When Features Backfire

Sometimes a feature that looks helpful turns out … not.

My favorite wife gave me a new alarm clock for Christmas last year.  It touts an “auto set” feature: “Time sets automatically with selected zone setting.”

Sadly, all that means is that the clock has a backup battery and they set the time at the factory.  It doesn’t do any magic.  You have to set the time zone yourself.  (I guess that means that “auto set” only means that the minutes are set at the factory – big deal.)

So, the daylight savings time transition comes around, and I don’t bother to change any clocks ahead of time, though my favorite wife changes a few.  I wake up the next morning, check the clock, and subtract an hour — and I’m an hour early for church (well, it could have happened that way anyhow.)

Actually, the clock adjusted itself.

How am I supposed to know whether the stupid thing (or any stupid thing with a clock) is going to adjust itself? If I had changed the hour, it would have changed again overnight.  The only simple option is to wait until tomorrow to change all the clocks, and only change the ones that are still wrong.

The end result is that this effort saving feature costs more actual effort than it could possibly save. The feature is sound only in isolation.  If this was my only clock, or if they ALL worked this way, it would be great.

It gets worse.  A couple of years back I was camping in the back woods on a hunting trip with my dad and brother during the time change.  We wanted to set an alarm for the next day – but how?  I was using a cell phone.  I know the phone will adjust its time if it can get service, but what will it do to my alarm setting?  What will it do if it has no service?  Brother was using a fancy GPS/radio with weather service and other capabilities, and a smart phone.  All these devices might or might not self adjust.  All of them might or might not change the scheduled alarm time with the manual or automatic time change.  Worse, the date range for daylight savings time changed a few years back, and any devices that rely only on the date to self adjust might or might not change at the correct time.  We were trying to wake up an hour before sunrise, and asking the GPS what time that would be, and we had to figure out the GPS meant by tomorrow at 6:34.

I have the same problem with cars.

Until about a month ago, I’ve always driven very plain (and old) vehicles. The light switch is simple.  On == lights on.  Off == lights off.  Very simple, and when your battery is dead, you know exactly why.

When I’ve  driven someone else’s fancier car, I have a problem with the lights.  I turn the engine off and get out and the lights stay on.  What should I do?  Will they turn off by themselves?

I don’t know.

This “convenient feature” (I think it’s supposed to give me light to walk to the front door) forces me to stand in the driveway for a minute or so to make sure the lights will go out.  Thanks.

I still don’t know whether we are IN daylight savings now or OUT of daylight savings.  All I know is “fall back.”

As a tech aside, I also learned this year that some global locales have time zone offsets in increments of 30 or even 15 minutes!  You cannot store a time zone offset as an integer number of hours.  You need to use minutes.

Bonus Bonus:

Why are digital clocks always set to 12:08?

Best answer: If you read it upside down it says a word that if you check in your thesaurus means the same as ‘Gullible’

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