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Bill Kalmar

Quality Insider

Ah, Technology

We live in an era of quality, innovation, and home espresso machines.

Published: Monday, May 10, 2010 - 06:00


hose of us who are senior citizens (or as we are sometimes called, those in the autumn of our years) have seen a lot of changes in the world.  If you took a snapshot right now of what is in your home, your automobile, or what you can purchase in various stores, it’s easy to quickly realize that we are living in a remarkable time. The majority of the changes we see make life easier and improve our quality of life. We are living in an era where the bar set for quality and performance is high. We no longer accept mediocrity in service nor are we very accepting of items with product flaws. Recalls on defective products are now commonplace, because consumers will accept nothing less than perfection. Too bad that message isn’t getting through to the Chinese.

Lying here in my hammock, surveying my domain, I can easily spot a number of items that make me realize how technology has altered our lives so dramatically and improved our quality of life. 

We recently purchased a Keurig coffee maker. We can now make a single cup of coffee and iced tea, or a hot chocolate. There’s no more grinding coffee beans, and no more percolators, which I remember from growing up in the 1950s. It’s very convenient and frankly, it’s lots of fun choosing from the various types of coffee in the little K-cups, as they are called. Through technology, we can now duplicate the products served at Starbucks at home, including preparing our own cappuccinos and lattes—a far cry from boiling water in a cast iron pot over a campfire.

Cable TV seems to be the norm in most households these days. The choice of programming is endless, although even with our hundreds of channels, it’s sometimes impossible to locate a program worth viewing. There are just too many moronic reality programs. Is anyone really interested in “Keeping up with the Kardashians?”

There’s no need to ever leave our favorite comfortable chair as we watch TV, now that we have remote control. When I was a kid, I was our family’s remote control, which meant jumping up every now and then to change the channel. We don’t even need a “TV Guide” anymore because all the programming and upcoming shows can be seen on the screen. Now that's technology.

There’s no need to even discuss the changes in phone service. From one who still remembers party lines, we now an endless variety of cellular phones from the basic to the sophisticated, such as the iPhone, Android, and BlackBerry. Cell phones have become part of our anatomy—we never leave home without them. They even take pictures, play movies, and access the internet. If you are a quality geek like me, you can download programs about performance excellence from the Baldrige National Quality Award Program.

Our car has heated seats, but some newer cars also come equipped with air-conditioned seats. Heck, I remember when a passenger side-view mirror and a cigarette lighter were options. The side-view mirrors now come with heating elements and turn signal indicators, but if I recall correctly, cigarette lighters are no longer provided in most car lines. Our last car came with a “rain sensing accessory,” so that when the first drops of rain hit the windshield, the wipers come on simultaneous with the headlights. In some states, having headlights on during a rainstorm is the law. I didn’t know that but somehow my car did. Being from Detroit as I am, we are delighted that the quality of U.S. cars is now on an equal playing field with imported vehicles.   

Wind-up alarm clocks are probably a thing of the past. Now our alarms are radios that wake us up to music. Needless to say, we can set multiple alarms at different times. Back in my youth, there was no snooze alarm; that function fell to my Mom, who had to wake us up again after we turned off the alarm. 

Refrigerators now come with water and ice dispensers, a far cry from the “ice boxes” some people had as children, when we eagerly awaited the horse-drawn carriage and the “ice man” who delivered large chucks of ice. Now there is never a need to fill ice-cube trays, because ice is always available in the dispenser. In fact, when our grandchildren come for a visit, they are mystified by the ice-cube trays we still have. The only time they have seen ice-cube trays other than our home was when they visited a museum.  

So as you can see, we are living in a world where convenience and ease are the by-words. Many of the changes came about as manufacturers attempted to differentiate themselves from the competition. And no one can discount the number of suggestions and comments from customers in various focus groups.

Now if I can just figure out how to stop my VCR from constantly flashing “12:00.” 


About The Author

Bill Kalmar’s picture

Bill Kalmar

William J. Kalmar has extensive business experience, including service with a Fortune 500 bank and the Michigan Quality Council, of which he served as director from 1993 through 2003. He served on the Board of Overseers of the Baldrige Performance Excellence Program and has been a Baldrige examiner. He was also named quality professional of the year by the ASQ Detroit chapter. Now semiretired, Kalmar does freelance writing for several publications. He is a member of the USA Today Vacation Panel, a mystery shopper for several companies, and a frequent presenter and lecturer.



I have seen quite a bit of technological change in my 60+ years as well. (The PC, for instance) It is funny to watch an older TV show and say how much easier it would have been for the star to contact someone he needed to get ahold of if he had a cellular telephone! Or even the early ones that were so big.
As for the VCR you must not do any timer recordings, and I don't recall ever having one that flashed 12:00, it only displays "----", if it hasn't been programmed with the right time. Some are setup now to get a time signal from a local TV station. We have had problems with that feature before, so I mistrust it and do my own time setting. I cannot understand in this day and age of WWV set clocks why the VCR/DVDR machines do not provide accurate time, even the old electric analog clocks were pretty accurate using the 60Hz from the power lines to synchronize the clock (motor). It can't be that much more expensive to provide a crystal controlled clock in one or just an oscillator tuned to the power line frequency. If we only could get the stations with more than one channel to cover the weather on one and the regular programming on the other! Around here, when severe weather is in the area, the stations go to "wall to wall" storm coverage, even dropping commercials to keep us informed that we are in danger or that it has passed and someone else down the road is in danger.
As for TV guides (either the TV GUide or the one supplied with the Sunday paper or online--zap2it.com are needed when you don't subscribe to a cable/sattelite/etc. service) In Oklahoma City's case the newspaper one does not cover all local channels, so it is worthless. I have my Media Center PC guide and zap2it.com to supplement my desire to know what is on. At least they let you choose which channels you want to see programming information for and for two weeks at a time, as well.

The word is lying not laying in the interest of quality writing. "Laying here in my hammock, surveying my domain"

oops. Our bad.

Laying vs. Lying. Drat... messed it up again. This was editorial error not Bill's.