Friday, February 03, 2017

Beyond His Ability

These aren't the modems you are looking for (atomic toasters)
A friend moved into her six-year-old house and asked for help in setting up the WiFi. The homeowners' association provided "free Internet", and a call to the provider confirmed that the line was active. But my friend had to buy her own WiFi router to plug into the provider's modem. The task didn't sound difficult.

After running to Best Buy to pick up a router, I searched for the modem. I opened every drawer, cabinet, and closet, but a gizmo with flashing lights was nowhere to be found. Finally, I emailed the seller of the house and asked if he had taken the modem.

No, he replied the next day, the modem was built into the house. It was behind an upstairs metal panel labelled "Communications". The Ethernet port was downstairs next to the fireplace. I plugged in the router and within a few minutes the router was transmitting a signal throughout the house.

In addition to prewired Internet, the house in this middle-class suburb has built-in sprinkler, security, cable TV, telephone, and HVAC (heating, ventilation, and air-conditioning) systems. Many of the systems require annual checkups by a professional; it's too risky for the average homeowner to maintain them herself.

Backyard mechanics and home handymen are a dying breed. The technology that empowers John Q. Public is beyond his ability to understand...and to fix.

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