Copyright 1993 by Robert L. Gidley. All rights reserved.
After being rejected by six places, I hereby give up on trying to sell this piece. It's probably part of the global Microsoft conspiracy to suppress criticism...
Computers are slowly invading every part of our lives. We sit in front of them all day at work. They control our fuel-injected cars as we drive home. They create the special effects on the cheesy Sci-Fi movies we rent (well, that I rent, anyway).
And their motto is: Today the carport, tomorrow the kitchen! Yes, the future envisioned by Microsoft is one filled with computer-driven appliances--all of them running WindowPanes '03. Every appliance will have a computer lurking inside it--keeping track of how brown your toast is, how dirty your clothes are, and whether the mold growing on that leftover Chinese food is fatal.
Since your average American (me) has trouble with anything more complicated than a toaster, we will need a simple way to tell our appliances what to do. And the simplest way is to tell them what to do. This means that we will talk to our appliances and they will talk back, presumably to let us know that they are doing what we tell them.
When the kitchen is full of computers that can listen and talk--well Breakfast in America is going to be a little bit different. Especially since marketing folks will design the appliances and attach appropriate personalities to them.
I foresee the following breakfast scene in the not-too-distant future.
"Good morning, kitchen," I mutter as I stumble into the kitchen.
"Good morning, Mr. Bob!" The appliances respond in chorus, sounding a lot like a class of cheerful eight-year- old students. Welcome to Mr. Bob's Digital Neighborhood.
I grumble and turn to the coffee maker. "Coffee maker, I'd like--"
The coffee maker interrupts with a staccato string of words, "I've already made a pot of coffee. Extra strong. Just the way you like it. Should I make some more?"
"No, that's okay, coffee maker. Chill out." I pour the coffee into a cup, which giggles to let me know that the coffee is the right temperature.
The coffee maker continues in a bright, perky tone, "How's the coffee? Pretty good, huh? I ordered some new coffee beans and boy are they great! How about another cup?"
"No, thanks. I'm still drinking this one," I edge away from the coffee maker, leery of anything that can be so alert this early in the morning.
From behind me, the fruit squeezer suddenly pipes up in a relentlessly cheerful voice, "How about a nice healthy glass of fresh-squeezed orange juice? Loaded with Vitamin C! And remember, a day without orange juice--" I yank out the fruit squeezer's power cord and escape into the laundry room.
As long as I'm here, I figure I'll get some laundry done. I put a shirt in the washing machine which suddenly says in a motherly voice, "How did you get that shirt so dirty? Oh my, oh my! Well, just squirt a little fabric cleaner on it and drop it in. I'll do my best, but I'm just a machine after all. It's not like I'm human."
Then the dryer chimes in, "Those shirts you washed last week are still inside me." I've never liked the dryer. It reminds me of my fussy college roommate. "I've done the best I can to keep them from wrinkling, but I'm afraid they're ruined. I don't know why I even try. It's not like you..."
I shut the door on the laundry room and quietly edge back into the kitchen. I can still hear the washing machine and the dryer complain to each other about what a slob I am.
Time for breakfast. I open the refrigerator, which says, "Now remember--you eat a nice healthy meal. Just get out the milk and have a bowl of Healthy Bran cereal. Oh, and don't forget--tonight you have leftovers for dinner. That meatloaf is almost dead. It won't last another day."
I start to reach for a box of leftover pizza, but the refrigerator scolds me, saying, "Ah, Ah, aah! No pizza for breakfast. Milk and orange juice. You need to stay healthy and pay the electric bill."
I quickly close the door and decide to make some toast instead. As I approach the toaster with the bread, it wakes up. "Oh boy! We're gonna make some toast, we're gonna make some toast. How do you want your toast?"
"You mean dark as in black?"
"No, just dark."
"How dark? Really, really, really dark?"
"Never mind." I decide that I'll just eat breakfast at the local diner, where I can get some peace and quiet. At least all this technology will be good for the restaurant business.