Wednesday, October 21, 2015

On Radio Rage


By Bob Ferris

Cruising in the old truck down to Florida a few years ago/.
I suppose that since I am a senior I can have senior rants. This one is about the radio in my nearly 20 year-old truck.  Before starting I will say that I compare all car radios to the one that I had in my 1967 Ford Mustang my impression of which was probably enhanced by the newness of stereo in a heretofore mainly monaural world, but I seriously digress.

This is basically what I had in that 1967 Mustang.
I should also point out that the “radio” in question is not the radio that came with the truck in 1997 but rather one that we replaced after we got tired of having a CD player on the seat and a funky adapter stuck in the cassette slot.  Let’s make it clean and simple; that was what we were thinking.   So we installed a sleek and stylish name brand radio complete with CD slot, USB port and a remote.  This was the simplest unit we could find on the lower end of the cost scale.

So what could go wrong?  The first thing is that it startles the crap out of me each time I start the car because instead of having it the radio off until asked to join in the driving experience it is always on when you turn the key.  This is particularly weird when you have stopped and are starting again and the audio book CD that you have turned up because you were driving on a noisy freeway booms out of the speakers just as you are pulling out of a parking place and hoping to Hell that you do not hear a loud, scraping sound.  I also suspect that I miss the super satisfying counter-clockwise click one got from the volume/power knob.

My second gripe are the presets.  I guess I really long for the big, clunky mechanical buttons that you pulled out when you liked a station and it stayed right there until you wanted to change it.  Now you need to pull off the road and grab the instruction manual in order to take a seminar in station changing and setting only to lose that station pre-set because your finger inadvertently hit the wrong button or combination of buttons when you encountered a bump while pulling into a parking lot or smacked a pot hole because the “new” method is maybe not as ergonomic as the designers think it is.
Howdy Doody and Buffalo Bob Smith 
This rant could go on as long as a Ginger Baker drum solo, but let’s cut to the quick.  No one designing these more advanced mobile entertainment systems ever tried to use them while driving at high speed wearing progressive lenses.  If they did then this is one of the biggest practical jokes ever played on the “we-remember-Howdy-Doody-set” who cannot possibly read bouncing and blurry 6 point type labeling at a side angle while at the same time trying to keep the rest of America safe on the road.

Now I am all for progress that is progress and I am big time proud that my 94 year-old mother is on Facebook, but progress is not progress if it makes things worse for a large segment of the population. We had something that we could use and love only to have that replaced with an expensive item we often consider using as fishing weight.  

The navigator and co-driver in Florida.
The burning tragedy here is that we are starting to download audio books from the library on our i-phones and plugging them into the USB port giving us the same situation that prompted us to get the new device in the first place.  All of this creates the very real need for co-drivers to deal with electronic navigation and in route entertainment.  And that upon consideration is probably not all bad.

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