I Want My Knobs Back


Elmer was beginning to regret not attending the five month training on the new copy machine

“You still have a television with knobs,” my friend Charley pointed out recently.  I could tell by his tone this wasn’t complimentary.

“Well,” I replied evenly, maturely and defensively, “at least it’s simple and to the point.  When I pull the knob, the TV goes on.  There’s no complicated menu or delay.  Pull the knob and play the TV,” I summarized smugly.

I’ll never give up my old TV, I thought, because I’m having trouble with things without knobs.  As a matter of fact, I’d like to have all my knob things back.

Life’s just getting too complicated.  Like the pumps at the gas station.  It used to be you just pushed the lever to pump the gas.

Not so today.

Now the pump starts asking me a bunch of interview questions.  Pay inside?  Pay outside?  Want a receipt?  Credit?  Cash?  What’s your sign?  Would you like to contribute to the Indigent Oil Executives Polo Club Fund?

All the while it’s beeping, honking and snorting at me if I don’t answer quickly enough.

Once we’re done playing twenty questions, there’s this big delay as the machine try’s to get in the mood to pump gas.  Actually, in technical terms, this is called an IPL, which stands for Idiot Program Load.  Since the gas pump is a computer, by definition an idiot, it must find its brains and load the How To Pump Gas For Idiots Program.

I’m standing there thinking if it didn’t ask me so many damn fool questions; it would already be done with the IPL.

I realize I could be getting an attitude about this.

Which leads me straight to toasters and copy machines.

Toasters have remained virtually uncorrupted in function thus far – knock wood.  Of course, today’s toasters are pretty wussy little plastic four ounce affairs compare to a real man’s toaster like I own.

It’s one of those old roundy chrome things that weigh about five hundred and forty-eleven pounds. I think I have the first one invented by Benjamin Franklin, father of electricity, kites and turkey electrocution.  Being the consummate improver, he mounted subsequent models on cast iron wheels so they were easier to move around.

But I digress.

What I love about my toaster is its simplicity: one plug and one button.  To install the toaster requires nothing technical at all.  You just get four of your strongest neighbors, and offer them a bunch of beers if they’ll come over and help you lift the damn chrome monster onto your steel I-beam reinforced kitchen counter.  Then, while they’re all panting from the exertion, slamming their brews and checking their excessive pulse rates, you casually reach over and plug it into the wall socket.

No manuals or computer geek stuff needed.

Installation complete.

Operating the toaster is even easier than installing it mainly because you don’t have to bribe your friends to come over and load five hundred pound pieces of bread.  Nope, you just put two little slices in the toaster and push the button.  When the toast is done, it pops out.

God help me, I’ve fallen deeply in love with this machine.

Copy machines, on the other hand, are approaching the complexity of helium cooled digital 1.5 megavolt data blasters.  Gone are the days when you put a piece of paper in the machine, push the button, and a copy pops out toaster-like (as an historical technical note, these friendly little machines are wistfully referred to as Pop-Tart copiers.)

While you may still find these simple little devices in third world countries, there are none, I repeat, none, left in the United States, unless of course you count the one on display in the Ancient Jurassic Writing Devices section of the Smithsonian, and another in a rundown 7-11 outside of Peoria …

So, okay, I’ll say there are two left to be accurate and keep from overstating my case.

I have stood in front of our new copy machine for twelve minutes (literally), trying to get it to copy one sheet of paper onto another sheet of paper.  It was whirring and beeping and flashing different messages along with the current ticker process of the New York Stock Exchange, all the while asking me if I wanted to print double sided diagonal fold quadraplex reverse image upper left corner staple RGB color web pages from a an original wallet sized grey scale image … with yellow smudges.

I eventually wandered off, muttering under my breath that they needed to put a JC-SOB button on the machine.  You push this button when you want to JUST COPY THE SON OF A B@#CH!

I want my knobs back, which leads me to today’s news programs.  Since when did the news have to be so entertaining all the time?  Just give it to me straight and simple.  I’ve been watching the Coyote News Channel (not its real name), airing a New York based cable news show co-hosted by a really foxy news lady and her fellow newscasters.

They say they present the news straight and to the point.

Maybe so.

But they’re also having guests like the jazzercise bears dancing outside of their studio, and the magic weather screen with the weather puppet.

What’s this all about?  Captain Kangaroo for adults?  Anyway, the point’s moot since I only watch the show because the foxy news lady has great legs.  I don’t watch it for the news content.

They’re too entertaining.

So here’s a new concept.  How about if a really daring network executive gets some old guy with gray, thinning hair, to read the news in a semi-monotone voice without a whole lot of excitement.

Better yet, he reads the facts with an unbiased slant so we can’t tell what he actually thinks about them.  He’s informative and accurate, and doesn’t think he needs to entertain.

Let’s say  … hmmmmm … we call the guy Walter.

He starts his day with a breakfast of toast before the newscast, made on an old chrome toaster with only one button, and his news writer copies his dialog for him on a simple copier with only one button, and I get to watch him on my TV with knobs.

I know, I know, I’m dreaming.  But I really can’t help myself.

I want my knobs back.

Wishing you a great day (with knobs) – J. Daniel

3 Responses to “I Want My Knobs Back”

  1. LaRissa says:

    Actually these copiers are part of the plan for restoring our economy. Because you have to ask someone specifically trained in operating them for help, this requires more people to do a simple job, thus reducing unemployment:-) Z-ROCKS rocks!

  2. Marty says:

    Let me see: “How about if a really daring network executive gets some old guy with gray, thinning hair, to read the news in a semi-monotone voice without a whole lot of excitement.

    Better yet, he reads the facts with an unbiased slant so we can’t tell what he actually thinks about them. He’s informative and accurate, and doesn’t think he needs to entertain”.

    I think you’ve just described the BBC! And your toaster MUST have a name on the side that says Lucas (or maybe not, since it is electrical AND it works).

    Good luck with those knobs (and all things analog).


  3. Peter Wright says:

    You are absolutely correct, the new generation of copiers are far too complicated. I have a major disagreement with my new printer every time I want to change a setting. Now I know why,it doesn’t have any knobs, just touch sensitive screens.

    Not many years ago, in a 3rd world country, I came across many of the old type copiers with knobs, some were old enough to require filling up with toner and black powder ink, but they still worked.

    What was also nice about copiers and TV’s with knobs was that if they got stuck, they could be fixed by a vigorous slap on the case. Try that with these fancy new ones and they will never work again, too sensitive about a little bit of rigorous motivation.

    I look forward with anticipation to the next episode of the Woodchips.

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