second nature to me. It is sad to see how a person with an obsolete education is much like a machine that was built with old technology. Although attempts are made to adapt or refurbish machines to perform like new ones, once they need to be replaced, they are simply thrown on the scrap heap.
Unfortunately, obsolete people with declining health require costly treatment and little to show for it. Sadly, while machines get melted down and recycled, people at first get paid to do nothing. Later as they add a growing number of affirmaties, they consume vast amounts of money for medicines, surgeries and constant care. Hopefully, advancements in medicine will bring increased quality of life and reduce these costs. However, people need new challenges that keep them mentally alert. Perhaps, new occupations will be found that require minimal retraining and put them back into leading more normal, interesting, healthy and productive lives.
I am happy that a series of decisions to stay informed about new innovations has helped to keep me in the game. Hopefully, this is a lesson to all to keep learning.