DST and Friendly HDTVs

If you managed to miss the fact that Daylight Savings Time (DST) started yesterday — three weeks earlier than in years past — you probably showed up an hour early for your first appointment today. Unless you had at least one clock in your home that made the change for you.

Here’s the “Spring Forward” scorecard from our home and office. We had nine devices that changed themselves to DST: two computers, one notebook, a Palm TX, two cell phones, a VCR, a DVR (digital video recorder), and a clock radio. Two other clock radios failed to make the change on their own, as did the microwave, the stove, a battery-powered wall clock, various wrist watches, the office telephone system, both cars, an indoor-outdoor thermometer, and my multifunction printer. (And there are probably a half dozen other clocks around the compound that I have forgotten to change.)

Frankly, I’m surprised that so many devices were smart enough to make the change on their own. The computers are connected to the Internet, which knows what time it is. The cell phone system relies on accurate time, so the phones should know the time. And the VCR and DVR and clock radio all receive radio frequency waves — television and radio — which carry time information. I’m not surprised that they have access to the time information; I’m just surprised that they actually can take advantage of it.

The simple fact is this; any device that receives radio waves or is attached to the Internet should know what time it is without you having to do anything about it. VCR manufacturers finally decided to solve the “flashing 12:00” problem years ago by getting the time information over the air. But it shouldn’t stop there. Any device that is connected to or communicates with any device that gets radio waves or is connected to the Internet should also know what time it is. My multifunction printer should be smart enough to ask my computer for the correct time.

And let’s take it one step further. On-screen television guides are available over the airwaves and on the Internet, and every television device should be able to access this information. Our DVR has this feature; I don’t think my wife or I have opened the Sunday newspaper TV guide since we got the DVR. And any device connected to something with a TV tuner or the Internet should also know the program listings.

The cars we drive no longer have levers on the steering wheel that let you advance or retard the spark. (I’m going to guess that the vast majority of the readers of this item don’t know what the heck I’m talking about.) How many of you have driven a car with a manual choke? Detroit automakers figured out long ago how to hide the mundane and technical details of internal combustion engines from the average driver. Consumer electronics makers have made strides towards a similar goal for their products, but the DST scorecard shows that the job is not yet complete. We should not have to spend time configuring and adjusting and tuning our televisions and related devices; they should just know. And then we can spend more time using these devices for their primary functions: to inform and entertain us.