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What the BEEEP

The Project’s Web Producer Warwick Holt battles home technology at the Side Project blog

Home appliances have unquestionably made life easier. The idea of a life before refrigeration gives me the chills. And the best place for a washboard is a skiffle band. (Which is still not a very good place for it.)

But having recently become the proud owner of a new kitchen, I’ve noticed a disturbing trend. These machines, designed to be our workhorses, have begun taking charge. Demanding we obey them. Ordering us about with their crude and offensive language.

It actually began in the laundry. I’m long used to washing machines making all sorts of odd noises – rumbles, whooshes, that thumping that they make when you wash sneakers. But our most recent model signals its completion with a loud, piercing “BEEP BEEP BEEEEP!”

OK. Fair enough, I guess. Maybe I was at the other end of the house, and the notification would act as a message that the washing is ready for the line. I’ll get to that when I’m ready.

But the washing machine isn’t content with that answer. Ten seconds later: “BEEP BEEP BEEEEP! Remember me! You still haven’t responded!” And so it continues until someone in the house becomes fed up enough to turn it off or stick an axe through it.

Maybe that’s the idea, to create a level of frustration in the user that drives him or her to destroy the appliance and have to buy a new one. With a doubtless louder beep.

Because as single-minded as the washing machine might be, I might not be able to turn it off at this moment. I might be busy racing to the microwave to stop it going into a paroxysm of beeping to tell me my leftover rigatoni is possibly warmed to my satisfaction. Which it rarely is, leaving me with the stressful decision of whether to eat it lukewarm or re-enter the world of microwave beeps.

But no time to answer that now – the fridge is beeping because I left it open while unpacking the shopping! I’d better open and close it in between putting away each item, unless I want it to reach the tipping point where it shifts from three beeps per minute to continuous incessant beepmania, as if it’s convinced someone is trying to break into it and steal the expired cream and limp celery.

Is it going to self-destruct? I can’t take that risk, even though it means leaving the dishwasher to beep to itself, desperate to be relieved of its fast-cycled load. And what’s that? Shut up, washing machine! Ah no – the rigatoni – stone cold! BEEEEEEP!

My home has been turned into the Mack truck factory at reversing hour. And the Mack truck factory doesn’t even HAVE reversing hour.

I’m no luddite. I’m a good old-fashioned nerd. I’ve even been known to program computers for a living. But it pains me to admit that, try as I might, I can’t find a way to switch these appliances to silent. Whitegoods now come with beeps as a compulsory, always-on “feature”.

I’m sure down at Appliance HQ they have a perfectly good safety justification for introducing beeps to every new model. Perhaps the elderly, or those with failing mental faculties, have difficulty remembering when one of their contraptions has been switched on, leaving them with spoilt food or clothes lost in The Wash Zone.

But maybe that’s just where I want the clothes left until tomorrow. Maybe the washing machine should just SHUT ITS STUPID METAL MOUTH FOR ONCE AND LET ME DEAL WITH IT WHEN I WANT TO.

But no. The robots have won already. And they didn’t even need a Terminator.

It BEEPING gives me the BEEEEPs.

When not working for The Project Warwick runs his own Media Empire, but it doesn’t really beep at him enough to get his attention.

The opinions expressed in The Side Project blog do not necessarily reflect those of The Project or the Ten Network.