No doubt an awful lot goes into the design, packaging, shipping and consumer uses of IT products, but thought isn’t one of them. An awful lot of what should be in the packaging isn’t there, almost none of the instructions are any more, and the people who write the online manuals are not all there either. The Slog has another surreal encounter with the world of hitech.
Some people (I know) think I make this comms lunacy up, so I have to share a recent experience with you – including photo captures – to prove that nerds do not inhabit the same solar system as the rest of us. Two days ago, I was shopping at Intermarché – I live life on the outer edge of danger – when I saw an HP deskjet printer on offer for €40. That, I thought, is cheap. So I bought it.
On the outside of the pack, it says you can set up and use the product “without access to the internet or a router”, which struck me as novel. And indeed, if you have a router fitted into your cerebral cortex you can do that….which is a good thing really, because the product arrives with no instructions or diagrams whatsoever. But without a router implant (soon to be available on the NHS) you can neither set up or print with the HP 3630, because you have to go online and download the instruction manual.
What the machine comes with in its box is three cartidges. To fit these you need to hire a four year old for the morning with fingers small enough to get into the cartridge bays. Also inside is a thick pamphlet containing warnings. Sorry, I’ll read that again: a pamphlet containing warnings for the thick.
“CAUTION!” says the first warning, “Cartridge ink contains Benzisothiazoin. Do not drink it“. Also do not try and pronounce it unless you prefer your tongue knotted.
You can see where they’re coming from. There’s something about an ink cartridge that tempts my sense of wild and crazy experiment. I see one and think “down the hatch Wardy, you only die once”. So it’s as well to be warned, but for me the safety cautions were a little cavalier: I mean, where’s all the important stuff like, “do not piss on the scanner while switched on”, “do not use ink cartridges as an eyewash for your kids” and above all, “Never, ever put your dog in the paper-feed: it is not a toy”. And neither is the printer.
And so we move on: we download, we choose settings, we configure, we install but we do not press ‘Continue’ when it says so on the screen:
CAUTION: do not follow instructions in set-up sequence, as they were compiled by a severely disabled stickleback as part of our Inclusive Employment Project. Instead, do this first:
Be sure while pressing the power button down, before pressing the Start Copy black button for the second time, you are hanging from a minstrels’ gallery and reading Glass’s Guide to car prices. Also ensure that you have completed all three button cancellations before hitting the flagstoned floor below.
If the wireless light is blinking at the start, do not skip to the next step without tucking your left heel under your right underarm beforehand. If you still can’t detect the wireless blinking, it could be you are dead, because flagstones can be terribly unforgiving. However, if not, it could be that the light isn’t bright enough, so
Why is the f**king printer asleep?
I switched the mother on, remember? How can it be tired – it didn’t do anything yet, and how dare it be asleep on the bloody job while I’m trying to get it to work ferfeckssake? I mean what does it think this is, Sunday? You’re neocons for crying out loud, not wimpy overseers at a summer camp: take the slacker out and beat it with a baseball bat in front of others in your product range. That’ll learn ’em.
Anyway, the printer says I don’t have an internet connection because it can’t find it. But the internet connection says oh yes I do, and so does the printer’s control panel, and so do the five sections of the instruction manual I printed off yesterday.
One day soon, a young entrepreneurial IT startup will begin offering equipment where all the downloading, setup, configuration, alignment, installations, wizards, cuddly toys, hubs, and spaces have been uploaded at the factory by people with just the one head that isn’t pointy, and a mind that follows number progressions and the alphabet in the same direction as the rest of us.
Not only will this be more fulfilling for the workforce; it will stop the local recycling centres from being piled high with unused gadgets by Boxing Day afternoon.
Try and have a pleasant weekend. It looks like we have three days of Summer left here, and then some much-needed rain will fall to make the temperature more pleasant…that’s if the forecasting software is configured with the scanning hardware and correctly aligned to the windspeed combabulator. Otherwise, the forecast will be wrong and by tomorrow morning the landscape here will be covered in brimstone and boils. It’s anyone’s guess.