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Oh my goodness, if there’s anything that makes me Always Grumpy, it’s kludgey technology. I get that even the most sophisticated machines have limits, and I know they only do what they’re told. But honestly, sometimes I just can’t stand my own electronics! The love/hate relationship reminds me of a poem I used to write on the board of a terminal room I staffed back in the dark ages before PCs: “I really hate this dumb machine; I really want to sell it. It doesn’t do what I want it to, but only what I tell it.” I put that up to remind people that computer problems are most often between the chair and the keyboard… but not always!

I’ve been trying to use Bluetooth headset technology for years, and it’s making me nuts. It just doesn’t work reliably, and the more connected we become the more I need my fix. I want to hear my incoming text messages read to me by Silicon Sally, I want to tell IVR Ivan whether or not I want to take the incoming calls, I really want to ask Transistor Tammy to dial the phone for me and I want the damned radios to work so I can keep my hands and eyes on the wheel while I drive. But far too often it just doesn’t work.

When the perversity of the technology prevents me from getting my electronic hands-free fix, I’m often tempted to fling my headset and/or smartphone out the window in front of that oncoming fully-laden gravel hauler at highway speed. But I’m too cheap for that. So I just throw it across the car where I can retrieve it from the gum wrappers and used tissues on the floor in front of the passenger seat instead. Many times the people I’ve called (yes, I’m thinking of you dear…) have gotten to listen to me curse, heartily, at length and sometimes in tongues, because I don’t know I’m connected much less that they can hear me. I’ve tried it with four phones on four different platforms and at least three or four Bluetooth headsets, and nothing helps… Sometimes it will work perfectly, voice dialling and all, but I frequently have to try two or three times, cycle the Bluetooth radio, power the phone down and up and still listen to a stupid synthesized voice tell me it’s dialling the wrong number again. Because “call home” sounds just like “search for Joe’s Fish and Seafood’s fax number”.

What’s wrong here? Are voice recognition and short-range radio really totally beyond us? I don’t get it, but I need my fix. So I’ll go on trying, as I have been for about ten years now, to use voice dialling and Bluetooth radios to give me hands-free access to smartphone communications while I drive. Because the alternative just isn’t safe. I’ve seen far too many people weaving down the highway, crossing lane markers and changing speed like a drunk on a bender, all just because they’re trying to text, talk and smoke a cigarette while applying eye-liner, reading the newspaper and oh, incidentally, herd a couple of tons of steel and rubber down a thin asphalt strip at over 100km/h. So I call it BLWTF but I use it anyway. I think it keeps us connected and saves lives.

Meanwhile there’s this article from Information Week that talks about some of the, um, less clear thinking about distracted driving. I couldn’t agree more with the author. As much as I think that only an idiot takes their hands and eyes away from their driving by texting, dialling their phone or for that matter fiddling with the music machine or eating soup, I don’t think we can or should try to legislate total safety. Read it and weep!

Jonathan Gladstone is alwaysgrumpy at or follow me on Twitter @jbglad59.


2 Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. […] usually taking them to market several months (or in some cases years – for example, see my rant on BLWTF) before they’re truly customer-ready. And then we go around the track again, because the next […]


  2. […] new and better devices or, say, improving the quality of devices already out there (see my posts BLWTF and Gimme an L), let’s sic our lawyers on all the other developers of similar devices. Maybe we […]


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