When it first came into our consciousness a few years ago, my first response was: “I want that”. Yours was too, right? When it actually takes place, how satisfying.
By some ironic twist of history, we now consider it a celebratory event when we put things together and they work. I’ve heard whoops and seen high fives.
Before technology got so sophisticated, that is basically how everything was. Plug in my radio, turn it on, play music.
A Time for Change at the Chapel By The Sea
At the Chapel By The Sea, where I serve, our presentation program was getting a bit stale. We had been researching other software. We wanted more flexibility. We wanted WYSIWYG when editing. We wanted cross-platform capability. Numerous considerations came into play.
To further complicate the issue, we decided at the same time to move away from our projection screen system (first mistake – trying to change too many things at once). Ambient light flowing in from huge windows is wonderful, but harmful to projection graphics.
The complication increases when we are not ready to spend five figures for a projector strong enough to burn images into a 30-year-old projection screen. (No, I am not kidding – 30 years. You should hear it when it’s raised and lowered. Fingernails on the chalkboard are soft and melodic by comparison.)
We did our research and purchased two fine large flat panel televisions. That was a saga in itself. One of our tech men spent excessive time with a vendor’s sale-support person, trying to discern the right transmitter and receiver boxes to send a signal from our computer to two flat screens 100 feet away. Our tech man said the personnel from the vendor seemed a bit confused, but finally recommended gear, which we ordered.
When we got things opened up and began the process of plugging everything together, what to our wondering eyes should appear but an electronic box that could not handle our requirements. We needed two CAT6 outputs for dual CAT6 cables. It only had one.
(This is a story in itself, but in a 2 1/2 month process we finally were able to extract the refund that had been promised to us after we returned – twice – the unusable item for the promised refund. Yes, they turned right around and mailed another one to us – the exact same unusable box – after we returned the first. We must have dealt with five people in that months-long see-saw dialogue.
I wonder if there is Plug and Play for customer service.)
Several Potential Trouble Spots
- We had two brand-new flat panels mounted and operational.
- These flat panels were connected by long HDMI cables, each with a booster in the center which promised to keep the signal strong all the way to the destination.
- These were connected to a splitter, which was connected to our video card HDMI output by a single HDMI cable.
- At the same time we were getting up to speed with our shiny new presentation program.
- We begin seeing erratic behavior.
- Display settings would randomly switch. The output would fail to go to the flat panels, and instead direct itself to the main screen facing the operator.
- One of the TVs would flicker on and off.
- Resolutions would spontaneously change.
I could go on. We are gradually getting these things worked out, but my question is: whatever happened to “plug-and-play”? Is this just a hopeful, ephemeral figment of imagination in some engineer’s mind? Is it perpetually in beta?
Why is modern technology sometimes so cranky and inept? Why do we have to drag its abilities out of it? Why do I need an engineering degree so I can run it?
Some of you readers are probably thinking the real problem is me.
I admit that I don’t know enough. Figuring out which precise display resolution I need does not come easily.
In 1969 we landed some people on the moon using computer technology whose power and capability were a fractional percentage of the little smart phone I carry around with me every day.
Maybe things are put on the market before they are fully tested to be reliable. Devices speak different languages and barely know how to communicate with one another. It’s the electronic version of the aftermath of the Tower of Babel.
If our cars operated like the worst cases of our current glistening technology, the driver would have to change out the camshaft every three weeks to keep his vehicle going. As the Charlie Brown characters are prone to say: “AUGGHhhh”.
This is why I love it when a device or software “just works”. I am a big fan of things that just work.
I anticipate the day when “plug-and-play” is universally a real thing. Heaven, maybe?
Meanwhile, I have learned, even though sometimes frustrated, to keep it in perspective. The Church is not reliant on electronics being perfect. What is the worst that can happen? Something blinks out. The Holy Spirit is still present and active.
Therefore, in my frustration, I relax.
How about you?
Do you have a story about when up-to-date technology has surprised you with randomness and unintended, undesired results?
Or more surprising, worked right out of the box?