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  • Writer's pictureCarrie Specht

Classic Sci/Fi Comes To My Home

I Am Too As Smart As My House. Actually, I hope I am as smart as my house is going to be. I have been having trouble getting Alexa connected to turn off my practice light. Keep in mind I am old (75) and I think she knows it. In another few months my house remodel will be complete and I will have doors and windows, robotic vacuums, and TVs and heaven knows what all that I expect to operate by voice command in the ‘smart house’ I asked the architect to design for me.

It seemed like a good idea at the time. It was a comfortable idea as well, I have been a Star Trek fan from the git-go, watched all the reruns and the movies many times over. Computer (as they called her) always had an answer. And of course there was HAL in 2001: A Space Odyssey. A bit unsettling, but he had good intentions. Right?

Ever since Desk Set with Spencer Tracy and Katherine Hepburn computers have been worming their way into our confidence through the movies we watch. Turning the lights on or locking the door with a verbal instruction is perfectly logical after watching the Jetsons or even Knight Rider. R2D2 and C3PO have made conversation with robots a norm and the cuddly little round guy in the latest Star Wars (VIII) is too cute for words and beloved. In fact I remember reacting with an Awww to the little square beeping messenger underfoot in the corridors in the original Star Wars (IV), a tin version of a Scot terrier. And then there was TRON and of course the fat rolling fellow in Lost in Space who was always announcing, “Danger Will Robinson”.

We are already inured to cars that talk to us, instructing, scolding, even nagging at us as we drive. I live in a neighborhood that has been poorly surveyed by Google being mostly a dirt road. And my new all electric car is disinclined to making the turn. “Proceed with caution,” I was scolded, “Entering uncharted territory". I eventually turned the annoying nag off.

Now I am trying to get practiced at dealing with my new household assistant. For the first several weeks every time I tried a question or to initiate discussion I was greeted with “Could we talk later? I am not communicating well at this time.” My device it would appear had a headache. We have been doing somewhat better of late, though she still thinks she is in San Jose and gives me the weather reports for the Santa Clara Valley when asked. Not a great deal of help since I live on the Oregon coast. I am going to have to dig into the “easy to use” online tutorial to fix that little problem. I think a house should know where it is. However, now that I think of it Robbie the Robot (of Lost in Space) knew there was danger but not necessarily where he was.

Walter Pidgeon ordered shutters to close across the windows in Forbidden Planet (1956), and soon I will be able to lower the shades against the low afternoon sun right here on this planet in 2019. Yes, thanks to the movies I am comfortable with the idea of a smart house, I mean, I can always unplug the device and use a good old fashioned remote control to change the TV station. If I am feeling really prehistoric I can walk up to the screen and turn it off manually! When’s the last time you did that?

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