Home » Today’s Car Technology Might As Well Be Witchcraft: COTD

Today’s Car Technology Might As Well Be Witchcraft: COTD

Cyber3
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Cars have changed so much since I was a kid. Navigation used to require discs or printed Mapquest directions, now you just need a phone and Apple CarPlay or Android Auto. Most cars back then had one, maybe two airbags, now cars have enough of these claymores to effectively create a bubble around you during a crash. Electric cars used to be science projects for nerds, but now they’re something your grandma might buy and drive across the country. Today, there are cars with doors that open and close themselves, cars that give you super-vision with LEDs, and cars with impressively “intelligent” automated capabilities. I remember being excited about the DARPA Grand Challenge and the then cutting-edge autonomous vehicles that competed in the event; today, even your family’s Volkswagen Atlas can keep itself from crashing when operated appropriately.

I’m sure our older readers have even better examples of technological leaps!

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The technology surrounding Tesla’s Autopilot and Full Self Driving Beta are fascinating, even if it’s perhaps not great to use unsuspecting people on public roads as beta testers. As the Tesla Autopilot recall suggests, we aren’t quite at the point where a car can drive you home from work while you nap. In fairness, Autopilot is technically an accurate name. A plane’s autopilot will happily fly you into a mountain if you’re not paying attention.

We are also at a point in history where recalls can be resolved by your car automatically downloading an update. All of this can be bewildering and if you’re not an engineer, it could seem like black magic. Today, DialMforMiata wins COTD with this amusing paragraph.

Douglas Adams once said: “I’ve come up with a set of rules that describe our reactions to technologies:
1. Anything that is in the world when you’re born is normal and ordinary and is just a natural part of the way the world works.
2. Anything that’s invented between when you’re fifteen and thirty-five is new and exciting and revolutionary and you can probably get a career in it.
3. Anything invented after you’re thirty-five is against the natural order of things.”

At 53 years old, I can absolutely say that FSD/Autopilot/whatever is an abomination and needs to be stopped. The practitioners of these dark arts need to be made to drive a 1980 Tercel without power steering until they have seen the error of their ways.

Indeed, that quote is attributed to Douglas Adams. Here’s the moment where I say you should, at minimum, read The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. It’s a fun ride and arguably better than the movie!

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For a second nomination today, we have a hilarious answer to this morning’s Cold Start question. What is that McDonald’s employee handing the driver of that Lamborghini Espada. OCS-BN says:

The McD guy is handing him the driver’s side mirror. It fell off during the first pass.
Looks like the other mirror is about to say farewell soon, too.

Look, that’s just part of driving an old car. You never know when a part may leave the chat. Have a great evening, everyone!

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Opa Carriker
Opa Carriker
3 months ago

Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy, the book, is the absolute bomb!

Technoligical changes? For me it was the almost sudden transition away from conventional distribtors to electronic ones. All those old skills suddenly no longer needed. I’ve even thrown away my favourite matchbook cover!

Speedway Sammy
Speedway Sammy
3 months ago

I was involved with designing / developing automatic transmissions as the state of the art evolved from hydraulic logic to full computer control. A wise mentor said “this software monster has to be fed and will eventually consume everything.”

MiniDave
MiniDave
3 months ago

I concur on Douglas Adams, wonderful writer – I have all 5 books of the “Trilogy” and re read them from time to time. If you haven’t found his other works, the two Dirk Gently books are pretty hilarious too!
And just wait till you live in a town where the streets are numbered when east west, and a town directly adjacent where the numbered streets go north south – so you can wind up at the corner of 44th and 44th……..

Data
Data
3 months ago

42

Tom Herman
Tom Herman
3 months ago

Metal dashboards
Doors that unlock with keys
Drum brakes that pull or don’t work at all if you went through a puddle
If the car had any seatbelts they were bunched up in the crack of the seat.
Sealed beam headlights

BentleyBoy
BentleyBoy
3 months ago
Reply to  Tom Herman

I would like to add: Manual choke

UnseenCat
UnseenCat
3 months ago
Reply to  BentleyBoy

Ah, nothing quite like the artistry of manual choke and feathering the throttle to coax a big V-8 to life on a chilly, damp spring morning!

In the early 90s (when I was in my late twenties), I was the youngest at the armored car terminal who could start some of the older trucks on cold mornings. I’d grown up both as a motorhead and in farm country, so the art of prime-choke-crank-wait-choke-crank was natural to me like it was to the much older, semi-retired drivers. The others in the middle just marveled at our mastery of the black arts.

Jack Beckman
Jack Beckman
3 months ago
Reply to  UnseenCat

Still have a choke on my tractor (used to plow snow on the driveway) and it’s only a few years old.

Thomas Metcalf
Thomas Metcalf
3 months ago
Reply to  Jack Beckman

I have upgraded my tractor this year. The 1949 Ford is being replaced with a Massey Ferguson a full 30 years newer. It is interesting that because Harry Ferguson designed the Ford N series tractors that the later Massey is the same general layout. He was ahead of his time.

Opa Carriker
Opa Carriker
3 months ago
Reply to  Jack Beckman

As do I, on my 1932 Chevrolet, as well as spark advance and throttle!

VanGuy
VanGuy
3 months ago
Reply to  Tom Herman

In all honesty…are there modern cars where physical door unlocking is no longer an option at all?
I’m guessing that’s the case with some (or all?) Teslas, but even with my push-button-start 2012 Prius v, a physical key can be taken out of the fob to open the driver door if the fob battery is dead (and thus the car’s proximity sensors can’t detect you.) And it can still start the car by using the fob to push the start button.

OCS-BN
OCS-BN
3 months ago

Awesome, thank you. I’m Lovin’ It.

Carlos Ferreira
Carlos Ferreira
3 months ago

Damn, I was just reminded of how much I need and want a Lambo Espada.

Knowonelse
Knowonelse
3 months ago

And if you want to go to the original version of Hitchhikers Guide, find the audio.

Squirrelmaster
Squirrelmaster
3 months ago
Reply to  Knowonelse

Find the audiobook narrated by Stephen Fry, which is simply amazing. His cadence and inflection at delivering the humor is far better than my brain can do.

Phantom Pedal Syndrome
Phantom Pedal Syndrome
3 months ago

“I’m sure our older readers have even better examples of technological leaps!”

Don’t get me started on the electric starter motor…
Pure witchcraft.

As far as I can tell it’s a magical, Medusa controlling helmet made of some sort of metal?
Only… it contains coils of copper wire in lieu of venomous snakes.
It somehow captures and transfers some form of mythical energy by combining the dark arts of metallurgy and sorcery.

Same goes for however the hell an alternator works.
Something about magnetism?
More like magician-etism!

Where was I?…
Nevermind.

You there! Fill it up with petroleum distillate and re-vulcanize my tires, post haste!

Last edited 3 months ago by Phantom Pedal Syndrome
The F--kshambolic Cretinoid Harvey Park
The F--kshambolic Cretinoid Harvey Park
3 months ago

Or… Paper maps! I still have some in case my phone nav fails. It hasn’t completely failed yet, but it has led me astray several times.

Phantom Pedal Syndrome
Phantom Pedal Syndrome
3 months ago

Just recently, I had to rely on simple street names and block numbers to find and deliver an appliance to an address that was newer than the latest GPS update.

It felt like I was attempting to apply forgotten seventh grade math to solve a problem.

Remember stopping at pay phone booths when you got to a new city?
To check the phone book for the local maps in the front of the book?
They were often already missing, torn out pages.
I’m one of the assholes that tore them out.
Sorry… I was new to… Dallas Texas?!

Last edited 3 months ago by Phantom Pedal Syndrome
UnseenCat
UnseenCat
3 months ago

Street guides! Often spiral-bound, printed by obscure publishers in simple black-and-white, they broke an entire city down into an index of every single street in an x-y grid coordinate system that made it trivially easy to find any obscure address with ease, once you learned the system. They were the best friend of urban delivery drivers public service drivers, and cabbies in large cities everywhere.

Vee
Vee
3 months ago

I still navigate using the highway designations for state routes and interstate routes. Even numbers are east and west, odd numbers are north and south. Just pay attention to the signs and you can get anywhere you want without ever looking at a map or GPS. It also lets you avoid most of the traffic because things are designed to never merge into ring roads like I-270.

I am helpless when I enter suburban hell, however. Modern housing development roadway design is infrastructure equivalent of one of Francisco Goya’s “Black paintings” such as Saturn Devours His Son. There is no composition or order. Only hatred and malice projected out toward the world.

Taco Shackleford
Taco Shackleford
3 months ago
Reply to  Vee

Even numbers are east and west, odd numbers are north and south

This is true, but only of 2 digit interstates. 3 digit are offshoots and do not always follow the odd/even rules.

The F--kshambolic Cretinoid Harvey Park
The F--kshambolic Cretinoid Harvey Park
3 months ago

There are also places where you can travel both east and west at the same time, and have to take the westbound freeway to go east (580/80 near San Francisco).

Data
Data
3 months ago

Ah yes, paper maps where you must perform origami jiu-jitsu to return the map to it’s original folded resting state.

Opa Carriker
Opa Carriker
3 months ago

I still buy a new Truckers Road Atlas every year. Priceless!

Cheap Bastard
Cheap Bastard
3 months ago

About this infernal internal combustion I say BALDERDASH!

FULL STEAM AHEAD!!

-a horse enters the chat.

(ironically the horse is the least understood, most incomprehensible transport of all – how DOES a horse work? Nobody knows. Can you build one from scratch? No, only a mare can. Can you fix one that’s broke? Nope, you have to scrap it.)

Last edited 3 months ago by Cheap Bastard
Phantom Pedal Syndrome
Phantom Pedal Syndrome
3 months ago
Reply to  Cheap Bastard

Ancient hominids once stared at the smoke escaping their recently invented fire and came up with the idea of an afterlife.
The heat dwindles and the flames die down.
But the smoke rises toward the stars.
Crog dies, the light escapes his eyes.
An early religion is born.
We, as a species, haven’t been able to to stop fussing with combustion ever since.

Batteries? They don’t make sense.

Cheap Bastard
Cheap Bastard
3 months ago

We DO like to burn things.

Fire GOOD!!

Kevin Kealy
Kevin Kealy
3 months ago
Reply to  Cheap Bastard

In fairness, you can recycle pretty much every part of a broken horse…

Cheap Bastard
Cheap Bastard
3 months ago
Reply to  Kevin Kealy

Mmm… Horsemeat…

Chronometric
Chronometric
3 months ago

Congratulations on achieving the title of oldest living human. I own one of the first cars with electric start, a 1917 Stephens. (I think 1912 Cadillac was first). I am also happy that you have embraced your years. It always annoys me when people ask if I am the original owner.

Ottomottopean
Ottomottopean
3 months ago

Arguably better than the movie?!? Arguably?
I mean, anything can be argued I guess. But.. but.. I can’t even…

Captain Muppet
Captain Muppet
3 months ago
Reply to  Ottomottopean

I came down here for precisely this degree of outrage.

StillNotATony
StillNotATony
3 months ago

“Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.”

Phantom Pedal Syndrome
Phantom Pedal Syndrome
3 months ago

FSD eh?

“A common mistake that people make when trying to design something completely foolproof is to underestimate the ingenuity of complete fools.”

DialMforMiata
DialMforMiata
3 months ago

Woo hoo! COTD! I’m actually re-reading (for probably the 20th time) the Hitchhiker’s series now. I originally devoured the books as a nerdy teenager. If our personality is at least partially formed by the literature we consume, Douglas Adams is probably responsible for at least half the trouble my mouth has gotten me into in my life.

...getstoneyII
...getstoneyII
3 months ago
Reply to  DialMforMiata

If you are that big of a fan (as I am) of the series, you should get the illustrated hardcover. I have it and it’s awesome! It’s almost impossible to find anymore (you want the 1994 edition with the silver jacket Weidenfeld & Nicolson ). Here’s the ISBN listing:

https://www.isfdb.org/cgi-bin/pl.cgi?171621

Also…Mercedes!!!! I hope you are kidding about the movie not being total shit because other than Zooey, it basically was 🙂

Last edited 3 months ago by ...getstoneyII
UnseenCat
UnseenCat
3 months ago
Reply to  ...getstoneyII

Don’t forget the late, great Alan Rickman voicing Marvin! Pretty much stole every scene he did…

Mostly Harmless
Mostly Harmless
3 months ago
Reply to  DialMforMiata

Congrats DialM
I read Hitchhikers for the first time in the ‘80s, aged about 15 – the compendium was ‘A Trilogy In Four Parts’. I bought the 42nd anniversary edition a couple of years ago – now in five parts! So technically, rule 2, and I’d have loved to ‘get a career in it’. But that’s life. “Life! Don’t talk to me about life.”

JerryLH3
JerryLH3
3 months ago
Reply to  DialMforMiata

The books are fantastic and I will never forget the chapter where they realize they didn’t actually know what the Ultimate Question was.

Chris Stevenson
Chris Stevenson
3 months ago

I always suggest the newcomers start Hitchhiker’s with the original BBC Radio series, available on Audible (and from your local library!). The radio play came before the books, and there’s something about Douglas Adams’s writing that blossoms through the acting.

Drew
Drew
3 months ago

And I find it particularly charming that Adams made no particular attempt to maintain consistency. If you listen to the radio series, read the novels, watch the television series, and watch the movie, there are many differences, so you probably won’t get bored retreading the same ground, since you aren’t following quite the same path.

Last edited 3 months ago by Drew
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